RwandaRwanda is a small country in east-central Africa.

Rwanda, or Rwandese Republic, a small country in east-central Africa. Rwanda lies just south of the Equator some 600 miles (970 km) inland from the Indian Ocean. It is irregularly shaped and somewhat elongated, with maximum dimensions of 150 by 120 miles (240 by 190 km). The area is 10,169 square miles (26,338 km 2).

Rwanda occupies part of the East African plateau and in general rises from east to west. Elevations vary from 4,000 to 6,000 feet (1,220 to 1,830 m) above sea level throughout most of the country and reach more than 8,000 feet (2,440 m) in the highlands west of the Nyabarongo River. The highest elevations occur in the Virunga, a range of volcanoes along the northwestern border. Here Mount Karisimbi rises to 14,787 feet (4,507 m). A narrow band along the western border is part of the Great Rift Valley, a series of deep, steep-sided trenches crossing eastern Africa.

Most of Rwanda's rivers flow eastward to the Kagera River, the main headstream of the Nile. Winding and swift, the rivers are little used for navigation and irrigation but provide substantial amounts of hydroelectric power. Lake Kivu is partly within Rwanda's borders, and there are a number of smaller lakes, particularly in the east and southeast.

Although close to the Equator, Rwanda has a relatively moderate climate because of the plateau's elevation. Average temperatures are near 70° F. (21° C.) the year round, except in the highlands, where they are lower. Rainfall comes mainly in the periods from September through December and February through May. Total yearly rainfall averages between 30 and 70 inches (760 to 1,780 mm), depending on location. There are occasional severe droughts.

Facts in brief about Rwanda
Capital: Kigali.
Official languages: English, French, and Kinyarwanda.
Official name: Republic of Rwanda.
Area: 10,169 mi2 (26,338 km2). Greatest distances—east-west, 145 m. (233 km); north-south, 110 mi (177 km).
Population: Current estimate—9,548,000; density, 939 per mi2 (363 per km2); distribution, 81 percent rural, 19 percent urban. 2002 census—8,128,553.
Chief products: Agriculture—bananas, beans, cassava, cattle, coffee, pyrethrum, sorghum, sweet potatoes, tea. Mining—tin, wolframite.
Flag: Rwanda's flag has three horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, and green (top to bottom) with a yellow sun in the upper-right corner.
Money: Basic unit—Rwandan franc.

Rwanda is an extremely poor country with an economy based heavily on agriculture—primarily the subsistence type. Per capita income is very low; the population density is high and increasing rapidly. The Rwandan government hopes to improve conditions through a variety of programs, including the introduction of new crops.

Rwanda's relatively large population requires that all available land be used for growing crops or as pasture. Much of the cropland is on steep slopes and is severely eroded. Most families raise traditional African food crops such as cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes, and beans. Coffee, tea, and pyrethrum (used for insecticides) are among the most valuable cash crops and exports. Cattle are raised throughout Rwanda, but they are prized more as a sign of wealth and prestige than as a source of food and income. Goats are also raised in large numbers.

Mining is of secondary importance in the economy and employs relatively few workers. Tin, all of which is exported, is the most valuable product of Rwanda's mines. Small amounts of gold, tungsten, and natural gas are also produced and exported. Manufacturing industries are few in number and are mainly of the food-processing type. There are also small plants producing such items for local use as textiles, soap, and various household goods, but many necessities still must be made by hand or imported.

Rwanda has no railways, but the road system is fairly extensive; few roads, however, have paved or all-weather surfaces. There are airports at Kigali (the capital) and at several other towns.

The basic currency unit is the Rwanda franc.

People and Government

Rwanda's population density is 702 persons per square mile (271 per km 2), highest among mainland countries of Africa and about 12 times that of the continent as a whole. Nearly all the people live on farms. The only large city is Kigali, the capital.

About 90 per cent of the people are Hutu (Bahutu), a Bantu group. They are mainly farmers. The Tutsi (Watusi) are Rwanda's other major ethnic group. They raise livestock and are noted for their height (Tutsi men are frequently well over six feet [1.8 m] tall). Kinyarwanda, a Bantu tongue, and French are the official languages. About 50 per cent of the people are animists; most of the remainder are Christians. Primary education is provided by both government schools and private mission schools. It begins at age seven and lasts eight years. Secondary education lasts six years. The leading institution of higher learning is the National University of Rwanda in Butare. The literacy rate is about 50 per cent.

Under the constitution of 1991, Rwanda is a republic with a popularly elected president and legislature. In 1994, however, the constitution was suspended after the Hutu-led government was overthrown by Rwanda's main political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), made up mostly of Tutsi. In 2003, voters approved a new constitution, which again made the president the head of state. The president serves a seven-year term. The president appoints a prime minister, who heads a cabinet that helps run the government. Rwanda has a two-house national legislature, which consists of an 80-member Chamber of Deputies and a 26-member Senate. Deputies serve for five years, and senators serve for eight years.