History & General Information
HISTORY OF RWANDA
History to the Nineteenth Century
Zambia's history goes back to the debut of Homo sapiens: evidence of
human habitation going back 100,000 years has been found at Kabwe, north
of Lusaka. Beginning around 1000 AD, Swahili-Arab slave-traders gradually
penetrated the region from their city-states on the eastern coast of
Africa. Between the 14th and 16th centuries a Bantu-speaking group known
as the Maravi migrated from present-day Congo (Zaïre) and established
kingdoms in eastern and southeastern Zambia.
In the 18th century, Portuguese explorers following the routes of Swahili-Arab
slavers from the coast into the interior became the first known European
visitors. After the Zulu nation to the south began scattering its neighbors,
victims of the Difaqane (forced migration) began arriving in Zambia in
the early 19th century. Squeezed out of Zimbabwe, the Makalolo people moved
into southern Zambia, pushing the Tonga out of the way and grabbing Lozi
territory on the upper Zambezi River.
The Scottish explorer David Livingstone first came to the area that is now Zambia
in 1851; he visited Victoria Falls in 1855, and in 1873 he died near Lake Bangweulu.
In 1890 agents of Cecil Rhodes's British South Africa Company signed treaties
with several African leaders, including Lewanika, the Lozi king, and proceeded
to administer the region. The area was divided into the protectorates of Northwestern
and Northeastern Rhodesia until 1911, when the two were joined to form Northern
The mining of copper and lead began in the early 1900s. By 1909 the central
railroad from Livingstone to Ndola had been completed and about 1,500 Europeans
had settled in the country. In 1924 the British took over the administration
of the protectorate. In the late 1920s extensive copper deposits were discovered
in what soon became known as the Copperbelt, and by the late 1930s about
4,000 European skilled workers and some 20,000 African laborers were engaged
there. The Africans protested the discrimination and ill treatment to which
they were subjected by staging strikes in 1935, 1940, and 1956. They were
not allowed to form unions but did organize self-help groups that brought
together persons of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
In 1946 delegates from these groups
met in Lusaka and formed the Federation of African Welfare Societies,
the first protectorate-wide
in 1948 this organization was transformed into the Northern Rhodesia African
Congress. In the early 1950s, under the leadership of Harry Nkumbula, it
fought strenuously, if unsuccessfully, against the establishment of the
Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (1953–63), which combined Northern
Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and Nyasaland
(now Malawi). The booming copper industry had attracted about 72,000 whites
Rhodesia by 1958, and the blacks there experienced increasing white domination.
Independence and Kaunda
Kenneth Kaunda, a militant former schoolteacher, took over
the leadership of the Africans from the more moderate Nkumbula and in 1959
formed a new party, the United National Independence Party (UNIP). Following
a massive civil disobedience campaign in 1962, Africans were given a larger
voice in the affairs of the protectorate. On 24 October 1964 Northern
Rhodesia became independent as the Republic of Zambia, with Kaunda as
president; he was reelected in 1968 and 1973. The main problems faced by
Kaunda in the first decade of independence were uniting Zambia's diverse
peoples, reducing European control of the economy, and coping with white-dominated
Southern Rhodesia (which unilaterally declared its independence as Rhodesia
in November 1965).
