The Republic of Rwanda (pronounced /ruːˈændə/ or /rəˈwɑːndə/ in English, IPA: or in Kinyarwanda) 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. Home to approximately 10.1 million people, Rwanda supports the densest population in continental Africa, most of whom engage in subsistence agriculture. A verdant country of fertile and hilly terrain, the small republic bears the title "Land of a Thousand Hills" (French: Pays des Mille Collines; Kinyarwanda: Igihugu cy'Imisozi Igihumbi).
The country has received considerable international attention due to its 1994 genocide, in which between 800,000 and one million people were killed. In 2008, Rwanda became the first country in history to elect a national legislature in which a majority of members were women.
The Twa, the aboriginal Pygmy inhabitants, have probably lived in the region since the first millennium of our era. Currently, the population of Rwanda consists of the Banyarwanda. "Banyarwanda" is Kinyarwanda for "People of Rwanda". The Banyarwanda share a common culture, language, and geographic space.
According to the analysis of first colonizers to Rwanda and Burundi, from Germany, and later, Belgium, the populations of Rwanda and Burundi were divided into three ethnic-based classes: Hutus, Tutsis and Twas. All three classes paid tribute to the king in return for protection and various favours. Tutsi who lost their cattle due to a disease epidemic such as Rinderpest sometimes would be considered Hutu; likewise Hutu who obtained cattle would come to be considered Tutsi, thus climbing the ladder of the social strata. This social mobility ended abruptly with the onset of colonial administration. What had hitherto been often considered social classes took a fixed ethnic outlook.
A traditional local justice system called Gacaca predominated in much of the region as an institution for resolving conflict, rendering justice and reconciliation. The Tutsi king was the ultimate judge and arbiter for those cases that ever reached him. Despite the traditional nature of the system, harmony and cohesion had been established among Rwandans and within the kingdom.
After signing treaties with chiefs in the Tanganyika region in 1884-1885, Germany claimed Tanganyika, Rwanda and Burundi as its own territory. Count von Götzen met the Tutsi Mwami (king) for the first time in 1894. However, with only 2500 soldiers in East Africa, Germany did little to change societal structures in much of the region, especially in Rwanda. After the Mwami's death in 1895, a period of unrest followed. Germans and missionaries then began to enter the country from Tanganyika in 1897-98.
By 1899 the Germans exerted some influence by placing advisors at the courts of local chiefs. Much of the Germans' time was spent fighting uprisings in Tanganyika, especially the Maji Maji war of 1905-1907. On May 14, 1910 the European Convention of Brussels fixed the borders of Uganda, Congo, and German East Africa which included Tanganyika and Ruanda-Urundi. In 1911, the Germans helped the Tutsi put down a rebellion of Hutus in the northern part of Rwanda who did not wish to submit to central Tutsi control.
In 1916, during World War I, Belgian forces advanced from the Congo into Germany's East African colonies. After Germany lost the War, Belgium accepted the League of Nations Mandate of 1923 to govern Ruanda-Urundi along with the Congo, while Great Britain accepted Tanganyika and other German colonies. After World War II Ruanda-Urundi became a United Nations (UN) "trust territory" administered by Belgium. The Belgian involvement in the region was far more direct than German involvement and extended its interests into education and agricultural supervision. The latter was especially important in the face of two droughts and subsequent famines in 1928-29 and in 1943. These famines forced large migrations of Rwandans to neighboring Congo. In 1933 ethnic identification cards were used to classify one's ethnicity.
The Belgian colonizers also accepted the existing class system, featuring a minority Tutsi upper class and lower classes of Hutus and Tutsi commoners. However, in 1926 the Belgians abolished the local posts of "land-chief", "cattle-chief" and "military chief," and in doing so they stripped the Hutu of their limited local power over land. In the 1920s, under military threat, the Belgians finally helped to bring the northwest Hutu kingdoms, who had maintained local control of land not subject to the Mwami, under the Tutsi royalty's central control. These two actions disenfranchised the Hutu. Large, centralized land holdings were then divided into smaller chiefdoms.
The fragmenting of Hutu lands angered Mwami Yuhi IV, who had hoped to further centralize his power enough to rid himself of the Belgians. In 1931 Tutsi plots against the Belgian administration resulted in the Belgians deposing the Tutsi Mwami Yuhi. This caused the Tutsis to take up arms against the Belgians, but because of their fear of the Belgians' military superiority, they did not openly revolt.
The Roman Catholic Church and Belgian colonial authorities considered the Hutus and Tutsis different ethnic races based on their physical differences and patterns of migration. However, because of the existence of many wealthy Hutu who shared the financial (if not physical) stature of the Tutsi, the Belgians used an expedient method of classification based on the number of cattle a person owned. Anyone with ten or more cattle was considered a member of the aristocratic Tutsi class. From 1935 on, "Tutsi", "Hutu" and "Twa" were indicated on identity cards. The Roman Catholic Church, the primary educators in the country, subscribed to and reinforced the differences between Hutu and Tutsi. They developed separate educational systems for each. In the 1940s and 1950s the vast majority of students were Tutsi. In 1943, Mwami Mutari III became the first Tutsi monarch to convert to Catholicism.
The Belgian colonialists continued to depend on the Tutsi aristocracy to collect taxes and enforce Belgian policies. It maintained the dominance of the Tutsi in local colonial administration and expanded the Tutsi system of labor for colonial purposes. The United Nations later decried this policy and demanded a greater self-representation of the Hutu in local affairs. In 1954 the Tutsi monarchy of Ruanda-Urundi demanded independence from Belgian rule. At the same time it agreed to abolish the system of indentured servitude (ubuhake and uburetwa) the Tutsis had practiced over the Hutu until then.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, a wave of Pan-Africanism swept through Central Africa, with leaders such as Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. Anti-colonial sentiment stirred throughout central Africa, and a socialist platform of African unity and equality for all Africans was forwarded. Nyerere himself wrote about the elitism of educational systems, which Hutus interpreted as an indictment of the elitist educations provided for Tutsis in their own country.
Encouraged by the Pan-Africanists, Hutu advocates in the Catholic Church, and by Christian Belgians (who were increasingly influential in the Congo), Hutu sentiment against the aristocratic Tutsi was increasingly inflamed. The United Nations mandates, the Tutsi overlord class, and the Belgian colonialists themselves added to the growing unrest. The Hutu "emancipation" movement was soon spearheaded by Gregoire Kayibanda, founder of PARMEHUTU, who wrote his "Hutu Manifesto" in 1957. The group quickly became militarized. In reaction, in 1959 the UNAR party was formed by Tutsis who desired an immediate independence for Ruanda-Urundi, to be based on the existing Tutsi monarchy. This group also became quickly militarized. Skirmishes began between UNAR and PARMEHUTU groups. Then in July 1959, the Tutsi Mwami (King) Mutara III Charles was believed by Rwandan Tutsis to have been assassinated when he died following a routine vaccination by a Flemish physician in Bujumbura. His younger half-brother then became the next Tutsi monarch, Mwami (King) Kigeli V.
In November 1959, Tutsi forces beat up a Hutu politician, Dominique Mbonyumutwa, and rumors of his death set off a violent backlash against the Tutsi known as "the wind of destruction." Thousands of Tutsis were killed and many thousands more, including the Mwami, fled to neighboring Uganda before Belgian commandos arrived to quell the violence. Several Belgians were subsequently accused by Tutsi leaders of abetting the Hutus in the violence. Tutsi refugees also fled to the South Kivu province of the Congo, where they called themselves Banyamalenge. They eventually became a primary force in the First and Second Congo Wars.
