Karibu Rwanda (Welcome to Rwanda)
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Rwanda covers 26,338 Sq.km (slightly smaller than Belgium) in the heart of the African continent just below the equator. The country’s terrain earned it the nickname “Land of a Thousand Hills”. The highest point is 4,507 M at Mount Karisimbi in the north – west’s volcanic range. The lowest (950 M) is in the Rusizi Valley near the Congolese border. The central region, where Kigali is located (1,400 m), features a series of plateaus with an average elevation of 2000 m. Rwanda has a temperate equatorial climate with two rainy seasons (100 to 200 days of precipitation a year); a long one from mid-February to mid – May and a short one from mid – September to mid-December. The elevation makes temperatures pleasant; 16° to 17°C in the volcano region. 18° to 21°C in the central area and 20° to 24°C in the lowest lands. The average temperature in Kigali is 19°C .
KIGALI CITY (Area: 720 Sq. km)
The city of Kigali is built in hilly country, sprawling across about four ridges and the valleys between. The city center is located on one of these ridges, with the main government area on another. Rwanda became independent on July 1, 1962. It should be understood clearly well that Rwanda and Burundi jointly gained independence from Belgium on July 1, 1962. Kigali city was founded in 1907 as a small administrative outpost with limited link age to the outside world.
Colonization spurred the growth of Catholicism and gave it the leading role it has today; nearly 56.5% of Rwandans are Catholic, while 26% are protestants or members of evangelical or Pentecostal churches. In cities, where there are communities of Indo – Pakistani shopkeepers and businessmen, 4.6% of the population practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam. Every big city has a mosque while Kigali has a dozen.
Rwanda belongs to three (3) regional economic organizations: The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (ECGLC) and the East African Community (EAC). COMESA, which was founded in 1994, includes 19 countries. The headquarters is in Lusaka, Zambia. Gisenyi in Rwanda hosts the headquarters of the ECGLC, created in 1976, which includes Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC. Rwanda and Burundi joined the EAC, which Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania set up in 1999. South Sudan also joined EAC after Rwanda and Burundi. And very recently, in 2022, the Democratic Republic of Congo became the 7th new member of EAC.
Rwanda is a member of International and regional economic and financial institution’s such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The African Development Bank (AfDB) and Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) finance many projects in the country.
Rwanda participates in all the UN’s specialized institutions – UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, FAO, etc., and belongs to the group of ACP countries (Africa Caribbean Pacific), which has cooperation agreements with the European Union.
At the turn of the millennium a working group started thinking about integrating the tourism industry into Rwanda’s development. It distinguished between three kinds of visitors: “eco —travelers” in search of nature, culture and applied ecology, “explorers” drawn by the idea of meeting people and new experiences; and “business travelers” seeking to combine work with pleasure, the most demanding group when it comes to comfortable accommodation and transport and fast, quality communications. Since then, the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) has made hefty investments in infrastructure and national parks.
A VARIED, ATTRACTIVE OFFER
Rwanda boasts gorgeous scenery, preserved flora and wildlife – including many primate species and one – third of all the bird species in Africa, majestic volcanoes and carefully – managed and maintained national parks. Volcanoes National Park is world famous for Mountain Gorillas and nearly half the planet’s surviving gorillas live in Rwanda. The country also offers holiday homes on Lake Kivu, dance troupes that are internationally renowned for their gracefulness and elegance and handcrafts exported worldwide. Rwanda has a temperate climate all year, an exceptional atmosphere of security in every region and conditions that make it easy to get around. The major tourist sites are a one – to five – hour drive from Kigali. The country’s central location makes it a good base for travelling to Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Tanzania. Business tourism, already a major resource given Rwanda’s economic dynamism.
RWANDA’S HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
In the 16th century Rwanda was already a politically and culturally unified nation with a centralized administration and a King, the Mwami. Its borders encompassed areas that today are part of Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It was formed by a people in whom the Twas (descendants of the pygmies, Hutus (farmers) and Tutsis (livestock breeders) comprised a single ethnic group and spoke the same language, Kinyarwanda. Rwanda was one of the last African countries incorporated into the European Colonial System in 1885 the congress of Berlin defined Ruanda – Urundi (present – day Rwanda and Burundi). From 1900 the Catholic White Fathers, eclipsing Germany’s influence, established a sort of third power alongside the Mwami and the colonizer.
In 1916 German troops marched into the Belgian Congo, prompting Belgium to enter Rwanda. After the First World War the League of Nations entrusted the administration of Rwanda – Urundi to Brussels, with the mission of granting it statehood in the long – term. From 1923 to 1962 the Belgians turned the distinctions between Hutus and Tutsis into a system of government. In 1931 they had King Mutara III Rudahigwa require everybody to carry an ethnic identity card, instituting a formal separation between the communities. The basis for belonging to the Tutsi group was ownership of at least 10 head of livestock, everybody else was considered Hutu.