European economic influence in Zambia was reduced by increasing the number
of trained Zambians, by diversifying the country's economy, and (from 1969)
by the government's acquisition of a 51% interest in most major firms (especially
mining and banking companies). Separatist sentiment continued into the
Zambia joined Great Britain and other
countries in applying economic sanctions against white-ruled Rhodesia
in 1965. It discontinued
via rail through Rhodesia to the seaport of Beira in Mozambique. Instead,
overseas trade items were transported to and from the seaport of Dar-es-Salaam,
Tanzania, by plane and by truck (via the Great North Road). A petroleum
pipeline between Dar-es-Salaam and Ndola was opened in 1968, and, with
the help of China, the Great Uhuru (Tanzam or Tazara) Railway connecting
Dar-es-Salaam and Zambia was opened in 1975. In addition, the country halted
imports of coal (used especially in the copper industry) from Rhodesia;
mining in southern Zambia increased until it supplied most of the country's
needs. The Rhodesian army pressured Zambia to lift the sanctions by destroying
parts of Zambia's transportation network. Zimbabwean independence was finally
won in 1980. Throughout the 1970s Kaunda had combined his support of liberation
movements in Rhodesia as well as Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa with
the encouragement of diplomatic solutions—the approach favored by
Beginning in the late 1960s Kaunda faced formidable opposition from political
and student groups protesting the growing concentration of power in his
hands. In 1972 all political parties except UNIP were outlawed and Zambia
became a one-party state. Kaunda's frequent shuffling of the cabinet prevented
a strong political rival from emerging, and he ran for reelection unopposed
During the 1970s, the economic sanctions against Rhodesia and a drop in
copper prices had put Zambia's economy under severe strain. In the 1980s,
as a condition for future aid, Kaunda was forced by foreign creditors to
introduce economic austerity measures. Shortages of basic goods, cuts in
food subsidies, and unemployment led to rioting and strikes. Meanwhile,
popular calls were heard for multiparty rule. In 1986, South Africa launched
raids against Zambia and other neighboring countries, targeting camps that
were suspected of being used by the African National Congress.
A New Regime
In 1990 another round of austerity measures sparked more
unrest, and Kaunda was the target of a coup attempt. In the same year the
constitution was amended to allow opposition parties. In 1991 Frederick
Chiluba, a trade unionist who promised both political and economic reform
for Zambia, overwhelmed Kaunda in the presidential election, and Chiluba's
Movement for Multiparty Democracy party (MMD) won the majority of seats
in the parliament. A coup allegedly plotted by the opposition led to a
brief state of emergency in 1993.
Chiluba's economic reforms, including plans for privatizing the copper
industry, initially resulted in better relations with foreign-aid donors,
and economic conditions improved somewhat, but Zambia continued to be burdened
by a large international debt. Chiluba was reelected in 1996, after parliament
passed a constitutional amendment preventing Kaunda from running again.
Following a 1997 coup attempt, Chiluba again declared a state of emergency.
Numerous opposition leaders and military officers were arrested, including
Kaunda, who was freed in 1998 and announced his intention to retire from
By the end of the 20th century, the standard
of living in Zambia was about half what it had been in the mid-1960s,
before copper prices began falling.
Unemployment and inflation were high, and the country was threatened by
the unprecedented prevalance of deadly AIDS/HIV infections. In May 2001
Chiluba abandoned a bid for a third term in office; it would have required
changing the constitution's two-term limit. Chiluba's attempt to change
the constitution had provoked a political crisis, both within the country
and within his own party.
Despite electorate fears that Chiluba would
find a way around the two-terms rule to stay on as president, he was
replaced at the
December 2001 elections; however, his ruling party, the Movement for Multiparty
Democracy (MMD), was not. Chiluba's personally selected president-elect
Levy Mwanawasa won the vote, amid claims from opposition parties that the
election was rigged. The legality of the election results has been challenged
and as of early February 2002, Mwanawasa's government is in an uncertain
position; although a High Court challenge for an election recount was
denied and opposition parties blocked legislative process in the
National Assembly. In addition to a lack of parliamentary support, key
Chiluba's replacement are economic problems in the mining and agriculture
industries, in particular a grain shortage that is apparently having widespread
effects among the population.
Despite the political chaos, the election,
however flawed, returned one of the most broadly based democratic parliaments
the country has seen, with the United Party for National Development
(48 seats) and United National Independent Party (11 seats), among other
opposition parties, putting an end to the rubber-stamp, one-party system
that has ruled since independence. Visitors to Zambia should keep an
eye on political developments and any civil unrest that may accompany
The 2006 presidential election was hotly contested with Levy Mwanawasa being re-elected by a clear margin over principle challengers Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front and Hakainde Hichilema of the United Democratic Alliance. The election was deemed free and fair.