In 1960, the Belgian government agreed to hold democratic municipal elections in Rwanda-Urundi, in which Hutu representatives were elected by the Hutu majorities. This precipitous change in the power structure threatened the centuries-old system by which Tutsi superiority had been maintained through monarchy. An effort to create an independent Rwanda-Urundi with Tutsi-Hutu power sharing failed, largely due to escalating violence. The Belgian government, with UN urging, therefore decided to divide Rwanda-Urundi into two separate countries, Rwanda and Burundi. Each had elections in 1961 in preparation for independence.
In 1961, Rwandans voted, by referendum and with the support of the Belgian colonial government, to abolish the Tutsi monarchy and instead establish a republic. Dominique Mbonyumutwa, who had survived his previous attack, was named the first president of the transitional government. This attack was the pretext used to explain that Tutsis were dangerous and had to be killed. Burundi, by contrast, established a constitutional monarchy, and in the 1961 elections leading up to independence, Louis Rwagasore, the son of the Tutsi Mwami and a popular politician and anti-colonial agitator, was elected as Prime Minister. However, he was soon assassinated. The monarchy, with the aid of the military, therefore assumed control of the country, and allowed no further elections until 1965.
Between 1961 and 1962, Tutsi guerrilla groups staged attacks into Rwanda from neighboring countries. Rwandan Hutu-based troops responded and thousands more were killed in the clashes.
On July 1, 1962, Belgium, with UN oversight, granted full independence to the two countries. Rwanda was created as a republic governed by the majority Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU), which had gained full control of national politics by this time. In 1963, a Tutsi guerrilla invasion into Rwanda from Burundi unleashed another anti-Tutsi backlash by the Hutu government in Rwanda, and an estimated 14,000 people were killed. In response, a previous economic union between Rwanda and Burundi was dissolved and tensions between the two countries worsened. Rwanda also now became a Hutu-dominated one-party state. In excess of 70,000 people had been killed. It was thought for a while that British Royal Marines then stationed in Tanzania might be sent to Rwanda to stop the horrific loss of life there.
Gregoire Kayibanda, founder of PARMEHUTU (and a Hutu) was the first president (from 1962 to 1973), followed by Juvenal Habyarimana (who was president from 1973 to 1994). The latter, also a Hutu (from the northwest of Rwanda), took power from Kayibanda in a 1973 coup, claiming the government to have been ineffective and riddled with favoritism. He installed his own political party into government. This occurred partially as a reaction to the Burundi genocide of 1972, with the resultant wave of Hutu refugees and subsequent social unrest. Rwanda enjoyed relative economic prosperity during the early part of his regime.
The situation in Rwanda had been influenced in great detail by the situation in Burundi. Both countries had a Hutu majority, yet an army-controlled Tutsi government in Burundi persisted for decades. After the assassination of Rwagasore, his UPRONA party was split into Tutsi and Hutu factions. A Tutsi Prime Minister was chosen by the monarch, but, a year later in 1963, the monarch was forced to appoint a Hutu prime minister, Pierre Ngendandumwe, in an effort to satisfy growing Hutu unrest. Nevertheless, the monarch soon replaced him with another Tutsi prince. In Burundi's first elections following independence, in 1965, Ngendandumwe was elected Prime Minister. He was immediately assassinated by a Tutsi extremist and he was succeeded by another Hutu, Joseph Bamina. Hutus won 23 of the 33 seats in national elections a few months later, but the monarch nullified the elections. Bamina was soon also assassinated and the Tutsi monarch installed his own personal secretary, Leopold Biha, as the Prime Minister in his place. This led to a Hutu coup from which the Mwami fled the country and Biha was shot (but not killed). The Tutsi-dominated army, led by Michel Micombero brutally responded: almost all Hutu politicians were killed. Micombero assumed control of the government and a few months later deposed the new Tutsi monarch (the son of the previous monarch) and abolished the role of the monarchy altogether. He then threatened to invade Rwanda. A military dictatorship persisted in Burundi for another 27 years, until the next free elections, in 1993.
Another seven years of sporadic violence in Burundi (from 1965 - 1972) existed between the Hutus and Tutsis. In 1969 another purge of Hutus by the Tutsi military occurred. Then, a localized Hutu uprising in 1972 was fiercely answered by the Tutsi-dominated Burundi army in the largest Burundi genocide of Hutus, with a death toll nearing 200,000.
This wave of violence led to another wave of cross border refugees into Rwanda of Hutus from Burundi. Now there were large numbers of both Tutsi and Hutu refugees throughout the region, and tensions continued to mount.
In 1988, Hutu violence against Tutsis throughout northern Burundi again resurfaced, and in response the Tutsi army massacred approximately 20,000 more Hutu. Again thousands of Hutu were forced into exile into Tanzania and Congo to flee another genocide of Hutu.
In 1986, Yoweri Museveni's guerrilla forces in Uganda had succeeded in taking control of the country, overthrowing the Ugandan dictatorship of Milton Obote. Many exiled refugee Rwandan Tutsis in Uganda had joined its rebel forces and had then become part of the Ugandan military, now made up from Museveni's guerrilla forces.
However, Ugandans resented the Rwandan presence in the new Ugandan army, and in 1986 Paul Kagame, a Tutsi who had become head of military intelligence in Museveni's new Ugandan army, founded the RPF, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, together with Fred Rwigema. They began to train their army to invade Rwanda from Uganda, and many Tutsis who had been in the Ugandan military now joined the RPF. Kagame also received military training in the United States. In 1991, a radio station broadcasting RPF propaganda from Uganda was established by the RPF.
In 1990, the Tutsi-dominated RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda. Some members allied with the military dictatorship government of Habyarimana responded in 1993 to the RPF invasion with a radio station that began anti-Tutsi propaganda and with programs against Tutsis, whom it claimed were trying to re-enslave the Hutus. Nevertheless, after 3 years of fighting and multiple prior "cease-fires," the government and the RPF signed a "final" cease-fire agreement in August 1993, known as the Arusha accords, in order to form a power sharing government. Neither side appeared ready to accept the accords, however, and fighting between the two sides continued unabated. By that time, over 1.5 million civilians had left their homes to flee the selective massacres against Hutus by the RPF army. They were living in camps, the most famous of them was called Nyacyonga.
The situation worsened when the first elected Burundian president, Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, was assassinated by the Burundian Tutsi-dominated army in October 1993. In Burundi, a fierce civil war then erupted between Tutsi and Hutu following the army's massacre, and tens of thousands, both Hutu and Tutsi, were killed in this conflict. This conflict spilled over the border into Rwanda and caused the fragile Rwandan Arusha accords to quickly crumble. Tutsi-Hutu hatred rapidly intensified. Although the UN sent a peacekeeping force named the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), it was underfunded, under-staffed, and largely ineffective in the face of a two country civil-war, as detailed in Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire's book Shake Hands with the Devil. Dallaire requested additional troops and changes to the rules of engagement to prevent the coming genocide. The UN denied his request.
During the armed conflict in Rwanda, the RPF was blamed for the bombing of the capital Kigali. On April 6, 1994, the Hutu president of Rwanda and the second newly elected president of Burundi (also a Hutu) were both assassinated when their jet was shot down, allegedly by missiles from the Ugandan army, while landing in Kigali. A French tribunal has blamed this action on Kagame's RPF forces. Kagame and several members of Habyarimana's government, however, have claimed that disgruntled Hutus killed their own Hutu president, as well as the Hutu president of Burundi, to justify the upcoming genocide. Yet others have claimed US involvement in the "crash"/assassination in an effort to undermine French influence in the region and improve US access to Congolese natural resources.