THE ARTIFICIAL HUTU – TUTSI DIVIDE
In the 1950s the Belgian administration and the White Fathers exploited Hutu opposition to independence advocates, who had joined forces under the banner of the Rwandan National Union (UNAR). In 1956 the Mwami demanded the Belgian’s departure and statehood and the party for the Emancipation of the Hutu People (Parmehutu) was founded. Its leader, Gregoire Kayibanda, opposed independence and preached “social revolution”. In March 1957 a document called Note on the Social Aspect of the indigenous Racial Problem in Ruanda, better known as the Bahutus’ Manifesto, imposed the artificial idea of two separate peoples, one of which was portrayed as the other’s historic oppressor. The first genocidal Massacres took place in 1959, driving 300,000 Tutsis into exile.
INDEPENDENCE AND A SINGLE PARTY
The Republic of Rwanda was proclaimed on 28th January 1961 and Gregoire Kayibanda was elected president on 26th October. Rwanda became independent on 1st July 1962 – in a context verging on civil war. Massacres in 1963, 1964 and 1973 drove tens of thousands of Tutsis into exile. On 5th July 1973 General Juvenal Habyarimana seized power in Kigali. In 1975 he (General Juvenal Habyarimana) founded the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND), which became the single party, and began forging closer ties with France. The political climate quickly worsened as Tutsi refugees who had fled the massacres organized an armed movement, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), on the other side of the Ugandan border.
DICTATORSHIP AND CIVIL WAR
On 1st October 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front launched its first offensive against Kigali. French troops intervened on the side of the regime. Talks began in 1992 and the following year in Arusha – Tanzania (Accords led to the formation of a coalition government including the MNRD and Rwandan Patriotic Front. In November 1993 French soldiers left Rwanda and were replaced by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), in charge of overseeing implementation of the Arusha Accords. The Habyarimana regime eventually came round to the idea of sharing power, but Hutu extremists refused. They planned out the extermination of the Tutsi population before Unleashing the genocide in April 1994. On 4th July 1994 the Rwandan Patriotic Front took control of the capital. Officials fled and the killing ended, but the country was battered. Over Eighteen years later, Rwanda has become for many an example of political stability and economic and social development.
When visiting Rwanda, it is impossible not to see and learn about the impact of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. While this is a remarkably moving experience, it is at the same time surprisingly uplifting, as you will experience first – hand how the people of Rwanda have moved forward together positively and are an example to the world of a success story in peace and reconciliation.
GENOCIDE MEMORIAL – GISOZI
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Nobody can visit Kigali city without seeing the Memorial inaugurated in April 2004, more than 19 years after the genocide. This powerful educational monument, financed by thousands of donations from around the world, was designed to raise the awareness and sense of responsibility of visitors from all walks of life. Permanent exhibitions, an education center, gardens and a documentation center pay a moving tribute to the all the victims of a murderous era in Rwanda’s recent history. Rwanda is committed to fighting the ideology of genocide. The memorials found throughout the country are moving testimonies in memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial is where 259,000 victims have been buried. This memorial also serves to educate about genocide around the world in the 20th century.
THE 2003 CONSTITUTION
Rwanda’s 2003 constitution established an independent, sovereign, democratic, social and secular republic. Executive power is in the hands of the president, who consults with the leaders of the political parties in the government before appointing the prime minister and ministers. A parliament including a chamber of Deputies and a senate wields legislative power. The constitution of the Republic of Rwanda was approved by referendum on 26th May 2003 and promulgated on 4th June. It states that “all the power derives from the people. No group of people or individual can vest in themselves the exercise of power” Rwanda’s first presidential and legislative election took place in August and September 2003.
THE RWANDAN NATIONAL MOTTO;
The Rwandan National Motto is ‘ Ubumwe, Umurimo, Gakunde Igihugu’. Unity, work, patriotism).
THE RWANDAN FLAG
The Rwandan flag was adopted in 2001. It features three horizontal stripes: green stands for hope and prosperity, yellow for economic development and blue for happiness and peace. The sunburst in the blue stripe symbolizes Unity, transparency and the struggle against ignorance.
The President is the head of state and government. He or She is elected by direct universal suffrage to a seven-year term renewable once. Executive power is vested in the president and the cabinet: they and the two houses of parliament, the Senate and the chamber of Deputies, Share legislative power.
THE RWANDAN PARLIAMENT
The Rwandan Parliament is made up of two houses, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The constitution encourages women and minorities to enter politics by setting up a quota system that sets 24 seats aside for women and three for young people and people with dis abilities.
THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES
The chamber of Deputies, has 80 members, of which 53 are elected to five year terms based on the proportional system (with a quorum of 5%), 24 by the provincial councils, two by the National Youth Council and one by the Federation of Associations of the Disabled.
The Senate has 26 members serving eight – year terms;12 are elected by the provincial councils, four by the Forum of political organizations and two by the Universities. The president appoints eight Senators to ensure the representation of marginalized communities. Former presidents may also request a set.
THE ICON OF RWANDA
PRESIDENT PAUL KAGAME PROFILE
Rwanda’s President, His Excellency President Paul Kagame was born in Gitarama prefecture in October 1957. His family fled the anti – Tutsi pogroms in 1961 and he grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda. In October 1990 he became head of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) and in April 1994 led the offensive against Kigali which, after capturing the capital on 4th July, helped put an end to the genocide. In April 2000 the National Assembly appointed him to replace the president, Pastor Bizimungu, who resigned. In August 2003, during Rwanda’s first free and democratic election, he was elected by universal suffrage with 95% of the ballots cast and a 93% voter turnout. He was re – elected on 9 August 2010, and then after 7 years in 2017, he was re – elected once again until now. President Kagame has big ambitions for Rwanda, which he runs like a company.
“We cannot turn the clock back nor can we undo the harm caused, but we have the power to determine the future and to ensure that what happened never happens again” – His Excellency President Paul Kagame.
A REBUILT JUDICIAL SYSTEM
The judicial branch is independent and enjoys administrative and financial autonomy. The country courts, supreme court and High court of the Republic are ordinary jurisdiction. Special jurisdictions are the military courts as well as traditional community tribunals called garaca, which have judged crimes of genocide since late 2007. Capital punishment was abolished on 26th July 2007 and there are no exceptional tribunals. Commercial courts were set up in May 2008.
THE OMBUDSMAN AND THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF DIALOGUE
Citizens who consider themselves victims of an infraction or an abuse of power on the part of a public or private body may have recourse to the ombudsman, who heads a staff of 36 people and four mobile units that can travel round the country investigating complaints, which have gradually declined from 7,000 in 2004 to fewer than 1000 a year. The National council of Dialogue, made up of the president of the Republic and five representatives of local administration councils, meets once a year with the cabinet and parliament, with the provincial governors and mayor of Kigali in attendance. It deals with the state of the nation and sends its recommendations to the institutions concerned.
POLITICAL PARTIES IN RWANDA
Rwanda has nine political parties: The Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR), Social Democratic Party (PSD), Liberal Party (PL), Christian Democratic Party (PDC), Ideal Democratic party (PDI), Rwandan Socialist Party (PSR), Democratic Union of the Rwandan People (UDPR), Party for Progress and Concord (PPC) and, the latest one, Imberakuri Social Party. With the exception of the FPR, all of these parties were created after 1994. They lack experience, manpower and money. The 2003 constitution set up the political parties’ consultation forum, which encourages them to meet and dialogue with each other. Training, especially by the deans of foreign universities as well as material support, for example from the European Union, are gradually strengthening their capacities.
HIGHLY DECENTRALISED ADMINISTRATION
Since 1st January 2006 Rwanda has been organized into five administrative units: four provinces (North, South, East and West) and the city of Kigali. This division has been designed with an eye towards broad decentralization, considered essential for reconciliation and governance. When it entered into force, the state tripled civil service salaries to entice young graduates to settle outside of Kigali. Each province is divided into districts (30 in all) administered by mayors and including sectors (a total of 416) headed by coordinators. Each sector is composed of cells (2,147 in all, including 14,985 villages). An executive committee assisted by a local council runs each local administration entity down to the village level. Their members are elected to five – year terms by universal suffrage.
EXPLORE SO MUCH MORE THE WONDERS OF RWANDA
- CAVING IN MUSANZE
Rwanda’s caves dating back 65 Million years lie within the volcanic region where lava flow layers long ago created the Albertine Rift valley. The caves offer easy hiking of up to 2 kms and showcase stunning rock formations and many entrances with most being roof collapses. There is nothing more magical than the dense dark silence broken only by the drops of water that hit the rock floor below, and the sounds of the hundreds of bat wings rebounding through the caves.
