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RWANDA

Bordered by lake Kiwu, Rwanda is part of the Great Lakes region in Africa and covers a surface of 26,338 km2. Its name means 'Land of a Thousand Hills' and its geography dominated by mountains in the west and savanna (Agakera)  to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year, thus creating a rich variety of plants and animals. The zigzag patterns on folk art is a nod to the country's hills.
11,776,522 inhabitants live in Rwanda. Its earliest inhabitants were the Twa. They were of Bantu origin and emigrated from West Africa in 1000 BCE following the Congo river. These Pygmy semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers,  created iron tools as well as dimpled pottery . Nowadays there are about 80,000 Twa people who live in Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The agrarian Hutu people were also of Bantu origin and of taller stature.   They arrived  in Rwanda and Burundi between 700 BC and 1500 AD. As the Hutu cleared forest land for agriculture, they forced the Twa towards the volcanic mountains. The Hutu represent about 85%Rwanda's second biggest population (15%), the Tutsis are also of Bantu origin and were  herders. The herders were gradually assimilated culturally, linguistically and racially. In the 1850s, what is now Rwanda and Burundi was united into a kingdom ruled by Tutsi kings Kigeli Rwabugiri.   Tutsi were the cattle owner and those who did not own cattle became Hutu:   by now it was a class distinction rather than a racial one. The kingdom introduced policies such as uburetwa, a serfdom system which discriminated against Hutus.   Germany colonized Rwanda in 1884 as part of its  East African empire. followed by
Belgium in 1916, both colonial powers ruled through the local kings. In 1935, The Belgians introduced identity cards labelling each individual as either Tutsi, Hutu, Twa or naturalised thus preventing movement between the social classes. The Hutu rebelled in 1959, and after a referendum overseen by the UN and Belgium, they  established an independent state in 1962 when it got its present name and separated from Burundi. Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana installed a dictatorship after a coup in 1973. As the population increased from 1.6million in 1935 to 7.1 in 1989, the Twa were forced out of the mountains by the government as land had become scarce and apart from Nyungwe National park, terraced agriculture is dominant in mountains. Many Twas were driven to poverty and became beggars. In 1990,  the Tutsi-led patriotic Rwandan front (RPF) started a civil war in 1990 against  President Habyarimana. He negotiated with them and signed the Arusha Accords. In 1994, he and the president of Burundi were killed when their plane was shot down. The assassination prompted  Hutu extremists in Rwanda  to kill an estimated 500,000 to 1 million Tutsi and moderate Hutu within a period of hundred days. Twas also became victims although not directly targeted. The RPF won the civil war and under president Paul Kagame,  a  period of reconciliation began.  In the new constitution Article 54 states that "political organizations are prohibited from basing themselves on race, ethnic group, tribe, clan, region, sex, religion or any other division which may give rise to discrimination", some opponents and observers have said that this effectively makes Rwanda a one-party state 70% of votes and that it has been used to imprison people "for the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of association or of expression". Since 2000 Rwanda's economy has grown rapidly, the poverty rate was reduced and life expectancy rose. Rwanda is home to the mountain gorilla and is perceived as a safe destination.

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