In response to the April killing of the two state presidents, over the next three months (April - July 1994) the Hutu-led military and Interahamwe militia groups killed about 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates in the Rwandan genocide. The Tutsi-led RPF continued to advance on the capital, however, and soon occupied the northern, eastern, and southern parts of the country by June. Thousands of additional civilians were killed in the conflict. UN member states refused to answer UNAMIR's requests for increased troops and money. Meanwhile, although French troops were dispatched during Opération Turquoise to "stabilize the situation," they were only able to evacuate foreign nationals and in some cases the genocide continued in zones they occupied while many high-profile Hutu war criminals escaped the RPF though French-controlled areas.
Between July and August, 1994, Kagame's Tutsi-led RPF troops first entered Kigali and soon thereafter captured the rest of the country. Over 2 million Hutus then fled the country, causing the Great Lakes refugee crisis. Many went to Eastern Zaire (notably Northern Kivu province). Between 1994 and 1996, the Tutsi-controlled RPA government of Paul Kagame continued its retribution against Hutu in Rwanda. It destroyed the Nyacyonga camp for internally displaced people with heavy artillery. The RPF killed thousands of fresh returnees from Zaire in Kibeho camp. To continue its attacks against the Hutu Interahamwe forces, which had fled to Eastern Zaire, Kagame's RPF forces invaded Zaire in 1996, following talks by Kagame with US officials earlier the same year.
In this invasion Kagame allied with Laurent Kabila, a progressist revolutionary in Eastern Zaire who had been a foe of Zaire's long-time dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko. In addition to Rwandan forces, Laurent Kabila's AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) forces were also supported by Ugandan forces, with whom Kagame had trained in the late 1980s, which then invaded Eastern Zaire from the northeast. This became known as the First Congo War.
In this war, militarized Tutsi elements in the South Kivu area of Zaire, known as Banyamulenge to disguise their original Rwandan Tutsi heritage, allied with the Tutsi RDF forces against the Hutu refugees in the North Kivu area, which included the Interahamwe militias.
In the midst of this conflict, Kabila, whose primary intent had been to depose Mobutu, moved his forces to Kinshasa, and in 1997, the same year Mobutu Sese Seko died of prostate cancer, Kabila captured Kinshasa and then became president of Zaire, which he then renamed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With Kabila's success in the Congo, he no longer desired an alliance with the Tutsi-RPF Rwandan army and the Ugandan forces, and in August 1998 ordered both the Ugandans and Tutsi-Rwandan army out of the DRC. However, neither Kagame's Rwandan Tutsi forces nor Museveni's Ugandan forces had any intention of leaving the Congo, and the framework of the Second Congo War was laid.
During the Second Congo War, Tutsi militias among the Banyamulenge in the Congo province of Kivu desired to annex themselves to Rwanda (now dominated by Tutsi forces under the Kagame government). Kagame also desired this, both to increase the resources of Rwanda by adding those of the Kivu region, and also to add the Tutsi population, which the Banyamulenge represented, back into Rwanda, thereby reinforcing his political base and protecting the indigenous Tutsis living there, who had also suffered massacres from the Interhamwe.
In the Second Congo War, Uganda and Rwanda attempted to wrest much of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Kabila's forces, and nearly succeeded. However, the DRC being a member of the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) organisation, President Laurent Kabila called this regional organisation to the rescue. Armies were sent to aid Kabila, most notably those of Angola and Zimbabwe. These armies were able to beat back Kagame's Rwandan-Tutsi advances and the Ugandan forces.
In the great conflict between 1998 and 2002, during which Congo was divided into three parts, multiple opportunistic militias, called Mai Mai, sprang up, supplied by the arms dealers around the world that profit in small arms trading, including the US, Russia, China, and other countries. Over 5.4 million people died in the conflict, as well as the majority of animals in the region.
Laurent Kabila was assassinated in the DRC (Congo) in 2001, and was succeeded by his son, Joseph Kabila. The latter was chosen unanimously by the political class because of the role he played in the army, being the "de facto' officer in charge of the well trained bataillions that defeated the Mobutu army and were fighting along side SADC coallition forces. Joseph speaks fluent French, English and Kiswahili, one of the four national languages of the DRC. He studied in Tanzania, in Uganda, and completed his military training in China. After serving 5 years as the transitional government president, he was freely-elected in the Congo to be president, in 2006, largely on the basis of his support in the Eastern Congo.
Ugandan and Rwandan forces within Congo began to battle each other for territory, and Congolese Mai Mai militias, most active in the South and North Kivu provinces (in which most refugees were located) took advantage of the conflict to settle local scores and widen the conflict, battling each other, Ugandan and Rwandan forces, and even Congolese forces.
The war was ended when, under Joseph Kabila's leadership, a ceasefire was signed and the all-inclusive Sun City (South Africa) talks were convened to decide on a two years transition period and the organisation of free and fair elections.
Rwandan RPF troops finally left Congo in 2002, leaving a wake of disease and malnutrition that continued to kill thousands every month. However, Rwandan rebels continue to operate (as of May 2007) in the northeast Congo and Kivu regions. These are claimed to be remnants of Hutu forces that cannot return to Rwanda without facing genocide charges, yet are not welcomed in Congo and are pursued by DRC troops. In the first 6 months of 2007, over 260,000 civilians were displaced. Congolese Mai Mai rebels also continue to threaten people and wildlife. Although a large scale effort at disarming militias has succeeded, with the aid of the UN troops, the last militias are only being disarmed in 2007. However, fierce confrontations in the northeast regions of the Congo between local tribes in the Ituri region, initially uninvolved with the Hutu-Tutsi conflict but drawn into the Second Congo War, still continue.
In Burundi, the Burundi Civil War from 1993 to 2006 coincided with the First and Second Congo Wars. At least 300,000 Burundians were killed, and refugees into Tanzania and Congo contributed to the region's major population displacements. In August 2005, a Hutu born-again Christian, Pierre Nkurunziza, was elected as Burundi president. At least three cease-fires between rebel groups and Burundi forces, in 2003, 2005, and September 2006, have been signed.
Rwandan stability is undoubtedly dependent both on stability in Eastern DRC (Congo) and in Burundi.
After the Tutsi RPF took control of the government, Kagame installed a Hutu president, Pasteur Bizimungu, in 1994. Many believed him to be a puppet president, however, and when Bizimungu became critical of the Kagame government in 2000, he was removed as president and Kagame took over the presidency himself. Bizimungu immediately founded an opposition party (the PDR), but it was banned by the Kagame government. Bizimungu was arrested in 2002 for treason, sentenced to 15 years in prison, but released by a presidential pardon in 2007.
After it took control of the government in 1994 following the civil war, the Tutsi-dominated RDF party then wrote the history of the genocide and enshrined its version of events in the current constitution of 2003. It made it a crime to question the government's version of the genocide. In 2004, a ceremony was held in Kigali at the Gisozi Memorial (sponsored by the Aegis Trust and attended by many foreign dignitaries) to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the genocide, and the country observes a national day of mourning each year on April 7. Hutu Rwandan genocidal leaders are on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, in the Rwandan National Court system, and, most recently, through the informal Gacaca village justice program. Recent reports highlight a number of reprisal killings of survivors for giving evidence at Gacaca.
Some have made claims that the memorialisation of the genocide without admission of the crimes by the Tutsi-RDF are one sided, and is part of ongoing propaganda by the Tutsi-led Rwandan government, which is essentially a one-party government at this time. The author of Hotel Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina, has demanded that Paul Kagame, the current Rwandan president, be tried as a war criminal.
