Rwanda is a small central African Nation situated to the west of Tanzania and to the north of Burundi. The Country’s history is closely tied to that of neighboring Burundi as both Countries were inhabited initially by the Twa, then later the Hutu and Tutsi tribes which now account for a large percentage of the Rwandese Population.
Sadly Rwanda gained worldwide fame for the Genocide that occurred in April 1994 when close to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu Militia. The Country has since returned to moderate stability and peace. Presidential elections were held in 2003 and were won by current President Paul Kagame, former leader of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).
Tourism in Rwanda:
Prior to internal conflict, Rwanda had a healthy tourism industry with visitors attracted to its rain forests which are home to a population of mountain Gorillas. The Rwandan Government is currently attempting to revive the local tourism industry by improving facilities, infrastructure and promoting the country as a tourist destination.
Rwanda is one of the three countries in Africa that hosts mountain gorillas. Though Rwanda is a small country, it is among the upcoming destinations for travel in Africa. Its tourism sector is booming and rapidly developing attracting a considerable number of foreign tourists who visit the country for adventures through the “land of a thousand hills”. Rwanda is one of the richly endowed tourist attractions in the East African region; the best place to go gorilla trekking, offering unique opportunities for chimpanzee tracking, bird watching and cultural tours.
Though Rwanda is most known for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, it is notably a safe country to visit on the African continent. Since the end of the genocide, the government of Rwanda has done a lot to rebuild the country. Today various infrastructure have been put in place and Rwanda boasts of good roads, improved communication, good accommodation facilities and improved flight schedules.
Things to Do in Rwanda
There are lots of adventures one can take in Africa. The top things to do include;
- Go gorilla trekking in Rwanda- Volcanoes National park hosts a third of the world’s total remaining population of the mountain gorillas.
- Go for chimpanzee tracking in Nyungwe Forest National Park. You can also enjoy canopy walks, nature walks and sightseiing
- Trace the history of Rwanda by taking a tour at Kigali Genocide Memorial.
- You can also visit the different genocide memorial sites that are spread in different parts of the country.
- Cultural Tours – Take a village walks, shop from various art shops that have beautiful locally made art crafts like weaved baskets,
- Vsit lakes like Kivu
tal population of 9 gorillas comprised of 2 silverbacks, 2 youths, 2 infants and 3 females
Umubano group; This group has a total population of about 7 gorillas with 1 silverback, 1 youth, 2 females and 1 infant.
Group 13; This group consists of an overall total of 10 gorillas with 1 silverback (leader), 4 females, 1 youth and 4 infants.
Don’t let you tour be cancelled because of visa worries, in Rwanda almost everything in readily solved, visas are available on the border and at the national airport at a general cost of US$60 valid for 30 days.
With Kigali as its capital and largest City, Rwanda is divided into twelve administrative provinces; Butare, Byumba, Cyangugu, Gikongoro, Gisenyi, Gitarama, Kibungo, Kibuye, Kigali Rurale, Kigali-ville, Umutara, Ruhengeri.
Rwanda is densely populated and is home to an estimated 8.65 million people. The Hutu account for about 84 % of the Country’s population; other tribes are the Tutsi and the Twa (a Pygmy People). Kinyarwanda, French and English are the official languages here though Swahili is widely spoken.
The flag of Rwanda:
The Current flag of Rwanda was adopted on the 25th of October in 2001 replacing a previous one that had been in use since independence.
The yellow, green and blue colors on the flag represent peace and hope for a brighter future for the people of Rwanda.
Rwanda is a republic with a multi-party democratically elected government. The last presidential and parliamentary elections in the Country were held in 2003; won by current President Paul Kagame. The President is the Chief of State and is elected for a seven year term.
A prime minister is the head of government and the cabinet is appointed by the President. Major political parties in the Country include; the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), Centrist Democratic Party (PDC) and the Democratic Popular Union of Rwanda (UDPR).
Rwanda was initially inhabited by the Twa (a Pygmy Tribe) followed by the Hutu then the Tutsi who arrived at around the 14th Century. Tribal coexistence and formal government was achieved by the formation of a kingdom whose boundaries are close to the present day Country.
The Banyarwanda Kingdom was headed by Mwami (King) a post that was hierarchical with rulers from the Tutsi tribe. By the 19th Century, stable systems of governance including a standing army existed in the Kingdom.
