In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighbouring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees – many fearing Tutsi retribution – fled to neighbouring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zaire.


Location: Central Africa, east of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Geographic coordinates: 2 00 S, 30 00 E
Population: 11,689,696 (July 2012 est.)

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

Age structure: 0-14 years:  42.9% (male 2,454,924/female 2,418,504)

15-64 years: 54.7% (male 3,097,956/female 3,123,910)

65 years and over: 2.4% (male 110,218/female 164,913) (2011 est.)

Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Rwanda

conventional short form: Rwanda

local long form: Republika y’u Rwanda

local short form: Rwanda

former: Ruanda, German East Africa

Government type: republic; presidential, multiparty system
Telephones – main lines in use: 39,700 (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 3.549 million (2009)
Airports: 7 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 4

over 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 2

under 914 m: 1 (2012)

Military branches: Rwandan Defence Force (RDF): Rwandan Army (Rwandan Land Force), Rwandan Air Force (2012)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; Rwandan citizenship required (2011)


Rwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture. It is the most densely populated country in Africa and is landlocked with few natural resources and minimal industry. Primary foreign exchange earners are coffee and tea. The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda’s fragile economic base, severely impoverished the population, particularly women, and eroded the country’s ability to attract private and external investment. However, Rwanda has made substantial progress in stabilizing and rehabilitating its economy to pre-1994 levels, although poverty levels are higher now.

Transnational Issues:

Fighting among ethnic groups – loosely associated political rebels, armed gangs, and various government forces in Great Lakes region transcending the boundaries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda – abated substantially from a decade ago due largely to UN peacekeeping, international mediation, and efforts by local governments to create civil societies; nonetheless, 57,000 Rwandan refugees still reside in 21 African states, including Zambia, Gabon, and 20,000 who fled to Burundi in 2005 and 2006 to escape drought and recriminations from traditional courts investigating the 1994 massacres; the 2005 DROC and Rwanda border verification mechanism to stem rebel actions on both sides of the border remains in place.