Flag of Rwanda

map (opens in new window


In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees - many fearing Tutsi retribution - fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the former Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but about 10,000 remain in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo and have formed an extremist insurgency bent on retaking Rwanda, much as the RPF tried in 1990. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms - including Rwanda's first local elections in March 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in August and September 2003 - the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output, and ethnic reconciliation is complicated by the real and perceived Tutsi political dominance. Kigali's increasing centralization and intolerance of dissent, the nagging Hutu extremist insurgency across the border, and Rwandan involvement in two wars in recent years in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts to escape its bloody legacy.


Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo

Geographic coordinates:

2 00 S, 30 00 E


total: 26,338 sq km
land: 24,948 sq km
water: 1,390 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 893 km
border countries: Burundi 290 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 217 km, Tanzania 217 km, Uganda 169 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:

none (landlocked)


temperate; two rainy seasons (February to April, November to January); mild in mountains with frost and snow possible


mostly grassy uplands and hills; relief is mountainous with altitude declining from west to east

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Rusizi River 950 m
highest point: Volcan Karisimbi 4,519 m

Natural resources:

gold, cassiterite (tin ore), wolframite (tungsten ore), methane, hydropower, arable land

Land use:

arable land: 45.56%
permanent crops: 10.25%
other: 44.19% (2005)

Irrigated land:

90 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:

periodic droughts; the volcanic Virunga mountains are in the northwest along the border with Democratic Republic of the Congo

Environment - current issues:

deforestation results from uncontrolled cutting of trees for fuel; overgrazing; soil exhaustion; soil erosion; widespread poaching

Geography - note:

landlocked; most of the country is savanna grassland with the population predominantly rural


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 41.9% (male 1,817,998/female 1,802,134)
15-64 years: 55.6% (male 2,392,778/female 2,417,467)
65 years and over: 2.5% (male 87,325/female 130,546) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 18.6 years
male: 18.4 years
female: 18.8 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.43% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

40.37 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

16.09 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 89.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 94.71 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 84.34 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 47.3 years
male: 46.26 years
female: 48.38 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

5.43 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

5.1% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

250,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

22,000 (2003 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: malaria (2005)


noun: Rwandan(s)
adjective: Rwandan

Ethnic groups:

Hutu 84%, Tutsi 15%, Twa (Pygmoid) 1%


Roman Catholic 56.5%, Protestant 26%, Adventist 11.1%, Muslim 4.6%, indigenous beliefs 0.1%, none 1.7% (2001)


Kinyarwanda (official) universal Bantu vernacular, French (official), English (official), Kiswahili (Swahili) used in commercial centers


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 70.4%
male: 76.3%
female: 64.7% (2003 est.)

People - note:

Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Rwanda
conventional short form: Rwanda
local long form: Republika y'u Rwanda
local short form: Rwanda
former: Ruanda, German East Africa

Government type:

republic; presidential, multiparty system



Administrative divisions:

12 provinces (in French - provinces, singular - province; in Kinyarwanda - prefigintara for singular and plural); Butare, Byumba, Cyangugu, Gikongoro, Gisenyi, Gitarama, Kibungo, Kibuye, Kigali Rurale, Kigali-ville, Umutara, Ruhengeri


1 July 1962 (from Belgium-administered UN trusteeship)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 1 July (1962)


new constitution adopted 4 June 2003

Legal system:

based on German and Belgian civil law systems and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal adult

Legislative branch:

bicameral Parliament consists of Senate (26 seats; 12 members elected local councils, 8 appointed by the president, 4 by the Political Organizations Forum, 2 represent institutions of higher learning, to serve eight-year terms) and Chamber of Deputies (80 seats; 53 members elected by popular vote, 24 women elected by local bodies, 3 selected by youth and disability organizations, to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held NA, members appointed as part of the transitional government (next to be held in 2011); Chamber of Deputies - last held 29 September 2003 (next to be held in 2008)
election results: seats by party under the 2003 Constitution - RPF 40, PSD 7, PL 6, additional 27 members indirectly elected