The first elections since the invasion of Rwanda by Kagame's forces in 1990 (and the subsequent creation of a military government by Kagame in 1994) were held in 2003. Kagame, who had already been appointed president by his own government in 2000, was then elected president by over 95% of the vote, with little opposition. Opposition parties were banned until just before the 2003 elections. Following the elections, in 2004, a constitutional amendment banned political parties from denoting themselves as being aligned with "Hutu" or "Tutsi." However, the RPF, a primarily Tutsi political organisation, was not disbanded and therefore continues its dominance. Most observers therefore do not believe the 2003 elections to have been fair nor representative. Elections have been compared to the "fair elections" of Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe. The next presidential elections are due to be held in 2010.
Rwanda today struggles to heal and rebuild, but shows signs of rapid development. Some Rwandans continue to grapple with the legacy of almost 60 years of intermittent war. One agent in Rwanda's rebuilding effort is the Benebikira Sisters, a Catholic order of nuns whose ministry is dedicated to education and healthcare. Since the genocide, the Sisters have housed and supported hundreds of orphans, and created and staffed schools to educate the next generation of Rwandans.
The major markets for Rwandan exports are Belgium, Germany, and People's Republic of China. In April 2007, an investment and trade agreement, four years in the making, was worked out between Belgium and Rwanda. Belgium contributes €25-35 million per year to Rwanda. Belgian co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry continues to develop and rebuild agricultural practices in the country. It has distributed agricultural tools and seed to help rebuild the country. Belgium also helped in re-launching fisheries in Lake Kivu, at a value of US$470,000, in 2001.
In Eastern Rwanda, The Clinton Hunter Development Initiative, along with Partners in Health, are helping to improve agricultural productivity, improve water and sanitation and health services, and help cultivate international markets for agricultural products.
Since 2000, the Rwandan government has expressed interest in transforming the country from agricultural subsistence to a knowledge-based economy, and plans to provide high-speed broadband across the entire country.
After its military victory in July 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front organized a coalition government loosely based on the 1993 Arusha accords. The National Movement for Democracy and Development–Habyarimana's party that had instigated and implemented the genocidal ideology–along with the CDR (another Hutu extremist party) were banned, with most of its leaders either arrested or in exile. It is not clear whether any Hutu parties are currently allowed in Rwanda. After the 1994 genocide, the RPF installed a single-party "coalition-based" government. Paul Kagame became Vice-President. In 2000, he was elected president of Rwanda by the parliament.
By law, at least a third of the Parliament representation must be female. It is believed that women will not allow the mass killings of the past to be repeated. In the parliamentary election of September 2008, 56% of seats were won by women.
The Senate has at least 26 members, each with a term of eight years. Eight posts are appointed by the president. 12 are elected representatives of the 11 provinces and the city of Kigali. Four members are designated by the Forum of Political Organizations (a quasi-governmental organization that currently is an arm of the dominant political party); one member is a university lecturer or researcher elected by the public universities; one member is a university lecturer or researcher elected by the private universities. Any past President has permanent membership in the Senate. Under this scheme, up to 12 appointees to the Senate are appointed by the President and his party. The elected members must be approved by the Supreme Court. The 14 Supreme Court members are designated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 80 members, each with a 5 year term; 24 posts are reserved for women and are elected by province; 53 posts can be men or women and are also are elected by local elections; 2 posts are elected by the National Youth Council; 1 post is elected by Federation of the Associations of the Disabled.
The President and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies must be from different political parties. The President is elected every seven years, and may serve a maximum of two terms. In 2006, however, the structure of the country was reorganized. It is unclear how this affects current elected representation proportions.
The current Rwandan government, led by Paul Kagame, has been praised by many for establishing security and promoting reconciliation and economic development, but is also criticized by some for being overly militant and opposed to dissent. The country now has many international visitors and is regarded as a safer place for tourists, with only a single isolated mortar attack in early 2007 around Volcanoes National Park near Gisenyi.
With new independent radio stations and other media arising, Rwanda is attempting a free press, but there are reports of journalists disappearing and being apprehended whenever articles question the government. The transmitter for Radio France International was banned by the government in Rwanda in 2006 when it became critical of Kagame and the RPF.
Prior to 1 January 2006, Rwanda was composed of twelve provinces, but these were abolished in full and redrawn as part of a program of decentralization and reorganization.
This small country, slightly smaller than the US state of Massachusetts or half the size of Scotland, is located near the center of Africa, a few degrees south of the Equator. It is separated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Lake Kivu and the Rusizi River valley to the west; it is bounded on the north by Uganda, to the east by Tanzania, and to the south by Burundi. The capital, Kigali, is located in the center of the country.
Rwanda's countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over rolling hills, with areas of rugged mountains that extend southeast from a chain of volcanoes in the northwest. The divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems extends from north to south through western Rwanda at an average elevation of almost 9,000 feet (2,740 m). On the western slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River valley, and constitutes part of the Great Rift Valley. The eastern slopes are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at gradually reducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region. Therefore the country is also fondly known as "Land of a Thousand Hills" (Pays des milles collines). In 2006, a British-led exploration announced that they had located the longest headstream of the River Nile in Nyungwe Forest.
The transport system in Rwanda centres primarily around the road network, with paved roads between the capital, Kigali and most other major cities and towns in the country. Rwanda is also linked by road to other countries in East Africa, notably to the port of Mombasa via Kampala and Nairobi, which provides Rwanda's most important trade route. The country has an international airport at Kigali, serving one domestic and several international destinations. There is no public water transport between the port cities on Lake Kivu, although a limited private service exists. A large amount of investment in the transport infrastructure has been made by the government since the 1994 genocide, with aid from the USA, European Union, Japan and others.
The principal form of public transport in the country is share taxi, with express routes linking the major cities and local services serving most villages along the main roads of the country. Coach services are available to various destinations in neighbouring countries.
In 2006, the Chinese government proposed funding a study for the building of a railway link from Bujumbura in Burundi to Kigali in Rwanda to Isaki in Tanzania. A delegation from the American railroad BNSF also met with President Paul Kagame to discuss a route from Kigali to Isaka and at the same time the government announced that it had selected a German consulting company to undertake pilot work for the proposed rail line.
The use of fixed telephone landlines is not widespread in the country. Many people use one of the two main mobile telephone networks: MTN or Rwandatel. MTN has, since 1994, been the larger operator of the two. Rwandatel launched its GSM Network in December 2008. Costs for making calls and sending text messages are significantly cheaper than MTN. Both networks operate mainly on a pay as you go basis and SIM cards and airtime for MTN can be bought throughout Rwanda. MTN has good coverage of the country and Rwandatel intends to expand its new GSM network to cover the entire country by March 2009.
There are two main Internet Providers: Rwandatel and MTN. The Rwandatel EVDO card is widely used but has been oversubscribed and therefore operates at a very low speed. Coverage is good throughout the country. The cost of purchasing equipment and operating costs are high in terms of quality of service. MTN operates a similar but cheaper system, although this is also slow. Both operators offer an extremely expensive, but higher speed fixed WIMAX variant wireless 'broadband' service in Kigali. This achieves very low speeds compared to western standards, but is capable of VOIP. Rwandatel offers ADSL in some areas of the country; but this is far from widespread.
Internet cafes exist, but generally provide cheap but slow connections.
The postal system is mostly reliable. Those wishing to receive post must register and pay for annually, a Post Office Box at the Post Office.
There is one national television station: Rwanda Television which broadcasts feeds from various international broadcasters during the day. The evening programming largely consists of locally produced news programming repeated in Kinyarwanda, English and French.
