Rwanda at a Glance

Background

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 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began the first clashes in 1990. The clashes, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in a 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.

Rwanda held its first local elections in 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in 2003. Rwanda also joined the Commonwealth in late 2009 and assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2013-14 term.

Geography

  • Location: Central Africa, east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, north of Burundi, south of Uganda and west to Tanzania.
  • Total Area: 26,338 sq. km (land: 24,668 sq. km and water: 1,670 sq. km)
  • Climate: temperate (average 20 C; two rainy seasons (February to April, November to January);
  • Terrain: mostly savannah grassland and hills with an average altitude of 5000 ft. The agricultural land is 5%, forest 18%, and other 7.5%

 Population:

  • 12,988,423 (Hutu – Bantu) 84%, Tutsi – Hamitic) 15%, Twa – Pygmy 1%)
  • Urban 20%, Rural 80%   (from 4th Population and Housing Census 2016 Projection).

Demographic profile:

Rwanda has a very young population: 60% is below 24 years old even as the fertility rate declined sharply during the last decade, as a result of the government’s commitment to family planning. The average number of births per woman decreased from a 5.6 in 2005 to 4.5 in 2016.

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0-14 years: 41.53%              median age total:    19.0 years
15-24 years: 18.87%              median age male:    18.7 years
25-54 years: 32.93%              median age female: 19.2 years
55-64 years: 4.09%                population growth rate: 2.53
65 years and over: 2.58%          life expectancy at birth: 60.1 years

Economy

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.

However, Rwanda has made substantial progress in its economy:

  • GDP has rebounded with an average annual growth of 7%-8% since 2003
  • Inflation has been reduced to single digits.
  • Nonetheless, in 2015, 39% of the population lived below the poverty line compared to 57% in 2006.

Sources:
Republic of Rwanda – Statistical Year Book 2016
Republic of Rwanda – Education for all 2015 National Review
CIA The World FactBook – Rwanda 2017

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