Following Mr. Mwanawasa's death in August 2008, Zambian vice president Rupiah Banda succeeded him to the office of president, to be held as a temporary position until the emergency election on October 30, 2008. Banda won by a narrow margin over opposition leader Michael Sata, to complete the remainder of Mwanawasa's term.
to Safari Camps & Map of Rwanda
GENERAL INFORMATION ON
The kingdoms of Rwanda began coalescing in the 11th century. In the 15th century, Rwandans established a monarchy headed by a Tutsi mwami (king) with a hierarchy of Tutsi nobles and gentry. In some areas of the country, independent Hutu principalities continued to exist, and in other areas, Tutsi and Hutu lineages lived in interdependent cooperation under the nominal control of the king. During the 17th century, pastoral relations of reciprocity known as ubuhake evolved into a system in which Hutu farmers pledged their services and those of their descendants to a Tutsi lord in return for the loan of cattle and use of pastures and arable land. However, membership in an ubwoko and class were fluid. Affiliation was determined by paternal ancestors. Intermarriage and multiple marriages were common. Some Hutus took Tutsi status and some Tutsis lost their status as Tutsis. Most rural Tutsis enjoyed few advantages over rural Hutus. The first European known to have visited Rwanda was German Count Von Goetzen in 1894. He was followed by missionaries called the “White Fathers.” In 1899, the mwami submitted to a German protectorate without resistance. Belgian troops from neighboring Belgian Congo chased the small number of Germans out of Rwanda in 1915 and took control of the country.
After World War I, the League of Nations mandated Rwanda and its southern neighbor, Burundi, to Belgium as the territory of Ruanda-Urundi. Following World War II, Ruanda-Urundi became a UN Trust Territory with Belgium as the administrative authority. Reforms instituted by the Belgians in the 1950s encouraged the growth of democratic political institutions but were resisted by the Tutsi traditionalists who saw in them a threat to Tutsi rule. Hutu leaders, encouraged by the Belgian military, sparked a popular revolt in November 1959, resulting in the overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy. Two years later, the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) won an overwhelming victory in a UN-supervised referendum.
Accounts of the respective arrivals of each ubwoko centuries ago in the area of modern Rwanda were highly politicized throughout much of the 20th century. In 1994, the Rwandan Government exploited the former Belgian colonialists’ “racialization” of differences among ubwoko and its inclusion on identity cards to fuel a state-orchestrated genocide. After the genocide, Rwanda’s national unity government stopped collecting data on ubwoko and banned its inclusion on identity cards. All Rwandans share the same native language and culture, so ubwoko today reflects a family identity that has been passed patrilineally. The Rwandan Government does not permit politicization of this identity or any form of discrimination based on a person’s ubwoko.
In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries.
The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees - many fearing Tutsi retribution - fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the former Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but several thousand remain in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Paul Kagame became President of Rwanda in March 2000. In August of 2003, he won a landslide victory in the first national elections since his government took power in 1994. Under Kagame’s leadership, the country has made a remarkable recovery and is now considered to be a model for developing countries.
Rwanda has achieved stability, international integration and economic growth. The average income over the past ten years has tripled. The current government is one of the most efficient and honest in Africa. It is also regarded as the safest country in East and Central Africa. Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in late 2009.
Rwanda's countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over rolling hills, with areas of rugged mountains that extend southeast from a chain of volcanoes in the northwest. The divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems extends from north to south through western Rwanda at an average elevation of almost 9,000 feet. On the western slopes of this ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu and the Rusizi River valley, which form the western boundary with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) and constitute part of the Great Rift Valley. The eastern slopes are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across central uplands at gradually reducing altitudes, to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region.
