Rwanda is a small country in Central Eastern Africa. It’s only a little bit bigger than Wales, bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi. It enjoys a wealth of natural beauty and diversity, including three National Parks – Akagera, Volcanoes National Park and Nyungwe Forest. Within these parks, Rwanda boasts savannah animals like lions, elephants and giraffes; an estimated one-third of the worldwide mountain gorilla population and other primate species including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys. Across the country there are even 670 bird species, making the country a haven for wildlife tourism.
Rwanda enjoys a tropical climate and very fertile ground, providing ideal conditions for growing many food crops and also for production of excellent quality tea and coffee. As a very mountainous area, terracing is widespread to maximise crop production, the patterns of which on the hillsides make for some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.
The 1994 Genocide
Tragically, in 1994, this country blessed with natural resources and wonderful people was torn apart by a devastating genocide. Evidence suggests the Belgian classification of Hutus and Tutsis mandated by identity cards, either antagonised or created resentment between the two groups and that certain Western nations were then invested in the exacerbation of political unrest. Regardless of the cause, the horror of the genocide was devastating. Approximately 1 million people were murdered in the space of just 100 days. Think about that for a minute – an average of 10,000 people per day, or 417 people per hour, or 7 people per minute. For three months.
The genocidaires brutally murdered their fellow citizens with machetes and other household tools as their weapons while rape was used to spread HIV amongst women to further damage the population. The UN and western nations refused to categorise it as genocide at the time as the public admission of this would have forced them to take action as a result of the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide. As if this isn’t bad enough in itself, there are those who continue to deny its occurrence or try to dismiss the magnitude. For a more indepth exploration and evidence, feel free to explore our recommended reading list.
This horrifying humanitarian disaster left in its wake an enormity of problems with far reaching ramifications. Young orphans found themselves unequipped to care for younger siblings, and women, left without husbands or family to support them were unable to work and support their children.
The recovery of the country, considering the devastation, shows remarkable promise: The economy has strengthened and the country’s literacy rate continues to improve. Rwanda is also unique in the world in having a female majority in parliament, due to the decimation of the male population during the genocide. This has provided the opportunity to improve legislation surrounding gender issues and allow Rwanda to set an example for other African nations.
The people of Rwanda are resilient and determined to put their atrocious history behind them and move into a bright and positive future but they continue to battle with social issues hungover from those tragic events that the rest of the world could have prevented.