Similar to Burundi, Rwanda was annexed as part of the German East Africa Protectorate of Rwanda-Urundi after the Berlin Conference of 1885. German rule in the Country was established in 1890 without much resistance and in 1907, a German officer to oversea the colony was stationed permanently in Rwanda. Following German losses in the 1st World War, the Belgian Army occupied the Country in 1916 and together with neighboring Burundi; both Countries became part of the Belgian League of Nations.
Rwanda was granted its independence on the 1st of July 1962 by Belgium, though the first legislative elections in the Country were held in 1960 with Gregoire Kayibanda as the interim Prime Minister.
Since independence, Rwanda has had to cope with decades of political instability, ethnic tension and violence which probably reached its highlight in the Genocide of 1994. Relative peace and calm has returned to the Country and Presidential and Parliamentary elections were held in 2003, won by President Paul Kagame.
The Rwanda Genocide:
The Rwanda Genocide is one of the most significant events of its kind to take place in the modern world. Close to one million people lost their lives during this period of massacre which was a culmination of ethnic tensions that had gripped the Country for years.
A turning point for events in the country was the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana on the 6th of April 1994. The Country was after this thrown in turmoil and Hutu Militia Groups including the feared Interahamwe rounded up their victims who included Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.
Victims were killed and either left out in the open or buried in mass graves. These evens took place for a period about two and a half months between April and July 1994.
The Genocide ended when the mainly Tutsi Rebel Group (Rwandan Patriotic Front) led by current President Paul Kagame overthrew the Government and took over control of the Country.
Genocide Memorial day observed on the 7th of April each year is a day set aside to remember these sad events that occurred in the Country.
Health in Rwanda:
Like other countries on the Continent, HIV/AIDS is still a major problem in Rwanda.
It is estimated that about 250,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda.
The disease causes over 20,000 deaths each year. Other health risks in the country are; Malaria, Diarrhea, Typhoid Fever and Hepatitis A. There is also a problem with access to safe drinking water especially out of Kigali.
Access to medical facilities in the Country is still a problem for many Rwandese People. The leading hospitals and health centers can be found in major towns and cities such as Kigali and Kibuye. There are a few pharmacies in towns where you can purchase basic subscriptions medicines.
The Franc was adopted as the Country’s currency from Belgium during the colonial era. Then known as the Belgian Congo Franc, the currency was introduced in 1916. In 1960 the Rwandan Franc (RWF) was introduced as the official currency.
One Rwandan Franc is equivalent to 100 Centimes. Coin denominations exist for 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Centimes. Banknotes exist for 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 Francs.
Exchange Rates against major currencies:
At the time of writing (June 2006), 1 $ US was equivalent to 539.25 Rwandan Franc, 1 British Sterling Pound was equivalent to 991.63 Rwandan Franc and 1 Euro was equivalent to 676.57 Rwandan Franc.
Rwanda Facts & Figures:
– Location: Central Africa, west of Tanzania, north of Burundi.
– Capital City: Kigali.
– Population: 8.65 million people.
– Other major towns and cities: Kibungo, Byumba, Gitarama, Butare, Kibuye, Cyangugu, Gisenyi, Ruhengeri.
– Religion: Christian, Islam, Traditional Beliefs.
– Languages: Kinyarwanda, French, English, Swahili.
– Currency: Rwandan Franc.
Rwanda Public Holidays:
-New Years Day on the 1st of January,
-Democracy Day on the 28th of January,
-Genocide Memorial Day on the 7th of April,
-Labor Day on the 1st of May,
-Independence Day on the 1st of July,
-Liberation Day on the 4th of July,
-Harvest Festival on the 1st of August,
-Assumption on the 15th of August,
-Culture Day on the 8th of September,
-Republic Day on the 25th of September,
-Christmas Day on the 25th of December,
-Boxing Day on the 26th of December.
People & Culture
Sports in Rwanda:
The development of sport in Rwanda has taken a few positive turns for the Country. The Country has in recent years become a strong competitor in soccer at regional competitions both at club level and the Rwandan National team. Soccer is the most popular sport in the Country and major clubs in the Country include; Rayon Sport and the Rwandan Patriotic Army.