Rwanda's population density is currently the highest in continental sub-Saharan Africa. It is still a very rural society, and many families live in self-contained compounds on hillsides. The urban concentrations are grouped around administrative centers. The indigenous population consists of three groups, or ubwoko--Bahutu, Batutsi, and Batwa. Traditionally, the population also is affiliated with one of 18 clans.
Rwanda is a densely-populated, landlocked, developing country in central Africa, and is still recovering from the 1994 civil war and genocide. Economic activity and tourism are on the rise in Rwanda. Hotels and guesthouses are numerous in Kigali, the capital, and in major towns, but are limited in rural areas.
The population is about 84% Hutu, a Bantu people, traditionally farmers. The Tutsi, a warrior people, constitute about 15% of the total population, but many have fled into neighboring territories for refuge, especially since civil strife began in 1959. The Tutsi migrated to Rwanda sometime before the 15th century. There are also some Twa, a Pygmy tribe of hunters related to the Pygmies of the DROC; the earliest known inhabitants of the region; they now constitute about 1% of the population of Rwanda. There are also small numbers of Asians and Europeans.
The flag of Rwanda consists of three horizontal stripes. The top stripe is blue, the middle one yellow and the bottom stripe is green. The yellow and green stripes are of equal width and the blue stripe is double the size of those stripes. In the top right corner of the Rwandan flag there is a yellow sun with 24 rays emanating from it.
temperature and rainfall details in selected Rwanda regions, click African
Although located only two degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda's high elevation makes the climate temperate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, at an altitude of 4,800 feet (1,463 meters) is 73o F (23o C). During the two rainy seasons (February-May and September-December), heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather. Annual rainfall averages 80 centimeters (31 in.) but is generally heavier in the western and northwestern mountains than in the eastern savannas.
The manufacturing sector primarily produces beer, soft drinks, hoes, cigarettes, soap, wheel-barrows, cement, plastic pipe, mattresses, textiles, and roofing materials. Most manufacturing is geared toward import substitution — providing goods that must otherwise be imported. Like every other sector, industry came to a halt in 1994, but had returned to 75 percent of its capacity by mid-1997.
After agricultural products, minerals generate the most foreign exchange. Rwanda has significant reserves of cassiterite (tin ore), wolfram (tungsten ore), gold, and beryl. But due to a drop in the global price of cassiterite in 1986, this metal ceased to be mined. In 1987, the wolframite mines suffered the same fate. Since 1991, some cassiterite and wolframite began to be exported, but not at their pre-1987 and 1991 levels. The mining of other mineral ores was also gravely disrupted by the 1994 genocide and have also yet to reach their pre-1994 levels of production.
Rwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture. The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda's fragile economic base, severely impoverished the population, particularly women, and temporarily stalled the country's ability to attract private and external investment. However, Rwanda has made substantial progress in stabilizing and rehabilitating its economy to pre-1994 levels. Despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with demand, requiring food imports.
Rwanda continues to receive substantial aid money and obtained IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative debt relief in 2005-06. Rwanda also received a Millennium Challenge Account Compact in 2008. Africa's most densely populated country is trying to overcome the limitations of its small, landlocked economy by leveraging regional trade. Rwanda joined the East African Community and is aligning its budget, trade, and immigration policies with its regional partners. The government has embraced an expansionary fiscal policy to reduce poverty by improving education, infrastructure, and foreign and domestic investment and pursuing market-oriented reforms.
On April 6, 1994 Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana’s personal plane, a gift from French president Francois Mitterand, was shot down as it returned to Rwanda, killing Habyarimana, Burundian president Cyprien Ntarymira, and members of their entourages. The two presidents were returning from Tanzania, where they’d met with regional leaders concerning events in Burundi. Habyarimana himself was pressed to implement the power-sharing Arusha Accord his government had concluded with the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in August 1993, which capped three years of war, cease-fires and negotiations. To do so, however, would mean the effective end of his 20-year, one-party rule over Rwandan politics and society. Extremists in the military and government bitterly opposed the accord and they are widely believed to be the culprits in his assassination.
