Rwanda is a landlocked country, approximately the size of West Virginia, located in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa. On its east, Rwanda is bordered by Tanzania and Burundi; the Democratic Republic of Congo is its neighbor to the west. Often called the 'Land of a Thousand Hills', the country is rich in biodiversity. Rwanda has five volcanoes, 23 lakes and numerous rivers. Visitors to Rwanda hear the common saying: "although God goes all over during the workday, he comes back to sleep in Rwanda." Such a saying is fitting given Rwanda's vast beauty.
Today, Rwanda has a population of eight million people and is comprised of three ethnic groups: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. It is one of the twenty poorest countries in the world and has a 64.9% literacy rate among people of 15 years of age. Fourteen per cent of its population is HIV positive and 3% of people aged 15-49 has HIV. It has the highest percentage (over 60%) of Catholics of any African nation.
In April of 1994, the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government and military began an organized campaign to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Before Tutsi-led rebels were able to stop the mass killings, the Genocide of 1994 devastated Rwanda, killing an estimated 1 million people in 3 months and leaving the country stripped of all resources and infrastructure. The effects of the genocide have left many Rwandans with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems. According to a UNICEF National Trauma Survey in 1995, of the total population:
- 99.9% witnessed violence of some sort
- 79.6% witnessed death of the family
- 69.5% witnessed someone being killed or injured
- 61.5% were threatened with death
Despite the gravity of the suffering from the genocide, Rwanda is a country of great hope. Since 1994, the Rwandan community has been working hard to rebuild peacefully. Both religious and secular communities have come to the realization that, to use the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu, there is no future in Rwanda without forgiveness and reconciliation. Rwanda has been recognized recently by the UN, World Bank, and US Government for its good governance and commitment to eliminating corruption.
If you are interested in researching more about Rwanda, see the following links:
Book recommendations for further investigation on Rwanda
- Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide
by Linda Melvern
- Eyewitness to Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda
by Michael Barnett
- Genocide in Rwanda: Complicity of Churches?
by Carol Rittner, John K. Roth and Wendy Whitworth
- Land of a Thousand Hills : My Life in Rwanda
By Rosemond Halsey Carr and Ann Howard Halsey
- Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust
By Immaculee Ilibagiza
- Speak Rwanda: A Novel
By Julian R. Pierce
- We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
By Philip Gourevitch