Rwanda

The Republic of Rwanda, is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley of Central Africa, where the African Great Lakes region and Southeast Africa converge. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is highly elevated, giving it the soubriquet “land of a thousand hills”, with its geography dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the southeast, with numerous lakes throughout the country. The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year. It is the most densely populated mainland African country; among countries larger than 10,000 km2, it is the fifth most densely populated country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kigali.

Rwanda has been governed as a unitary presidential system with a bicameral parliament ruled by the RPF since 1994 with former commander Paul Kagame as President since 2000. The country has been governed by a series of centralized authoritarian governments since precolonial times. Although Rwanda has low levels of corruption compared with neighbouring countries, it ranks among the lowest in international measurements of government transparency, civil liberties and quality of life. The population is young and predominantly rural; Rwanda has one of the youngest populations in the world. Rwandans are drawn from just one cultural and linguistic group, the Banyarwanda. However, within this group there are three subgroups: the Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. The Twa are a forest-dwelling pygmy people and are often considered descendants of Rwanda’s earliest inhabitants. Christianity is the largest religion in the country; the principal and national language is Kinyarwanda, spoken by native Rwandans, with English, French and Swahili serving as additional official foreign languages.

Rwanda’s economy is based mostly on subsistence agriculture. Coffee and tea are the major cash crops in Rwanda to export. Tourism is a fast-growing sector and is now the country’s leading foreign exchange earner. The country is a member of the African Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, COMESA, OIF and the East African Community.

Climate

Rwanda has a temperate tropical highland climate, with lower temperatures than are typical for equatorial countries because of its high elevation. Kigali, in the centre of the country, has a typical daily temperature range between 15 and 28 °C (59 and 82 °F), with little variation through the year. There are some temperature variations across the country; the mountainous west and north are generally cooler than the lower-lying east. There are two rainy seasons in the year; the first runs from February to June and the second from September to December. These are separated by two dry seasons: the major one from June to September, during which there is often no rain at all, and a shorter and less severe one from December to February. Rainfall varies geographically, with the west and northwest of the country receiving more precipitation annually than the east and southeast. Global warming has caused a change in the pattern of the rainy seasons.

Wild Life

In prehistoric times montane forest occupied one-third of the territory of present-day Rwanda. Naturally occurring vegetation is now mostly restricted to the three national parks, with terraced agriculture dominating the rest of the country. Nyungwe, the largest remaining tract of forest, contains 200 species of tree as well as orchids and begonias. Vegetation in the Volcanoes National Park is mostly bamboo and moorland, with small areas of forest. By contrast, Akagera has a savanna ecosystem in which acacia dominates the flora. There are several rare or endangered plant species in Akagera, including Markhamia lutea and Eulophia guineensis.

The greatest diversity of large mammals is found in the three national parks, which are designated conservation areas. Akagera contains typical savanna animals such as giraffes and elephants, while Volcanoes is home to an estimated one-third of the worldwide mountain gorilla population. Nyungwe Forest boasts thirteen primate species including common chimpanzees and Ruwenzori colobus arboreal monkeys; the Ruwenzori colobus move in groups of up to 400 individuals, the largest troop size of any primate in Africa.

Giraffe in Akagera National Park

Rwanda’s population of lions was destroyed in the aftermath of the genocide of 1994, as national parks were turned into camps for displaced people and the remaining animals were poisoned by cattle herders. In June 2015, two South African parks donated seven lions to Akagera National Park, reestablishing a lion population in Rwanda. The lions were held initially in a fenced-off area of the park, and then collared and released into the wild a month later.

Eighteen endangered black rhinos were brought to Rwanda in 2017 from South Africa. The animals adapted very well so in 2019, five more black rhinos were delivered to Akagera National Park from zoos all over Europe.

Similarly, the white rhino population is growing in Rwanda. In 2021, Rwanda received 30 white rhinos from South Africa with the goal of Akagera being a safe breeding ground for the near-threatened species.

There are 670 bird species in Rwanda, with variation between the east and the west. Nyungwe Forest, in the west, has 280 recorded species, of which 26 are endemic to the Albertine Rift; endemic species include the Rwenzori turaco and handsome spurfowl. Eastern Rwanda, by contrast, features savanna birds such as the black-headed gonolek and those associated with swamps and lakes, including storks and cranes.

Recent entomological work in the country has revealed a rich diversity of praying mantises, including a new species Dystacta tigrifrutex, dubbed the “bush tiger mantis”.

 

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