- BUHANGA ECO – PARK
Another hidden gem near VNP, Buhanga Sacred Forest, is a site of tremendous ecological importance, astonishing beauty and cultural significance where Rwandan Kings of the past had their iniation ceremonies. Full of myth and legend, where you will experience majestic dragon trees and sightings of many different birds and colorful butterflies, the forest encompasses a network of trails made entirely from cut lava stones
- FROM CROP TO CUP
Some of the world’s best tea and coffee is grown in Rwanda: the breath – taking high mountain verdant landscapes, cool climate and rich volcanic soil result in award winning quality tea and coffee products for Rwanda. Explore growing and production processes from the nursery to plantations, pruning, picking, washing, drying and the many steps in between to finally (in the case of coffee) roasting. Finish off with a memorable tea tasting or coffee cupping experience.
Located in the western part of the country about 100 km south of Rubavu, Karongi (Kibuye) is one of the prettiest, most relaxing and romantic of Lake Kivu’s towns. It is an ideal place to enjoy lake side recreation with pristine beaches and crystal clear waters where along with watersport activities, authentic experiences of daily Rwandan life can be enjoyed. Visiting Napoleon’s island (home to a colony of thousands of fruit bats), night fishing with locals in traditional boats, and Amahoro island (aptly known as “One Bar Island” because all it has on it is one bar). For the adventurous hiking, mountain biking and Kayaking tours along the Congo Nile Trail, or visiting the moving Bisesero Genocide Memorial with breathtaking views of the lake are just some of the experiences that can be found in the area. if you are visiting in August, you may catch thousands of yellow – billed kites here flying over Lake Kivu on their annual migration. Most of Karongi’s hotels are in beautiful locations overlooking the lake and facing the sunset.
- BIRD – WATCHERS PARADISE
Rwanda’s location in the Albertine Rift and its dense forests and Mountains create a unique and remarkable environment for the eco – tourist and birding enthusiast to enjoy. Though small (26,338 Sq.km) Rwanda boasts the highest concentration of birds per square kilometer in Africa, with a bird list of over 700 species and the second highest number of Albertine Rift endemics than any other country. There are seven (7) important Birding Areas (IBAS) including the three National parks. Rwanda’s wetlands and marshes cover 10% of the country of which the main protected areas include Rugezi, Akanyaru and Nyabarongo wetlands. Birding in Rwanda will reward you with many rare bird species easily, accessed across remarkably diverse habitats.
- CULTURAL HERITAGE CORRIDOR RWANDAN RICH HISTORY
Rwanda is more than just home of the iconic mountain gorilla. In the southern province you will find incredible cultural and historical sites in the Cultural Heritage Corridor that showcases Rwanda’s history and unique culture. King Mutara III Rudahigwa’s 1931 Royal Palace Museum in Nyanza, stands today as it did when the king was in residence along with the “Inyambo,” traditional Rwandan Cows known for their impressive long horns. Alongside the king’s palace, Rwesero Art Museum, King Rudahigwa III’s modern palace, now displays contemporary Rwandan artworks and serves as the National Art Gallery. The Ethnographic Museum in Huye houses one of Africa’s finest collections of pre and post – colonial archaeological displays. IBY’IWACU Cultural Village in Musanze is a living museum of Rwanda’s ancient ways supporting the local community; here you will see a traditional healer, grind sorghum, shoot arrows after being greeted by traditional Intore dancers and drummers. Rwanda is also rich with remarkable religious sites and attractions some of which are Sanctuaire Notre – Dame de Kibeho – a place of pilgrimage and apparitious and the only shrine in Africa officially approved in 2001, the Divine Mercy statue of Jesus – a bronze statue 16 ft. tall and weighing 2 tons brought to Rwanda by the Marian Fathers in 2004, and Nyanza Christ the King Catholic Parish built in 1935 – one of Rwanda’s oldest churches and where King Rudahigwa was baptized.
- LAKE KIVU AND THE CONGO NILE TRAIL
Part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, Lake Kivu in the west of Rwanda is surrounded by magnificent mountains and has deep emerald green waters covering a surface area of 2,700 sq. km. It is Rwanda’s largest lake and the sixth largest in Africa. Rubavu (or Gisenyi) is a large town on the northern edge of Lake Kivu, an hour’s drive from Volcanoes National Park and the perfect place to relax after gorilla trekking. Once a colonial beach resort of note, Rubavu’s waterfront is lined with fading old mansions, hotels and trendy bars on the lake shore, ideal for sundowner cock tails. From Rubavu in the north, the Congo Nile Trail extends 227 kilometers of breathtaking landscapes all the way to Rusizi in the south of Lake Kivu. The trail gently curves back and forth as it weaves through hills and mountains beside the lake with eucalyptus trees lining the road and every inch of the hills seemingly terraced with bananas. For adventurous travelers an exciting way to explore Rwanda is a Kayaking tour on Lake Kivu or Mountain biking / hiking one of the 6 off – the – beaten path stages of the spectacular – Congo Nile Trail.