Profile / Geography / People / History / Government /
Economy / U.S.-Rwanda Relations / Additional Information



Area: 26,338 sq. km. (10,169 sq. km.); about the size of Maryland.

Cities: Capital--Kigali (est. pop. 236,000). Other cities--Gitarama, Butare,Ruhengeri, Gisenyi.

Terrain: Uplands and hills.

Climate: Mild and temperate, with two rainy seasons.


Nationality: Noun and adjective--Rwandan(s).

Population (1997 est.): 7.6 million.

Annual growth rate: Over 3%.

Ethnic groups: Hutu 85%, Tutsi 14%, Twa 1%.

Religions: Christian 80%, traditional African 10%, Muslim 10%.

Languages:: French, English, Kinyarwanda.

Education: Years compulsory--6. Attendance--70% (prewar). Literacy--50%.

Health: Infant mortality rate--123/1,000. Life expectancy--49 yrs.

Work force: Agriculture--92%. Industry and commerce, services and government--8%.


Type: Republic.

Independence: July 1, 1962.

Constitution: June 10, 1991.

Branches: Executive--president (chief of state), prime minister (head ofgovernment). Broad-based government of national unity formed after the 1994 civil war fortransition to multi-party parliamentary democracy. Legislative--National Assembly.Judicial--Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Council of State, Court of Appeals.

Administrative subdivisions: 12 prefectures, 154 communes.

Political parties: Five parties comprise the government: the Rwandan Popular Front(RPF), the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), theLiberal Party (PL), and the Christian Democratic Party (PDC).

Suffrage: Suspended.

Central government budget (1997 est.--billions of Rwandan francs): Revenues--50billion. Expenditures--62 billion, excluding an estimated 80 billion in capitalexpenditures financed by donors.


GDP (1996 est.): 425 billion Rwandan francs.

Real GDP growth rate (1996 est. ): 13%.

Per capita income (1997 est.): $234.

Average inflation rate (1996 est. ): 9%.

Natural resources: Cassiterite, wolfram, methane.

Agriculture (1996 est.): 35% of GDP. Products--coffee, tea, cattle, hides and skin,pyrethrum. Arable land--48%, 90% of which is cultivated.

Industry (1996 est.): 17% of GDP. Type--beer production, soft drink, soap,furniture, shoes, plastic goods, textiles, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals.

Trade (1996 est.): Exports--$68 million: coffee, tea, hides and skins, cassiterite,pyrethrum. Major markets--Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Pakistan. Imports--$275 million:food, consumer goods, capital equipment, petroleum products. Major suppliers--Belgium,U.S., Tanzania, Kenya, France.

Official exchange rate: Approx. 300 Rwandan francs=U.S.$1 (fluctuates daily).


Rwanda's countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over rollinghills, with areas of rugged mountains that extend southeast from a chain of volcanoes inthe northwest. The divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems extends from northto south through western Rwanda at an average elevation of almost 9,000 feet. On thewestern slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu and the RuziziRiver valley, which form the western boundary with the People's Democratic Republic ofCongo (formerly Zaire) and constitute part of the Great Rift valley. The eastern slopesare more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at graduallyreducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region.

Although located only two degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda's high elevation makesthe climate temperate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, at an altitude of4,800 feet (1,463 meters) is 73o F (23o C). During the two rainy seasons (February-May andSeptember-December), heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather.Annual rainfall averages 80 centimeters (31 in.) but is generally heavier in the westernand north western mountains than in the eastern savannas.


Rwanda's population density, even after the 1994 genocide, is among the highest inSub-Saharan Africa (230 per sq. km.--590 per sq. mi.). Nearly every family in this countrywith few villages lives in a self-contained compound on a hillside. The urbanconcentrations are grouped around administrative centers. The indigenous populationconsists of three ethnic groups. The Hutus, who comprise the majority of the population(85%), are farmers of Bantu origin. The Tutsis (14%) are a pastoral people who arrived inthe area in the 15th century. Until 1959, they formed the dominant caste under a feudalsystem based on cattleholding. The Twa (1%) are thought to be the remnants of the earliestsettlers of the region. About half of the adult population is literate, but not more than5% have received secondary education. During 1994-95, most primary schools and more thanhalf of prewar secondary schools reopened. The national university in Butare reopened inApril 1995; enrollment is over 4,000. Rebuilding the educational system continues to be ahigh priority of the Rwandan Government.


According to folklore, Tutsi cattle breeders began arriving in the area from the Hornof Africa in the 15th century and gradually subjugated the Hutu inhabitants. The Tutsisestablished a monarchy headed by a mwami (king) and a feudal hierarchy of Tutsi nobles andgentry. Through a contract known as ubuhake, the Hutu farmers pledged their services andthose of their descendants to a Tutsi lord in return for the loan of cattle and use ofpastures and arable land. Thus, the Tutsi reduced the Hutu to virtual serfdom. However,boundaries of race and class became less distinct over the years as some Tutsi declineduntil they enjoyed few advantages over the Hutu. The first European known to have visitedRwanda was German Count Von Goetzen in 1894. He was followed by missionaries, notably the"White Fathers." In 1899, the mwami submitted to a German protectorate withoutresistance. Belgian troops from Zaire chased the small number of Germans out of Rwanda in1915 and took control of the country.

After World War I, the League of Nations mandated Rwanda and its southern neighbor,Burundi, to Belgium as the territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Following World War II,Ruanda-Urundi became a UN trust territory with Belgium as the administrative authority.Reforms instituted by the Belgians in the 1950s encouraged the growth of democraticpolitical institutions but were resisted by the Tutsi traditionalists who saw in them athreat to Tutsi rule. An increasingly restive Hutu population, encouraged by the Belgianmilitary, sparked a revolt in November 1959, resulting in the overthrow of the Tutsimonarchy. Two years later, the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) won anoverwhelming victory in a UN-supervised referendum.

During the 1959 revolt and its aftermath, more than 160,000 Tutsis fled to neighboringcountries. The PARMEHUTU government, formed as a result of the September 1961 election,was granted internal autonomy by Belgium on January 1, 1962. A June 1962 UN GeneralAssembly resolution terminated the Belgian trusteeship and granted full independence toRwanda (and Burundi) effective July 1, 1962.

Gregoire Kayibanda, leader of the PARMEHUTU Party, became Rwanda's first electedpresident, leading a government chosen from the membership of the directly electedunicameral National Assembly. Peaceful negotiation of international problems, social andeconomic elevation of the masses, and integrated development of Rwanda were the ideals ofthe Kayibanda regime. Relations with 43 countries, including the United States, wereestablished in the first 10 years. Despite the progress made, inefficiency and corruptionbegan festering in government ministries in the mid-1960s. On July 5, 1973, the militarytook power under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Juvenal Habyarimana, who dissolved theNational Assembly and the PARMEHUTU Party and abolished all political activity.

In 1975, President Habyarimana formed the National Revolutionary Movement forDevelopment (MRND) whose goals were to promote peace, unity, and national development. Themovement was organized from the "hillside" to the national level and includedelected and appointed officials.

Under MRND aegis, Rwandans went to the polls in December 1978, overwhelmingly endorseda new constitution, and confirmed President Habyarimana as president. PresidentHabyarimana was re-elected in 1983 and again in 1988, when he was the sole candidate.Responding to public pressure for political reform, President Habyarimana announced inJuly 1990 his intention to transform Rwanda's one-party state into a multi-partydemocracy.

On October 1, 1990, Rwandan exiles banded together as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)and invaded Rwanda from their base in Uganda. The rebel force, composed primarily ofethnic Tutsis, blamed the government for failing to democratize and resolve the problemsof some 500,000 Tutsi refugees living in diaspora around the world. The war dragged on foralmost two years until a cease-fire accord was signed July 12, 1992, in Arusha, Tanzania,fixing a timetable for an end to the fighting and political talks, leading to a peaceaccord and power-sharing, and authorizing a neutral military observer group under theauspices of the Organization for African Unity. A cease-fire took effect July 31, 1992,and political talks began August 10, 1992.

On April 6, 1994, the airplane carrying President Habyarimana and the President ofBurundi was shot down as it prepared to land at Kigali. Both presidents were killed. Asthough the shooting down was a signal, military and militia groups began rounding up andkilling all Tutsis and political moderates, regardless of their ethnic background.

The prime minister and her 10 Belgian bodyguards were among the first victims. Thekilling swiftly spread from Kigali to all corners of the country; between April 6 and thebeginning of July, a genocide of unprecedented swiftness left up to1 million Tutsis andmoderate Hutus dead at the hands of organized bands of militia--Interahamwe. Even ordinarycitizens were called on to kill their neighbors by local officials andgovernment-sponsored radio. The president's MRND Party was implicated in organizing manyaspects of the genocide.

The RPF battalion stationed in Kigali under the Arusha accords came under attackimmediately after the shooting down of the president's plane. The battalion fought its wayout of Kigali and joined up with RPF units in the north. The RPF then resumed itsinvasion, and civil war raged concurrently with the genocide for two months. French forceslanded in Goma, Zaire, in June 1994 on a humanitarian mission. They deployed throughoutsouthwest Rwanda in an area they called "Zone Turquoise," quelling the genocideand stopping the fighting there. The Rwandan army was quickly defeated by the RPF and fledacross the border to Zaire followed by some 2 million refugees who fled to Zaire,Tanzania, and Burundi. The RPF took Kigali on July 4, 1994, and the war ended on July 16,1994. The RPF took control of a country ravaged by war and genocide. Up to 800,000 hadbeen murdered, another 2 million or so had fled, and another million or so were displacedinternally.

The international community responded with one of the largest humanitarian reliefefforts ever mounted. The U.S. was one of the largest contributors. The UN peacekeepingoperation, UNAMIR, was drawn down during the fighting but brought back up to strengthafter the RPF victory. UNAMIR remained in Rwanda until March 8, 1996.

Following an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge people in Eastern Zaire inOctober 1996, a huge movement of refugees began which brought over 600,000 back to Rwandain the last two weeks of November. This massive repatriation was followed at the end ofDecember 1996 by the return of another 500,000 from Tanzania, again in a huge, spontaneouswave. Less than 100,000 Rwandans are estimated to remain outside of Rwanda in late 1997,and they are thought to be the remnants of the defeated army of the the former genocidalgovernment and its allies in the civilian militias known as Interahamwe.

With the return of the refugees, a new chapter in Rwandan history began. The governmentbegan the long-awaited genocide trials, which got off to an uncertain start in the closingdays of 1996 and inched forward in 1997. The success or failure of the Rwandan socialcompact will be decided over the next few years, as Hutu and Tutsi try to find ways tolive together again.


After its military victory in July 1994, the RPF organized a coalition governmentsimilar to that established by President Habyarimana in 1992. Called The Broad BasedGovernment of National Unity, its fundamental law is based on a combination of theconstitution, the Arusha accords, and political declarations by the parties. The MRNDParty was outlawed. Political organizing is banned until 1999.

The biggest problems facing the government are reintegration of more than 2 millionrefugees returning from as long ago as 1959; the end of the insurgency andcounter-insurgency among ex-military and Interahamwe militia and the Rwandan PatrioticArmy, which is concentrated in the northwest; and the shift away from crisis to medium-and long-term development planning. The prison population will continue to be an urgentproblem for the foreseeable future, having swelled to over 100,000 in the three yearsafter the war. Trying this many suspects of genocide will tax Rwanda's resources sorely.

Principal Government Officials

President--Pasteur Bizimunga

Vice President and Minister of Defense--Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame

Prime Minister--Celestin Rwigema

Minister of Foreign Affairs--Anastase Gasana

Ambassador to the United States--Theogene Rudasingwa

Ambassador to the United Nations--Gedeon Kayinamura

Rwanda maintains an embassy in the United States at 1714 New Hampshire Avenue NW.,Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-232-2882).


The Rwandan economy is based on the largely rain-fed agricultural production of small,semi-subsistence, and increasingly fragmented farms. It has few natural resources toexploit and a small, uncompetitive industrial sector. While the production of coffee andtea is well-suited to the small farms, steep slopes, and cool climates of Rwanda and hasensured access to foreign exchange over the years, farm size continues to decrease.

Prewar population was growing at the high rate of 3% a year. By 1994, farm size, onaverage, was smaller than one hectare, while population density was more than 450 personsper square kilometer of arable land.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Rwanda's prudent financial policies, coupled with generousexternal aid and relatively favorable terms of trade, resulted in sustained growth in percapita income and low inflation rates. However, when world coffee prices fell sharply inthe 1980s, growth became erratic.

Compared to an annual GDP growth rate of 6.5% from 1973 to 1980, growth slowed to anaverage of 2.9% a year from 1980 through 1985 and was stagnant from 1986 to 1990. Thecrisis peaked in 1990 when the first measures of an IMF structural adjustment program werecarried out. While the program was not fully implemented before the war, key measures suchas two large devaluations and the removal of official prices were enacted. Theconsequences on salaries and purchasing power were rapid and dramatic. This crisisparticularly affected the educated elite, most of whom were employed in civil service orstate-owned enterprises.

During the five years of civil war that culminated in the 1994 genocide, GDP declinedin three out of five years, posting a dramatic decline at more than 40% in 1994, the yearof the genocide. The 9% increase in real GDP for 1995, the first post-war year, signaledthe resurgence of economic activity.

The Government of Rwanda posted a 13% GDP growth rate in 1996 through improvedcollection of tax revenues, accelerated privatization of state enterprises to stop theirdrain on government resources, and continued improvement in export crop and foodproduction. It is estimated that in 1997 that food production levels will reach 81% ofprewar levels, and should continue to improve as more returned refugees continue to putland back into cultivation.

Tea plantations and factories continue to be rehabilitated, and coffee, always asmallholder's crop, is being more seriously rehabilitated and tended as the farmers' senseof security returns. However, the road to recovery will be slow. Coffee production ofabout 15,000 tons in 1996 compares to a pre-civil war variation between 35,000 and 40,000tons, while 1996 tea production reached 11,000 tons, compared to prewar production ofabout 13,000 tons. Rwanda's natural resources are limited. A small mineral industryprovides about 5% of foreign exchange earnings. Concentrates of the heavy mineralscassiterite, columbite-tantalite, and wolframite are most important, followed by smallamounts of gold and sapphires. Production of methane from Lake Kivu began in 1983, but todate has been used only by a brewery. Depletion of the forests will eventually pressureRwandans to turn to fuel sources other than charcoal for cooking and heating, given theabundance of mountain streams and lakes, the potential for hydroelectric power issubstantial. Rwanda is exploiting these natural resources through joint hydroelectricprojects with Burundi and the PEOPLE's Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Rwanda's manufacturing sector contributes about 15%-18% of GDP and is dominated by theproduction of import substitutes for internal consumption. The larger enterprises producebeer, soft drinks, cigarettes, hoes, wheelbarrows, soap, cement, mattresses, plastic pipe,roofing materials and textiles. By mid-1997, up to 70% of the factories functioning beforethe war had returned to production, at an average of 75% of their capacity. Investments inthe industrial sector continue to mostly be limited to the repair of existing industrialplants. Retail trade, devastated by the war, has revived quickly, with many new smallbusinesses established by Rwandan returnees from Uganda, Burundi, and the PEOPLE'sDemocratic Republic of the Congo.

Industry received little external assistance from the end of the war through 1995. In1996-97, the government has become increasingly active in helping the industrial sector torestore production through technical and financial assistance, including loan guarantees,economic liberalization, and the privatization of state-owned enterprises. In early 1998,the government will set up a one-stop investment promotion center and implement a newinvestment code that should create an enabling environment for foreign and localinvestors. An autonomous revenue authority should also begin operation, improvingcollections and accountability.

Possibilities for economic expansion, however, are limited by inadequate infrastructureand transport and the small available market in this predominantly subsistence economy.Existing foreign investment is concentrated in commercial establishments, mining, tea,coffee, and tourism. Minimum wage and social security regulations are in force, and thefour prewar independent trade unions are back in operation. The largest union, CESTRAR,was created as an organ of the government but became fully independent with the politicalreforms introduced by the 1991 constitution. As security in Rwanda improves, the country'snascent tourism sector may expand. Centered around the attractions of a population ofmountain gorillas and a game park, tourism has potential as a source of foreign exchangeif the country's tourism infrastructure is improved.

In the immediate postwar period--mid-1994 through 1995--emergency humanitarianassistance of over U.S. $307.4 million was largely directed to relief efforts in Rwandaand in the refugee camps in neighboring countries where Rwandans fled during the war. In1996, humanitarian relief aid began to shift to reconstruction and development assistance.The United States, Belgium, the Federal Republic of Germany, Holland, France, China, theWorld Bank, the UN Development Program and the European Development Fund will continue toaccount for the substantial aid. Rehabilitation of government infrastructure, inparticular the justice system, is an international priority, as is the continued repairand expansion of infrastructure, health facilities, and schools.

Rwanda's government-run radio broadcasts 15 hours a day in English, French andKinyarwanda, the national languages. News programs include regular re-broadcasts frominternational radio such as Voice of America and Radio France International. There is afledgling television station. There are several independent newspapers, mostly inKinyarwanda, that publish on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis. Several Westernnations, including the U.S., are working to encourage freedom of the press, the freeexchange of ideas, and responsible journalism.


In the post-crisis period, U.S. Government interests have shifted from strictlyhumanitarian to include the prevention of renewed regional conflict, the promotion ofinternal stability, and renewed economic development. A major focus of bilateral relationsis the Agency for International Development's (USAID) "transition" program,which aims to promote internal stability and to increase confidence in the society.

To achieve this, USAID is trying to achieve three strategic objectives under anintegrated strategic plan:

--Increased rule of law and transparency in governance;

--Increased use of health and social services and changed behavior related to sexuallytransmitted infections and human immuno-deficiency virus and maternal and child health bybuilding service capacity in target regions; and

--Increased ability of rural families in targeted communities to improve household foodsecurity.

The mission currently is implementing activities in humanitarian assistance andrehabilitation -- women's income-generating initiatives, shelter, family relocation forchildren--administration of justice, increased local government capacity, improved healthservice delivery, AIDS and STI prevention, and enhanced food security.

The U.S. Information Service maintains a cultural center in Kigali, which offers publicaccess to English-language publications and information on the United States. Americanbusiness interests have been small; currently, private U.S. investment is limited to thetea industry. Annual U.S. exports to Rwanda, under $10 million annually from 1990-93, haveexceeded $40 million in 1994 and 1995.

Principal U.S. Officials

Ambassador--Robert Gribbin

Deputy Chief of Mission--Wanda L. Nesbitt

Director USAID program--George Lewis

Public Affairs Officer--Alice Lemaistre

The U.S. embassy is located on Boulevard de la Revolution, P.O. Box 28, Kigali (tel.250-75601/02; fax 250-72128).


For more information, visit the State Department’s home page.







South Africa


President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House | White House for Kids
White House History | White House Tours | Help
Privacy Statement


Site Map

Graphic Version

T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E