About Rwanda

Geographical Information

Rwanda, in east-central Africa, is surrounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. Steep mountains and deep valleys cover most of the country.

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.

Rwanda Mountains

Lake Kivu in the northwest on the border with Uganda is the highest lake in Africa. Extending north of it are the Virunga Mountains, which include the volcano Karisimbi, Rwanda’s highest point.

The source of the Nile River includes a number of lakes and rivers in Uganda and Rwanda.

Rwanda has a number of volcanic lakes including Kivu, Bulera, Bunyonyi and Mutanda. These five volcanic lakes are on the borders of Rwanda and Uganda.

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History

Rwanda WildlifeThe 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.

Rwanda became a part of German East Africa in 1890. During World War I, it was occupied by Belgian troops. After the war, it became a Belgian League of Nations mandate, along with Burundi, under the name of Rwanda-Urundi. Ethnic tensions led to civil war, forcing many Tutsi into exile. When Rwanda became the independent nation of Rwanda in 1962, it was under Hutu rule.

In 2003, after a continuing civil war between Tutsi and Hutu in which over one million Hutu and Tutsi were killed, 93% of Rwandans voted to approve a new constitution that instituted a balance of political power between Hutu and Tutsi. In the presidential elections that followed, Paul Kagame, who had served as president since 2000, won a landslide victory.

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Climate / Seasons

The following chart shows the approximate average temperatures for each month of the year for Kilgali, Rwanda’s national capital. The temperatures are shown in Fahrenheit.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
71 69 69 69 69 69 71 73 71 69 69 69

The following chart shows the approximate average rainfall in inches for each month of the year for Kilgali, Rwanda’s national capital. These amounts will vary according to the year and location.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2 3.9 4 7 3.5 0.5 0.2 1 3 4 5 4

Although located only two degrees south of the equator, Rwanda’s high elevation makes the climate moderate. The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu is 73F (23C).

Rwanda has two wet seasons and two dry seasons. The short wet season is in October and November. The main rainy season lasts from mid-March to the end of May. During the rainy seasons, heavy downpours occur almost daily, alternating with sunny weather.

During the dry seasons, which last from December to mid-March and from June to the end of August, frequent light cloud cover brings pleasant temperatures.

Rwanda boasts consistent temperatures throughout the year with a day time average of 76F (24C) except in the mountains where the average is 55F (13C). The average daily temperature near Lake Kivu, the highest lake in Africa, is 73F (23C).

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Language

Kinyarwanda (a Bantu language), French, and English are all official languages of Rwanda. Swahili, although not an official language, is widely spoken.

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Other Resources

The Rwanda Tourist Board offers more information on their web site.

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Safaris in Rwanda

Click here for safaris to Rwanda.