Human occupation of Rwanda is thought to have begun shortly after the last ice age. By the 15th century, the inhabitants had organized into a number of kingdoms. In the 19th century, Mwami (king) Rwabugiri of the Kingdom of Rwanda conducted a decades-long process of military conquest and administrative consolidation that resulted in the kingdom coming to control most of what is now Rwanda. The colonial powers, first Germany and then Belgium, allied with the Rwandan court, allowing it to conquer the remaining autonomous kingdoms along its borders and racializing the system of minority Tutsi dominance created under Rwabugiri.
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.
Rwanda is a landlocked country situated in central Africa. Also known as ’the land of a thousand hills’, Rwanda has five volcanoes, twenty-three lakes and numerous rivers, some forming the source of the River Nile. The country lies 75 miles south of the equator in the Tropic of Capricorn, 880 miles ’as the crow flies’ west of the Indian Ocean and 1,250 miles east of the Atlantic Ocean - literally in the heart of Africa. Rwanda is bordered by Uganda to the north, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south and the democratic republic of Congo to the west.
Anyone visiting ’the land of a thousand hills’ is in for a multitude of surprises. The loveliness and variety of the landscapes in this ’green country’ is dominated to the north by volcanoes and bordered by Lake Kivu to the west. In Rwanda the great animals of the wild are protected from poachers and roam free in the vast national parks. The Volcanoes National park in the Virunga volcanic mountains with its high altitude forests, are world famous for mountain gorillas - timid and passive family oriented giants - which is teeming with wildlife both large and small, while Lake Kivu to the west offers beautiful beaches, jutting pennisulas and an archipelago of islands.
Rwanda Tourist Attractions
- BIRDING IN RWANDA
- LAKE KIVU
- NATIONAL MUSEUM OF BUTARE
- CHIMPANZEE TREKKING
- GORILLA TRACKING