Subscription based satellite television is easily available; particularly in Kigali. There is currently only one operator: South African based DSTV. DSTV equipment and smart cards can be arranged through the DSTV agent in Rwanda: Tele-10. Initial enquiries must be made through Tele-10, although viewers can reduce costs by subscribing directly via DSTV in South Africa after the initial three month subscription period.
Rwanda's economy suffered heavily during the 1994 genocide, with widespread loss of life, failure to maintain the infrastructure, looting and neglect of important cash crops causing a large drop in GDP and destroying the country's ability to attract private and external investment. The country has since strengthened, with per-capita GDP (PPP) estimated at $951 in 2008, compared with just $390 in 1994. Major export markets include China, Germany and the United States. The currency is the Rwandan franc and the economy is managed by the central National Bank of Rwanda, although Rwanda recently joined the East African Community and there are plans for a common East African shilling, which could be in place by 2010.
Rwanda is a country of few natural resources, and the economy is based mostly on semi-subsistence agriculture by local farmers using simple tools. An estimated 90% of the working population farms, and agriculture comprised an estimated 39.4% of GDP in 2006. Since the mid 1980s, farm sizes and food production have been decreasing, due in part to the resettlement of displaced people. Thus despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with population growth, requiring food imports. Crops grown in the country include coffee, tea, pyrethrum, bananas, beans, sorghum and potatoes. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops for export, with the high altitudes, steep slopes and volcanic soils providing favourable conditions. Reliance on agricultural exports makes Rwanda vulnerable to shifts in their prices.
Livestock are raised throughout the country, with animal husbandry contributing around 8.8% of GDP in 2006. Animals raised in Rwanda include cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chicken and rabbits, with geographical variation in the numbers of each. Production systems are mostly traditional, although there are a few intensive dairy farms around Kigali. Shortage of land, water shortage, insufficient and poor quality feed and regular disease epidemics with insufficient veterinary service are major constraints, restricting output in this sector. Fishing takes place on the country's lakes, but stocks are very depleted and live fish are now being imported in an attempt to revive the industry.
The industrial sector is small and uncompetitive. Products manufactured include cement, agricultural products, small-scale beverages, soap, furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles, cigarettes. Despite being a landlocked country of few natural resources, Rwanda's mining industry is an important contributor, generating US$93 million in 2008. Minerals mined include cassiterite, wolfram, gold and coltan, which is used in the manufacture of electronic and communication devices such as mobile phones.
Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors and is now the country's leading foreign exchange earner, generating US$214 million in 2008, up by 54% on the previous year. Despite the genocide, the country is increasingly perceived internationally as a safe destination, and one million people are estimated to have visited the country in 2008, up from 826,374 in 2007. The country's most popular tourist activity is the tracking of mountain gorillas, which takes place in the Volcanoes National Park. Other attractions include Nyungwe Forest, home to chimpanzees, Ruwenzori colobus and other primates, the resorts of Lake Kivu, and Akagera, a small savanna reserve in the east of the country.
It has a low gross national product (GNP), and it has been identified as a Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC). In 2005, its economic performance and governance achievements prompted International Funding Institutions to cancel nearly all its debts.
According to the World Food Program, it is estimated that 60% of the population live below the poverty line and 10-12% of the population suffer from food insecurity every year.
Land management is the single most important factor in the conflicts in the region. Although the feudal system of land use disappeared with the "Social Revolution" of 1959, sharecropping reappeared following the return of the RPF government in 1994, with the land use policies of the new RPF government being formalized in the 2005 land use laws. These land-use laws were meant to transform a jumble of small, fragmented, and minimally productive plots into more prosperous larger holdings producing for global (as well as for local) markets. The government is to determine how land holdings will be regrouped, which crops will be grown, and which animals will be raised. If farmers fail to follow the national plan, their land may be requisitioned with no compensation, and their land can be given to others.
Although a movement for individual ownership of land arose at the time of independence, land scarcity over much of Rwanda made this impractical over the long term. The current land reform system is somewhat similar to the "igikingi" system of land control that the Tutsi monarchy, and then the Belgian colonial government, used prior to the time leading up to independence. Northwest Rwanda had traditionally used a system of locally controlled land collectivization schemes, which were not under the Mwami's central control, called "ubokonde bw' isuka" in pre-colonial times. It is therefore the northwest of Rwanda that objects most strongly to the central control of land policy reminiscent of igikingi, taking control away from local owners. Some farmers who resisted the policy when it was begun in the 1990s were punished by fines or jail sentences; the policy remains the source of many disputes.
The law also affirms the policy of obligatory grouped residence under which persons living in dispersed homesteads must move to government-established "villages" called imidugudu. Instead of each family living on his own land, communal villages would be re-established, freeing up, presumably, more arable land. When implemented on a large-scale in the late 1990s, authorities in some cases used force, fines, and prison terms to make Rwandans relocate.
At least two imidugudu were created in northwestern Rwanda in 2005, leading to land loss for local farmers. Although the law claimed to accept the validity of customary rights to land, it rejected the customary use of marshlands by the poor and abolished important rights of prosperous landlords (abakonde) in the northwest.
However, the policy also ensured the ability of the government to exercise eminent domain for environmental reasons, which it did in 2007 by evicting encroaching settlers from the shores of Lake Kivu in an effort to protect the fragile environment there.
The government has also looked at ways to extract methane from Lake Kivu to help with the country's energy needs. The Capital Market Advisory Council of Rwanda was established in 2008. The monetary and financial markets are dominated by nine banks and six insurance companies in which the state continues to be a major shareholder. Over 200 micro-credit institutions (also known as micro-finance institutions), often financed by international donors, sprung up in Rwanda (especially since 2004), but many were unregistered, unregulated, and often mismanaged. Several were shut down by the Rwandan government in 2006. In September 2006, the World Bank approved a US$10 million grant to Rwanda to develop information and communication technology.
Rwanda is part of the East African Community and a potential member of the planned East African Federation.
Most Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda, one of the country's three official languages, and in market towns many people speak Swahili. Educated Rwandans speak French and about 5% (as of 2008) speak English. In 2008 the Rwandan government announced that English will become the co-official language of the nation, alongside Kinyarwanda and replacing French. They switched the language of education from French to English, and required government officials to learn it. This is partly an attempt to enable Rwanda to become a part of the global economic community—English and Swahili will be the principal languages of the East African Community,—but is also a result of a long-running feud between President Kagame and France over the apportioning of blame for the 1994 genocide. Rwanda has applied for membership to the English-speaking Commonwealth of Nations.
The ethnic breakdown of this nation of 8.2 million is roughly 84% Hutu, 15% Tutsi, and 1% Twa, with smaller minorities of South Asians, Arabs, French, British, and Belgians.
Most Rwandans are Christian, with significant changes since the genocide. A 2001 study reported that 49.6 percent of the population were Catholic, 43.9 percent Protestant, 4.6 percent Muslim, 1.7 claimed no religious beliefs, and 0.1 percent practiced traditional indigenous beliefs. This represents a 19.9 percent increase in the number of Protestants, a 7.6 percent drop in the number of Catholics, and a 3.5 percent increase in the number of Muslims from the U.N. Population Fund survey in 1996. The figures for Protestants include the growing number of members of Jehovah's Witnesses and evangelical Protestant groups. There also is a small population of Baha'is and Jews. There has been a proliferation of small, usually Christian-linked schismatic religious groups since the 1994 Genocide.
The Muslim community may have grown in part because Muslims are suggested to have saved the lives of many Tutsis from Hutu attacks. Some estimate the Muslim population of the country to be as high as 14%.
According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Rwanda hosted 54,200 refugees and asylum seekers in 2007. Approximately 51,300 refugees and asylum seekers were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and 2,900 from Burundi.