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court; High Courts of the Republic; Provincial Courts; District Courts; mediation committees

Economy - overview:

Rwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture. It is the most densely populated country in Africa and is landlocked with few natural resources and minimal industry. Primary foreign exchange earners are coffee and tea. The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda's fragile economic base, severely impoverished the population, particularly women, and eroded the country's ability to attract private and external investment. However, Rwanda has made substantial progress in stabilizing and rehabilitating its economy to pre-1994 levels, although poverty levels are higher now. GDP has rebounded and inflation has been curbed. Despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with population growth, requiring food imports. Rwanda continues to receive substantial aid money and obtained IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative debt relief in 2005. Kigali's high defense expenditures have caused tension between the government and international donors and lending agencies. An energy shortage and instability in neighboring states may slow growth in 2006, while the lack of adequate transportation linkages to other countries continues to handicap export growth.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$11.26 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$1.846 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

4.8% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,300 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 37.6%
industry: 22.8%
services: 39.6% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

4.6 million (2000)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 90%
industry and services: 10%

Population below poverty line:

60% (2001 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 4.2%
highest 10%: 24.2% (1985)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

28.9 (1985)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

8% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

18.6% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $509.9 million
expenditures: $584.6 million; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

coffee, tea, pyrethrum (insecticide made from chrysanthemums), bananas, beans, sorghum, potatoes; livestock


cement, agricultural products, small-scale beverages, soap, furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles, cigarettes

Industrial production growth rate:

7% (2001 est.)

Electricity - production:

98 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

121.1 million kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

30 million kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

6,000 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

56.63 billion cu m (1 January 2002)

Current account balance:

-$79 million (2005 est.)


$98 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

coffee, tea, hides, tin ore

Exports - partners:

Indonesia 64.2%, China 3.6%, Germany 2.7% (2004)


$243 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

foodstuffs, machinery and equipment, steel, petroleum products, cement and construction material

Imports - partners:

Kenya 24.4%, Germany 7.4%, Belgium 6.6%, Uganda 6.3%, France 5.1% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$300 million (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$1.4 billion (2004 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$425 million (2003)

Currency (code):

Rwandan franc (RWF)

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

23,200 (2002)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

note: Rwanda has mobile cellular service between Kigali and several provincial capitals (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: telephone system primarily serves business and government
domestic: the capital, Kigali, is connected to the centers of the provinces by microwave radio relay and, recently, by cellular telephone service; much of the network depends on wire and HF radiotelephone
international: country code - 250; international connections employ microwave radio relay to neighboring countries and satellite communications to more distant countries; satellite earth stations - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) in Kigali (includes telex and telefax service)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 0, FM 8 (two main FM programs are broadcast through a system of repeaters, three international FM programs include the BBC, VOA, and Deutchewelle), shortwave 1 (2005)

Television broadcast stations:

2 (2004)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

1,588 (2005)

Internet users:

38,000 (2005)


9 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 4
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 1 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 3 (2005)


total: 12,000 km
paved: 996 km
unpaved: 11,004 km (1999)


Lac Kivu navigable by shallow-draft barges and native craft (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Cyangugu, Gisenyi, Kibuye

Military branches:

Rwandan Defense Forces: Army, Air Force

Disputes - international:

Tutsi, Hutu, Hema, Lendu, and other conflicting ethnic groups, associated political rebels, armed gangs, and various government forces continue fighting in Great Lakes region, transcending the boundaries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to gain control over populated areas and natural resources - government heads pledge to end conflicts, but localized violence continues despite UN peacekeeping efforts; DROC and Rwanda established a border verification mechanism in 2005 to address accusations of Rwandan military supporting Congolese rebels and the Congo providing rebel Rwandan "Interhamwe" forces the means and bases to attack Rwandan forces; as of 2004, Rwandan refugees lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Zambia

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 45,460 (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
IDPs: 4,158 (incursions by Hutu rebels from Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1997-99; most IDPs in northwest) (2005)