The Republic of Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa, bordered by Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.

Background History

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 a state-orchestrated genocide, in which Rwandans killed up to a million of their fellow citizens, including approximately three-quarters of the Tutsi population. The genocide ended later that same year when the predominantly Tutsi RPF, operating out of Uganda and northern Rwanda, defeated the national army and Hutu militias, and established an RPF-led government of national unity. Approximately 2 million Hutu refugees - many fearing Tutsi retribution - fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and former Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remained in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, the former Zaire) and formed an extremist insurgency bent on retaking Rwanda, much as the RPF did in 1990. Rwanda held its first local elections in 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in 2003. Rwanda in 2009 staged a joint military operation with the Congolese Army in DRC to rout out the Hutu extremist insurgency there, and Kigali and Kinshasa restored diplomatic relations. Rwanda also joined the Commonwealth in late 2009 and assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2013-14 term.



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


  • name: Kigali
  • geographic coordinates: 1 57 S, 30 04 E
  • time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 1 July 1962 (from Belgium-administered UN trusteeship)

Government Type:

  • republic; presidential, multiparty system

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Paul Kagame (since 22 April 2000)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi (since 24 July 2014)
  • cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
  • elections: President elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term); elections last held on 9 August 2010 (next to be held in 2017)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral Parliament consists of Senate and and Chamber of Deputies

Judicial Branch:

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


People & Society


  • 12,337,138 (global rank: 74)
  • growth rate: 2.63% (global rank: 23)


  • noun: Rwandan(s)
  • adjective: Rwandan

Major Cities:

  • Kigali (capital): 1.223 million

Ethnic Groups:

  • Hutu (Bantu) 84%, Tutsi (Hamitic) 15%, Twa (Pygmy) 1%


  • Roman Catholic 49.5%, Protestant 39.4% (includes Adventist 12.2% and other Protestant 27.2%), other Christian 4.5%, Muslim 1.8%, animist 0.1%, other 0.6%, none 3.6%, unspecified 0.5%


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

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 59.26 years (global rank: 198)
  • male: 57.73 years
  • female: 60.83 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 59.59 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 23)
  • male: 63.11 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 55.96 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 2.85% (global rank: 20)
  • people living with AIDS: 195,400 (global rank: 28)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 65.9%
  • male: 71.1%
  • female: 61.5%



Overview: Rwanda is a rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in subsistence agriculture and some mineral and agro-processing. Tourism, minerals, coffee and tea are Rwanda's main sources of foreign exchange. The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda's fragile economic base, severely impoverished the population, particularly women, and temporarily stalled 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. GDP has rebounded with an average annual growth of 7%-8% since 2003 and inflation has been reduced to single digits. Nonetheless, a significant percent of the population still live below the official poverty line; 45% of the population now lives below the poverty line, compared to 57% in 2006. Despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with demand, requiring food imports In recognition of Rwanda's successful management of its macro economy, in 2010, the IMF graduated Rwanda to a Policy Support Instrument (PSI). Africa's most densely populated country is trying to overcome the limitations of its small, landlocked economy by leveraging regional trade; Rwanda joined the East African Community and is aligning its budget, trade, and immigration policies with its regional partners. The government has embraced an expansionary fiscal policy to reduce poverty by improving education, infrastructure, and foreign and domestic investment and pursuing market-oriented reforms. Energy shortages, instability in neighboring states, and lack of adequate transportation linkages to other countries continue to handicap private sector growth. The Rwandan Government is seeking to become regional leader in information and communication technologies. In 2012, Rwanda completed the first modern Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Kigali. The SEZ seeks to attract investment in all sectors, but specifically in agribusiness, information and communications technologies, trade and logistics, mining, and construction.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $18.7 billion (global rank: 144)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $1,700 (global rank: 211)
  • real growth rate: 6% (global rank: 34)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 32.5%, industry: 14.8%, services: 52.7%


  • currency: Rwandan Francs (RWF)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 684.3


  • population below poverty line: 44.9%
  • unemployment rate: NA

Agricultural 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

Export Commodities:

  • coffee, tea, hides, tin ore

Import Commodities:

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




  • Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo


  • total: 26,338 sq km (global rank: 149)
  • land: 24,668 sq km
  • water: 1,670 sq km
  • comparative: slightly smaller than Maryland


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

Land Use:

  • arable land: 47.9%
  • permanent crops: 10.13%
  • other: 41.96%

Natural Resources:

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

Current Environmental Issues:

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


Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: Burundi and Rwanda dispute two sq km (0.8 sq mi) of Sabanerwa, a farmed area in the Rukurazi Valley where the Akanyaru/Kanyaru River shifted its course southward after heavy rains in 1965; fighting among ethnic groups - loosely associated political rebels, armed gangs, and various government forces in Great Lakes region transcending the boundaries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DROC), Rwanda, and Uganda - abated substantially from a decade ago due largely to UN peacekeeping, international mediation, and efforts by local governments to create civil societies; nonetheless, 57,000 Rwandan refugees still reside in 21 African states, including Zambia, Gabon, and 20,000 who fled to Burundi in 2005 and 2006 to escape drought and recriminations from traditional courts investigating the 1994 massacres; the 2005 DROC and Rwanda border verification mechanism to stem rebel actions on both sides of the border remains in place
  • refugees (country of origin): 73,657 (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • internally displaced persons: undetermined (fighting between government and insurgency in 1998-99; returning refugees)
  • human trafficking: Rwanda is a source and, to a lesser extent, transit and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Rwandan girls and, to a lesser extent, boys are exploited in domestic servitude within the country; Rwandan adults and children are forced to work in agriculture, industry, domestic servitude, and prostitution in Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Burundi, Zambia, South Africa, UAE, Malaysia, China, the US, and Europe; women and children from neighboring countries and Somalia are subjected to prostitution and forced labor in Rwanda; until its defeat in late 2013, M23, an armed group operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recruited men and children with the support of some Rwandan officials

Published: Friday, April 24, 2015

The Republic of Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of east-central Africa, bordered by Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.