List of birds of Rwanda
This is a list of the bird species recorded in Rwanda. The avifauna of Rwanda includes a total of 728 species, of which 2 are rare or accidental. 2 species listed are extirpated in Rwanda and are not included in the species count.
This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families, and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of Clements's 5th edition. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflects this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Accidental species are included in the total species counts for Rwanda.
The following tags have been used to highlight certain relevant categories. It must be noted that not all species fall into one of these categories. Those that do not are commonly occurring, native species.
Non-passerines: Grebes . Pelicans . Cormorants . Darters . Bitterns, Herons and Egrets . Hammerkop . Storks . Shoebill . Ibises and Spoonbills . Flamingos . Ducks, Geese and Swans . Osprey . Hawks, Kites and Eagles . Secretary-bird . Caracaras and Falcons . Pheasants and Partridges . Guineafowl . Buttonquails . Cranes . Rails, Crakes, Gallinules, and Coots . Sungrebe and Finfoots . Bustards . Jacanas . Painted snipe . Avocets and Stilts . Thick-knees . Pratincoles and Coursers . Plovers and Lapwings . Sandpipers and allies . Gulls . Terns . Skimmers . Pigeons and Doves . Parrots, Macaws and allies . Turacos . Cuckoos and Anis . Barn owls . Typical owls . Nightjars . Swifts . Mousebirds . Trogons and Quetzals . Kingfishers . Bee-eaters . Typical Rollers . Hoopoes . Woodhoopoes . Hornbills . Barbets . Honeyguides . Woodpeckers and allies .
Passerines: Pittas . Larks . Swallows and Martins . Wagtails and Pipits . Cuckoo-shrikes . Bulbuls . Thrushes and allies . Cisticolas and allies . Old World warblers . Old World flycatchers . Wattle-eyes . Monarch flycatchers . Babblers . Chickadees and Titmice . Penduline tits . Sunbirds and Spiderhunters . White-eyes . Old World Orioles . Shrikes . Bushshrikes and allies . Helmetshrikes . Drongos . Crows, Jays, Ravens and Magpies . Starlings . Weavers and allies . Waxbills and allies . Indigobirds . Weavers and allies . Buntings, Sparrows, Seedeaters and allies . Siskins, Crossbills and allies . Sparrows .
Grebes are small to medium-large sized freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes, and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. There are 20 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
Pelicans are large water birds with a distinctive pouch under the beak. As with other members of the order Pelecaniformes, they have webbed feet with four toes. There are 8 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Phalacrocoracidae is a family of medium-to-large coastal, fish-eating sea-birds that includes cormorants and shags. Plumage colouration varies with the majority having mainly dark plumage, some species being black and white, and a few being colourful. There are 38 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
Darters are frequently referred to as "snake-birds" because of their long thin neck, which gives a snake-like appearance when they swim with their bodies submerged. The males have black and dark brown plumage, an erectile crest on the nape and a larger bill than the female. The females have a much paler plumage especially on the neck and underparts. The darters have completely webbed feet, and their legs are short and set far back on the body. Their plumage is somewhat permeable, like that of cormorants, and they spread their wings to dry after diving. There are 4 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
The family Ardeidae contains the bitterns, herons and egrets. Herons and egrets are medium to large sized wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more wary. Unlike other long-necked birds suck as storks, ibises and spoonbills, members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted. There are 61 species worldwide and 17 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Hammerkop is a medium-sized bird with a long shaggy crest. The shape of its head with a curved bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, hence its name. Its plumage is a drab brown all over.
Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked, wading birds with long, stout bills. Storks are mute; bill-clattering is an important mode of stork communication at the nest. Their nests can be large and may be reused for many years. Many species are migratory. There are 19 species worldwide and 8 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Shoebill is a large bird related to the storks. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill.
The Threskiornithidae is a family of large terrestrial and wading birds which includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings with 11 primary and about 20 secondary feathers. They are strong fliers and despite their size and weight, very capable soarers. There are 36 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Rwanda.
Flamingos are gregarious wading birds, usually 3 to 5 feet high, found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. They are more numerous in the latter. Flamingos filter-feed on shellfish and algae. Their oddly-shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume, and are uniquely used upside-down. There are 6 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
The family Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These are birds that are modified for an aquatic existence with webbed feet, flattened bills and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating. There are 131 species worldwide and 20 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Pandionidae family contains only one species, the Osprey. The Osprey is a medium large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution.
Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey and include hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons, and keen eyesight. There are 233 species worldwide and 51 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Secretary-bird is a bird of prey in the order Falconiformes but is easily distinguished from other raptors by it long crane-like legs.
Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey. They differ from hawks, eagles, and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their feet. There are 62 species worldwide and 13 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Phasianidae are a family of terrestrial birds which consists of quails, partridges, snowcocks, francolins, spurfowls, tragopans, monals, pheasants, peafowls and jungle fowls. In general, they are plump (although they may vary in size) and have broad, relatively short wings. There are 156 species worldwide and 11 species which occur in Rwanda.
Guineafowl are a group of African, seed-eating, ground-nesting birds that resemble partridges, but with featherless heads and spangled grey plumage. There are 6 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
The buttonquails are small, drab, running birds which resemble the true quails.The female is the brighter of the sexes, and initiates courtship. The male incubates the eggs and tends the young. There are 16 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". There are 15 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots, and gallinules. Typically they inhabit dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps, or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs, and have long toes which are well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and be weak fliers. There are 143 species worldwide and 19 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Heliornithidae are small family of tropical birds with webbed lobes on their feet similar to those of grebes and coots. There are 3 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
Bustards are large terrestrial birds mainly associated with dry open country and steppes in the Old World. They are omnivorous and nest on the ground. They walk steadily on strong legs and big toes, pecking for food as they go. They have long broad wings with "fingered" wingtips, and striking patterns in flight. Many have interesting mating displays. There are 26 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
The jacanas are a group of tropical waders in the family Jacanidae. They are found worldwide in the Tropics. They are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat. There 8 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
Painted snipe are short-legged, long-billed birds similar in shape to the true snipes, but more brightly coloured. There are 2 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and the stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. There are 9 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
The thick-knees are a group of largely tropical waders in the family Burhinidae. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone, with some species also breeding in temperate Europe and Australia. They are medium to large waders with strong black or yellow black bills, large yellow eyes and cryptic plumage. Despite being classed as waders, most species have a preference for arid or semi-arid habitats. There are 9 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
Glareolidae is a family of wading birds comprising the pratincoles, which have short legs, long pointed wings and long forked tails, and the coursers, which have long legs, short wings and long pointed bills which curve downwards. There are 17 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Rwanda.
The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels, and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water, although there are some exceptions. There are 66 species worldwide and 17 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Scolopacidae are a large diverse family of small to medium sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Variation in length of legs and bills enable different species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. There are 89 species worldwide and 21 species which occur in Rwanda.
Laridae is a family of medium to large birds seabirds and includes gulls and kittiwakes. They are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet. There are 55 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Rwanda.
Terns are a group of generally general medium to large sea-birds typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. Most terns hunt fish by diving but some pick insects off the surface of fresh water. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species now known to live in excess of 25 to 30 years. There are 44 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Rwanda.
Skimmers are a small family of tropical tern-like birds. They have an elongated lower mandible which they use to feed by flying low over the water surface and skimming the water for small fish. There are 3 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. There are 308 species worldwide and 16 species which occur in Rwanda.