Within an hour of the plane crash, the Presidential Guard, elements of the Rwandan armed forces (FAR) and extremist militia (Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi) set up roadblocks and barricades and began the organized slaughter, starting in the capital Kigali, of nearly one million Rwandans in 100 days time. Their first targets were those most likely to resist the plan of genocide: the opposition Prime Minister, the president of the constitutional court, priests, leaders of the Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party, the Information Minister, and tellingly, the negotiator of the Arusha Accord. Those who hesitated to join the campaign, such as the governor of a southern province, were quickly removed from positions of influence or killed. As a US intelligence analyst noted in late April, “The plan appears to have been to wipe out any RPF ally or potential ally, and thus raise the costs and limit the possibility of an RPF/Tutsi takeover… No end to the unprecedented bloodshed is yet in sight.” (US Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Intelligence Assessment, "Roots of the Violence in Rwanda”, April 29, 1994)
As the killing intensified, the international community deserted Rwanda. Western nations landed troops in Rwanda or Burundi in the first week to evacuate their citizens, did so, and left. The UN mission (UNAMIR), created in October 1993 to keep the peace and assist the governmental transition in Rwanda, sought to intervene between the killers and civilians. It also tried to mediate between the RPF and the Rwandan army after the RPF struck from Rwanda to protect the Tutsis and rescue their battalion encamped in Kigali as part of the Accord. On April 21, 1994, the United Nations Security Council, at the behest of the United States, which had no troops in Rwanda, Belgium, and others, voted to withdraw all but a remnant of UNAMIR. The Security Council took this vote and others concerning Rwanda even as the representative of the genocidal regime sat amongst them as a non-permanent member. After human rights, media, and diplomatic reports of the carnage mounted, the UN met and debated and finally arrived at a compromise response on May 16. UNAMIR II, as it was to be known, would be a more robust force of 5,500 troops. Again, however, the world failed to deliver, as the full complement of troops and materiel would not arrive in Rwanda until months after the genocide ended. Faced with the UN’s delay, but also concerned about its image as a former patron and arms supplier of the Habyarimana regime, France announced on June 15 that it would intervene to stop the killing. In a June 22 vote, the UN Security Council gave its blessing to this intervention; that same day, French troops entered Rwanda from Zaire. While intending a wider intervention, confronted with the RPF’s rapid advance across Rwanda, the French set up a “humanitarian zone” in the southwest corner of Rwanda. Their intervention succeeded in saving tens of thousands of Tutsi lives; it also facilitated the safe exit of many of the genocide’s plotters, who were allies of the French.
On July 4, the RPF took the capital, Kigali; two weeks later, it announced a new government comprised of RPF leaders and ministers previously selected for the transition government called for in the Arusha Accord. With the RPF’s takeover, and with the encouragement of extremist radio, Rwandans implicated in the slaughter, their relatives and those who feared the arrival of the RPF, fled to neighboring countries. In the end, the extremists killed nearly one million Rwandans, approximately one-tenth of the population. Were it not for the RPF’s military prowess, the genocide would have continued.
Despite overwhelming evidence of genocide and knowledge as to its perpetrators, United States officials decided against taking a leading role in confronting the slaughter in Rwanda. Rather, US officials confined themselves to public statements, diplomatic demarches, initiatives for a ceasefire, and attempts to contact both the interim government perpetrating the killing and the RPF. The US did use its influence, however, at the United Nations, but did so to discourage a robust UN response. In late July, however, with the evidence of genocide littering the ground in Rwanda, the US did launch substantial operations - again, in a supporting role— - assist humanitarian relief efforts for those displaced by the genocide.
Rwandan Genocide material is reproduced from www.nsarchive.org with the permission of the National Security Archive.
Return to Safari Camps & Map of
Detailed information on Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda
For information about the National Parks of Rwanda, click Rwanda Parks