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The Republic of Rwanda is a unitary republic of central and eastern Africa. It borders Uganda to the north; Tanzania to the east; Burundi to the south; and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Rwanda is landlocked but is noted for its lakes, particularly Lake Kivu, which occupies the floor of the Rift Valley along most of the country's western border. Although close to the equator, the country has a temperate climate due to its high elevation, with the highest point being Mount Karisimbi. The terrain consists of mountains and gently rolling hills, with plains and swamps in the east. Abundant wildlife, including rare mountain gorillas, have led to a fast-growing tourism sector. The largest cities in Rwanda are Kigali, Gitarama, and Butare. Unlike many African countries, Rwanda is home to only one significant ethnic and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda. The country is well known for its native styles of dance, particularly the Intore dance, and for its drummers. Kinyarwanda, English and French are the official languages.

The earliest known inhabitants of the territory were the Twa people, who still live in Rwanda as a minority today. A series of further migrations took place, leading to a complex ethnic and social structure. The Kingdom of Rwanda, initially a loose confederation, grew in importance from the 15th century to become the dominant civilisation in the region, occupying an area beyond the present borders. The territory was assigned to Germany by the 1884 Berlin Conference, as part of Ruanda-Urundi, with the first Western explorers reaching the country in 1894. After World War I, the territory was allocated to Belgium as a League of Nations mandate. The German and Belgian regimes heavily favoured the country's Tutsis over the majority Hutus which led to tension between the two groups. Belgium switched allegiance to the Hutus following a revolution in 1959 and the country became independent in 1962. The Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded in 1990, sparking a three year Civil War. In 1994 the president was assassinated, sparking the Rwandan Genocide. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days, in well-planned attacks ordered by the interim government. The RPF quickly restarted their offensive, and eventually took control of the country.

Since the end of the Genocide, Rwanda has enjoyed political and social stability. This has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, tourism, and mining industries. Nevertheless, large numbers of Rwandans live in poverty as subsistence farmers. Power lies firmly in the hands of the president, Paul Kagame, and the RPF, who have held a majority in parliament since 1994. Rwanda is a member of La Francophonie and has recently joined the East African Community and the Commonwealth of Nations.


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