Parrots are small to large birds with a characteristic curved beak shape. Their upper mandibles have slight mobility in the joint with the skull and the have a generally erect stance. All parrots are zygodactyl, having the four toes on each foot placed two at the front and two back. There are 335 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Rwanda.
The turacos, plantain eaters and go-away birds make up the bird family Musophagidae. They are meduim-sized arboreal birds. The turacos and plantain eaters are brightly coloured birds, usually blue, green or purple. The go-away birds are mostly grey and white. There are 23 species worldwide and 7 species which occur in Rwanda.
The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. Unlike the cuckoo species of the Old World, North American cuckoos are not brood parasites. There are 138 species worldwide and 20 species which occur in Rwanda.
Barn owls are medium to large sized owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. There are 16 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
Typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak, and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk. There are 195 species worldwide and 13 species which occur in Rwanda.
Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds with long wings, short legs and very short bills that usually nest on the ground. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is camouflaged to resemble bark or leaves. There are 86 species worldwide and 11 species which occur in Rwanda.
Swifts are small aerial birds, spending the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings that resemble a crescent or a boomerang. There are 98 species worldwide and 9 species which occur in Rwanda.
The mousebirds are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers and very long thin tails. They are arboreal and scurry through the leaves like rodents in search of berries, fruit and buds. They are acrobatic, and can feed upside down. All species have strong claws and reversible outer toes. They also have crests and stubby bills. There are 6 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
The family Trogonidae includes trogons and quetzals. Found in tropical woodlands worldwide, they feed on insects and fruit, and their broad bills and weak legs reflect their diet and arboreal habits. Although their flight is fast, they are reluctant to fly any distance. Trogons have soft, often colourful, feathers with distinctive male and female plumage. There are 33 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long pointed bills, short legs, and stubby tails. There are 93 species worldwide and 9 species which occur in Rwanda.
The bee-eaters are a group of near passerine birds in the family Meropidae. Most species are found in Africa but others occur in southern Europe, Madagascar, Australia and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies and usually elongated central tail feathers. All are colorful and have long downturned bills and pointed wings, which give them a swallow-like appearance when seen from afar. There are 26 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in Rwanda.
Rollers resemble crows in size and build, but are more closely related to the kingfishers and bee-eaters. They share the colourful appearance of those groups with blues and browns predominating. The two inner front toes are connected, but the outer toe is not. There are 12 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Rwanda.
Hoopoes have black, white and orangey-pink colouring with a large erectile crest on their head. There are 2 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
The woodhoopoes are related to the kingfishers, rollers and hoopoe. They most resemble the last species with their long curved bills, used for probing for insects, and short rounded wings. However, they differ in that they have metallic plumage, often blue, green or purple, and lack an erectile crest. There are 8 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Rwanda.
Hornbills are a group of birds whose bill is shaped like a cow's horn, but without a twist, sometimes with a casque on the upper mandible. Frequently, the bill is brightly coloured. There are 57 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Rwanda.
The barbets are plump birds, with short necks and large heads. They get their name from the bristles which fringe their heavy bills. Most species are brightly coloured. There are 84 species worldwide and 13 species which occur in Rwanda.
Honeyguides are among the few birds that feed on wax. They are named for the behaviour of the Greater Honeyguide which leads large animals to bees' nests and then feeds on the wax once the animal has broken the nest open to get at the honey. There are 17 species worldwide and 9 species which occur in Rwanda.
Woodpeckers are small to medium sized birds with chisel like beaks, short legs, stiff tails and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward, and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks. There are 218 species worldwide and 12 species which occur in Rwanda.
Pittas are medium-sized by passerine standards, and stocky, with fairly long, strong legs, short tails and stout bills. Many, but not all, are brightly coloured. They are spend the majority of their time on wet forest floors, eating snails, insects and similar invertebrate prey which they find there. There are 32 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds. There are 91 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Hirundinidae family is a group of passerines characterized by their adaptation to aerial feeding. Their adaptations include a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and short bills with wide gape. The feet are designed for perching rather than walking, and the front toes are partially joined at the base. There are 75 species worldwide and 16 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Motacillidae are a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country. There are 54 species worldwide and 14 species which occur in Rwanda.
The cuckoo-shrikes are small to medium-sized passerine birds. They are predominantly greyish with white and black, although some species are brightly coloured. There are 82 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Rwanda.
Bulbuls are medium-sized songbirds. Some are colourful with yellow, red or orange vents, cheeks, throat or supercilia, but most are drab, with uniform olive brown to black plumage. Some species have distinct crests.There are 130 species worldwide and 12 species which occur in Rwanda.
The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs. There are 335 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Cisticolidae are warblers found mainly in warmer southern regions of the Old World. They are generally very small birds of drab brown or grey appearance found in open country such as grassland or scrub. There are 111 species worldwide and 32 species which occur in Rwanda.
The family Sylviidae is a group of small insectivorous passerine birds. The Sylviidae mainly occur as breeding species, as the common name implies, in Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent Africa. Most are of generally undistinguished appearance, but many have distinctive songs. There are 291 species worldwide and 38 species which occur in Rwanda.
Old World flycatchers are a large group of small passerine birds native to the Old World. They are mainly small arboreal insectivores. The appearance of these birds is very varied, but they mostly have weak songs and harsh calls. There 274 species worldwide and 34 species which occur in Rwanda.
The wattle-eyes or puffback flycatchers are small stout passerine birds of the African tropics. They get their name from the brightly coloured fleshy eye decorations found in most species in this group. There are 31 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Rwanda.
The monarch flycatchers are small to medium-sized insectivorous passerines, which hunt by flycatching. There are 99 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Rwanda.
The babblers or timaliids are somewhat diverse in size and coloration, but are characterised by soft fluffy plumage. There are 270 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in Rwanda.
The Paridae are mainly small stocky woodland species with short stout bills. Some have crests. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects. There are species 59 worldwide and 3 species which occur in Rwanda.
The penduline tits are a group of small passerine birds, related to the true tits. They are insectivores. There are 13 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
The sunbirds and spiderhunters are very small passerine birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. Flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perch to feed. There are 131 species worldwide and 26 species which occur in Rwanda.
The white-eyes are small and are mostly of undistinguished appearance, the plumage above being generally either some dull color like greenish olive, but some species have a white or bright yellow throat, breast or lower parts, and several have buff flanks. As their name suggests many species have a white ring around the eyes. There are 96 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
The Old World Orioles are colourful passerine birds. They are not related to the New World orioles. There are 29 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Rwanda.
Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey. There are 31 species worldwide and 7 species which occur in Rwanda.
Bushshrikes are similar in habits to shrikes, hunting insects and other small prey from a perch on a bush. Although similar in build to the shrikes, these tend to be either colourful species or largely black; some species are quite secretive. There are 46 species worldwide and 21 species which occur in Rwanda.
The helmetshrikes are similar in build to the shrikes, but tend to be colourful species with distinctive crests or other head ornaments, such as wattles, from which they get their name. There are 12 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Rwanda.
The drongos are mostly are black or dark grey in colour, sometimes with metallic tints. They have long forked tails, and some Asian species have elaborate tail decorations. They have short legs and sit very upright whilst perched, like a shrike. They flycatch or take prey from the ground. There are 24 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
The Corvidae family includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers, and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size for the bird order Passeriformes. Some of the larger species show high levels of learning behavior. There are 120 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Rwanda.
Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. Their flight is strong and direct, and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruit. Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen. There are 125 species worldwide and 13 species which occur in Rwanda.
The weavers are small passerine birds related to the finches. They are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills. The males of many species are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black, some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season. There are 116 species worldwide and 28 species which occur in Rwanda.
