Rwanda Travel Information
Rwanda, the fabled “Land of a Thousand Hills” is a small landlocked country in east-central Africa. Here is some of the most important Rwanda travel information to consider before you travel to this beautiful country.
The country lies 75 miles south of the Equator, 880 miles west of the Indian Ocean and 1,250 east of the Atlantic Ocean – literally in the heart of Africa. The country lies within the Great Lakes region of Central Africa and boasts a moderate climate. Mountains dominate the centre and west of the country, while the East consists of savannah, plains and swamps. Rwanda has 5 volcanoes, 23 lakes and numerous rivers some forming the source of River Nile.
With a land area of 26,338 Km² Rwanda is one of Africa’s smallest countries. Rwanda is bordered by Uganda to the North, Tanzania to the East, Burundi in the south and Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Small as it is, Rwanda has an incredible treasure trove of biodiversity that requires protection. The Albertine Rift Eco-zone (ARE), the region that stretches across six countries with Rwanda as its epicenter, is of particular importance. Scientists regard it as having the highest level of biodiversity on the continent.
The shores of Lake Kivu boast some of the best inland beaches in Africa and offer an opportunity to explore the many small islands on the Lake. Kigali, the Capital and Conference hub of East Africa, forms the central stepping stone to various destinations within the country and Central and East Africa. The city is green, vibrant, and safe and brews superb homegrown tea and Coffee.
The original inhabitants of Rwanda were the Twa, a Pygmy people who now make up only 1% of the population. While the Hutu and Tutsi are often considered to be two separate ethnic groups, scholars point out that they speak the same language, have a history of intermarriage, and share many cultural characteristics. Traditionally, the differences between the two groups were occupational rather than ethnic. Agricultural people were considered Hutu, while the cattle-owning elite were identified as Tutsi. Supposedly Tutsi were tall and thin, while Hutu were short and square, but it is often impossible to tell one from the other. The 1933 requirement by the Belgians that everyone carry an identity card indicating tribal ethnicity as Tutsi or Hutu enhanced the distinction. Since independence, repeated violence in both Rwanda and Burundi has increased ethnic differentiation between the groups.
Rwanda, which became a part of German East Africa in 1890, was first visited by European explorers in 1854. During World War I, it was occupied in 1916 by Belgian troops. After the war, it became a Belgian League of Nations mandate, along with Burundi, under the name of Ruanda-Urundi. The mandate was made a UN trust territory in 1946. Until the Belgian Congo achieved independence in 1960, Rwanda-Urundi was administered as part of that colony. Belgium at first maintained Tutsi dominance but eventually encouraged power sharing between Hutu and Tutsi. Ethnic tensions led to civil war, forcing many Tutsi into exile. When Rwanda became the independent nation of Rwanda on July 1, 1962, it was under Hutu rule.
The Rwanda Genocide
In Oct. 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), Tutsi rebels in exile in Uganda, invaded the Hutu-led Rwandan government, sparking off what was to become one of the worst genocide massacres of the century. As the fighting raged peace talks were engineered in Arusha that culminated in the signing of a peace accord between the rebels and the Government Peace accords were signed in Aug. 1993, calling for a coalition government. But after the downing of a plane in April 1994 that killed the presidents of both Rwanda and Burundi, deep-seated ethnic violence erupted. To-date there is no certainty about who shot down the plane but one school of thought is that it was Hutu extremists who were against the Hutu-Tutsi power-sharing plan endorsed by President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu moderate.
The presidential guard began murdering Tutsi opposition leaders, and soon policemen and soldiers turned against the entire Tutsi population. In 100 days, beginning in April 1994, the Hutu rampaged through the country and slaughtered an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and their moderate Hutu sympathizers. 30,000-member militia groups, the Interahamwe, led much of the murderous spree, and were joined by the ordinary Hutu who were mobilized through radio propaganda. Although the genocidal slaughter seemed a spontaneous eruption of hatred, it has in fact been shown to have been carefully orchestrated by the Hutu government. This became known as ‘Rwanda Genocide’ and it is still what most people think when they hear or read about ‘Rwanda’.
According to the population projections, it is estimated that the total population of Rwanda in 2012 was around 11,033,141. Rwanda’s population density, even after the 1994 genocide, is among the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa at 230/km² (590/sq mi). This country has few villages, and nearly every family lives in a self-contained compound on a hillside. The urban concentrations are grouped around administrative centers. Over half of the adult population is literate, but no more than 5% have received secondary education.
Religion in Rwanda
The most recent statistics on religion in Rwanda were published by the US Government in 2013, yet the source information dates back to the national Census of 2002, which reports that: 56.9% of the Rwanda’s population is Roman Catholic, 26% is Protestant, 11.1% is Seventh–day Adventist, 4.6% is Muslim (mainly Sunni), 1.7% claims no religious affiliation, and 0.1% practices traditional indigenous beliefs. There is also a small population of Baha’is. There has been a proliferation of small, usually Christian-linked schismatic religious groups since the 1994 genocide, as well as substantial conversion to Islam.
Time in Rwanda
There is no time difference between winter and summer months in Rwanda. It is always two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2) – Rwanda is in Central Africa Time Zone (CAT). Kigali is 6 hours ahead of Washington D.C., 1 hour ahead of London – UK and 8 hours behind Sydney, Australia.