Rwanda signified its return on the international soccer scene when it hosted and won the East and Central African Championship in 1999. Since then teams have learnt not to overlook the Rwandans. The team though is yet to make an impact on a larger scale and has yet to qualify for the Africa Nations Cup.
Other popular sports in the Country are; Rugby, Basketball and Athletics.
Food in Rwanda:
Most Rwandan Dishes are made from locally grown foods. There are minimal international influences in local cuisine. Popular foods include; bananas, beans, potatoes, sorghum, sweet potatoes, cassava, spinach and corn. A local dish known as Isombe is a popular local dish prepared using Cassava and Vegetables.
Most restaurants in the Country serve local dishes and variety in cuisine can be found at major Hotels such as the InterContinental in Kigali whose restaurants feature an array of African, European and American Cuisine.
Alcoholic beverages in the Country are brewed locally and include; Urwarwa and Ikigage.
Education in Rwanda:
After periods of internal strife, the Rwandan Government in association with a number of International Organisations are striving to create a stable system of education in the Country. Teacher training and the rebuilding of educational institutions are taking priority as well as increasing student enrollment.
Higher learning institutions in Rwanda:
The National University of Rwanda: opened on the 3rd of November in 1963, the NUR is the largest institute of higher learning in the Country based in Kigali. The University offers courses in Agriculture, Education, Law, Medicine, Arts and Humanities, Sciences, Health, Communication and languages.
Other prominent institutes in the Country are the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, the Kigali Institute of Education and the Kigali Health Institute.
The Rwanda National Tourist Board is in charge of promoting the Country as a tourism destination. The board also liaises with various stakeholders in the local tourism industry and the Rwandan Government.
Tourism in Rwanda was a prominent industry leading up to the 1990s when the country was engulfed in conflict. Rwanda’s leading tourism attractions then and now are its ecotourism features.
The Virungas which are home to one of the largest population of Mountain Gorillas is a popular tourist attraction. Viewing these giant primates in their natural habitat provides for an exhilarating experience.
The Nyungwe Forest National Park is home to a rich array of Flora and Fauna including hundreds of tree and plant species. Animals found here include; the Colobus Monkey and the Chimpanzee. The forest is also home to over 200 bird species.
Rwandan Embassies and Consulates in Asia:
The Rwandan Embassy in Japan:
The Rwandan Embassy is situated at A Building, Annex Fukasawa, 1-17-17 in Tokyo. For more information on the embassy, travel advice, information on tourism and visa applications, you can contact the embassy on: 03 5752 4255.
The Rwandan Embassy in China:
The Embassy of the Rwandese Republic in China is situated at No. 30, Xiu Shui in Beijing. For more information on the embassy including information on visa application, tourism and travel advice, you can contact the embassy on: 010 65322193 or Fax: 010 65322006.
Rwandan Embassies and Consulates in Europe:
The Rwandan Embassy in the United Kingdom:
The Rwandan Embassy is situated at 120-122 Seymour Place in London. For more information on the embassy, travel advice, information on tourism and visa applications, you can visit the embassy’s website at: http://www.ambarwanda.org.uk/ or alternatively call: (020) 722 49 832 or Fax: (020) 772 48 642.
The Rwandan Embassy in France:
The Embassy of the Rwandese Republic in France is situated at 12 Rue Jadin in Paris. For more information on the embassy including information on visa application, tourism and travel advice, you can contact the embassy on 1 4227 3631.
The Rwandan Embassy in Belgium:
The Embassy of Rwanda in Belgium is situated at 1, Avenue de Fleurs in the City of Brussels. For more information on the embassy and consular services, you can call: 032 02 763 07038 or Fax: 032 02 763 07053.
Rwandan Embassies and Consulates in North America:
The Rwandan Embassy in the United States:
The Rwandan Embassy is situated at 1714 New Hampshire Avenue in Washington D.C. For more information on the embassy, travel advice and visa applications, you can visit the embassy’s website at: http://www.rwandaemb.org/ or alternatively call: (202) 232 2882 or Fax: (202) 232 4544.
The Rwandan Embassy in Canada:
The Embassy of the Rwandese Republic in Canada is situated at 153 Gilmour Street in Ottawa. For more information on the embassy including information on visa application, tourism and travel advice, you can visit the embassy’s website at: http://www.ambarwaottawa.ca/ alternatively, you can call (613) 569 5420 or Fax: (613) 569 5421.