The estrildid finches are small passerine birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. They are gregarious and often colonial seed-eaters with short thick but pointed bills. They are all similar in structure and habits, but have a wide variation in plumage colours and pattern. There are 141 species worldwide and 31 species which occur in Rwanda.
The indigobirds are finch-like species which usually have black or indigo predominating in their plumage. All are brood parasites, which lay their eggs in the nests of estrildid finch species. There are 20 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Rwanda.
The weavers are small passerine birds related to the finches. They are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills. The males of many species are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black, some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season. There are 116 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
The emberizids are a large family of passerine birds. They are seed-eating birds with a distinctively shaped bill. In Europe, most species are named as buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as Sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows which are in the family Passeridae. Many emberizid species have distinctive head patterns. There are species 275 worldwide and 3 species which occur in Rwanda.
Finches are seed-eating passerine birds, that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have 12 tail feathers and 9 primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well. There are 137 species worldwide and 9 species which occur in Rwanda.
Sparrows are small passerine birds. In general, sparrows tend to be small, plump, brown or grey birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed-eaters, and they also consume small insects. There are 35 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Rwanda.
Islam in Rwanda
Islam was first introduced into Rwanda by Muslim traders from the East Coast of Africa in the 18th century. Since its introduction, Muslims have been a minority in the territory, while the Roman Catholic Church, introduced to Rwandans during the Belgian Invasion, occupation and colonisation by French missionaries in the late 19th century has considerably more adherents.
For the first time in its history in Rwanda, Islam is accorded the same rights and freedoms as Christianity. Estimates show that there are equal numbers of Muslims amongst the Hutus as there are amongst the Tutsis. The estimates can't be verified since in the wake of the genocide, the government has banned all discussion of ethnicity in Rwanda.
Compared to east African countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda, the history of Islam in Rwanda is relatively modern. While a few written sources are available regarding its origins, it is claimed that Islam came through Arab merchants who first entered the country in 1901. Others say that Islam came when Europeans brought in Muslim clerks, administrative assistants, and merchants, from the Swahili-speaking coast of Tanzania. Islam was also bolstered by Muslim merchants from India, who married local Rwandans. Rwandans built their first mosque in 1913. This mosque is known as the al-Fatah mosque.
During its history, many efforts were made to impede the spread of Islam in Rwanda. These efforts generally exploited anti-Arab sentiment, and presented Muslims as foreigners. Catholic missionaries often went to great lengths to counter what they perceived influence of rival religions, such as Islam and Protestantism.
Muslims were further marginalized by the fact that most Muslims settled in urban areas, whereas 90 percent of the population was rural. As neither Arab nor Indian merchants ever attempted to further their faith, there was little spirit of preaching amongst Muslims. Only a few conversions took place, mostly amongst the marginalized urban population: women who had married foreigners, illegitimate children and orphans. Even these conversion were sometimes superficial, motivated by desire for social and economic security that Muslims provided, than for religious conviction in the Islamic faith.
Under the Belgian administration, Muslims in Rwanda were to some extent marginalized. Since Muslims had no place in the Catholic church, which maintained great influence over the state, Muslims were often excluded from education and important jobs in the government. As a result Muslim employment was largely confined to engaging in petty trade, and taking up jobs as drivers.
In 1960, the former government minister Sebazungu ordered the burning of the Muslim quarter and the mosque in Rwamagana. Following this event, Muslims were terrified and many of them fled to neighbouring countries. It is alleged that the Catholic Church was involved in these events, which aggravated the bitterness between Muslims and Christians.
Before the 1994 Genocide, Muslims were held in low regard, because they were seen as traders, in a land where farmers are highly regarded. The Muslim population before the genocide was 4% which was unusually low compared to that of neighbouring countries.
During the Rwandan genocide, Islam as a faith was not the main target of the genocide. Muslims were able to shield most Muslims from the massacres, as well as many non-Muslim Tutsis. According to Marc Lacey of The New York Times, the safest place during the genocide was a Muslim neighborhood. In Kigali, many of Rwanda's Muslims crowded together in the Biryogo neighborhood. When Hutu militias surrounded the place, Hutu Muslims did not cooperate with the Hutu killers. The Hutu Muslims say that they felt far more connected through religion than through ethnicity, and Muslim Tutsi were spared. While Hutu Muslims saved most Muslim Tutsis, they also saved the lives of thousands of Christian Tutsis as well. Imams spoke out publicly against the killings, urging their congregations to not partake in the massacres. Nevertheless, there are allegations against one Muslim, Hassan Ngeze, that he incited Hutus to violence against Tutsis.
There were only a few incidents in which Tutsis in mosques were attacked. The most widely known example occurred at Nyamirambo Main Mosque, where hundreds of Tutsi had gathered to take refuge. The refugees in the mosque fought off Hutu militias with stones, bows and arrows, putting up stiff resistance against the soldiers and militiamen of the Interahamwe. Only once the soldiers attacked with machine gun fire were the Interahamwe able to enter the mosque and kill the refugees.
The number of Rwandan Muslims increased after the 1994 Genocide due to conversion to Islam in large numbers. One possible reason is that many Muslims had sheltered refugees, both Hutu and Tutsi. Some explain that they converted to Islam because of the role that some Catholic and Protestant leaders played in the genocide. Human rights groups have documented several incidents in which Christian clerics permitted Tutsis to seek refuge in churches, then surrendered them to Hutu death squads. Instances of Hutu priests and ministers encouraging their congregations to kill Tutsis have also been documented.
Personal accounts of some Tutsi converted have converted for safety, as they feared continuing reprisal killings by Hutu extremists, and knowing that Muslims would protect them from such acts. Many Hutu converted as well, in search for "purification." Many Hutus want to leave their violent past behind them and to not have "blood on their hands." There are also a few, isolated instances, where Hutus have converted in the hope that they could hide within the Muslim community and thereby escape arrest.
The rate of conversions slowed down in 1997. According to the mufti of Rwanda, the Islamic community has not seen any increases in conversions in 2002-3. Christianity remains as the country's leading religion. Catholicism (it arrived in the late 19th century with the White Fathers order of the Roman Catholic Church) is still deeply embedded in the culture. According to Rwandan Muslim leaders, Muslims make up 14 percent of the 8.2 million people in Rwanda, Africa's most Catholic nation, twice as many as before the killings began.
Muslims in Rwanda are also actively involved in jihad activities, such as their jihad to "start respecting each other". Many Rwandan Muslims are engaged in efforts to heal ethnic tensions after the genocide, are Islamic groups are reaching out to the disadvantaged, for example by forming women's groups that provide education on child care. Western governments have worried over the growing influence of Islam, and some government officials have express concern that some of the mosques receive funding from Saudi Arabia. However, there is little evidence of militancy. Pakistani militants who have attempted to take over one mosque were kicked out.
The Muslim religious holiday Eid al-Fitr is observed by the government as one of the four religious official holiday (alongside Christmas, All Saints' Day, and Assumption). Muslims also operate private Islamic schools. In 2003, the US Embassy oversaw the renovations of an Islamic secondary school in Kigali. Embassy leaders also met with Muslim leaders, alongside members of Catholic and Anglican Churches, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, to hold interfaith talks.
Rwanda used to have a religious political party, the Democratic Islamic Party (PDI), with non-Muslim members. However, it changed its name to Ideal Democratic Party, after the constitution mandated no party may be formed on the basis of religion.
There is a considerable range in the estimates of the Muslim population of Rwanda. No accurate census of the Muslim population has been done.
A more recent report from the Rwandan government reported on November 1, 2006, that 56.5% of the Rwanda's population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh-day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim, 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs.