Rwanda is a country in east-central Africa, bordered by the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, Tanzania to the east, Burundi to the south, and Uganda to the north. The central and western parts of the country are home to the Albertine Rift Mountains, while the east houses savannahs, plains, swamps and forests. Rwanda is home to numerous lakes, including the largest, Lake Kivu, considered to be one of the deepest lakes in the world. The Nyaborongo, Rwanda’s longest river, joins the Ruvubu in the southeast to form the Kagera River.
Rwanda’s high altitude bestows it with a pleasant tropical highland climate, though rain is plentiful. The rainy season runs from March to May, and the dry season from June to mid-September. Because altitudes vary, temperatures are different from region to region. Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, has an average temperature of 21ºC. The coolest month in Rwanda is May and the hottest, is August. Rainfall is heaviest in April.
Rwanda is known for being one of the world’s most interesting ecotourism centres, thanks to the tranquil Lake Kivu, the verdant Nyungwe Forest, and Virunga National park, home to the world famous mountain gorillas. Other areas of interest include the Nyanza King’s Palace – once the residence of King Mutara III Rudahigwa and now an impressive museum made entirely with traditional materials. Famous Rwandans include Paul Kagame (the sixth President of Rwanda, hailed for helping put an end to the Rwandan Genocides in 1994); Jeannette Kagame (who fought for the impoverished and needy in her homeland); and talented actor, Sonia Roland.
Rwanda has been home to various tribes for thousands of years. In the early 15th century, a Tutsi monarchy arose. The country was ethnically divided into two groups – the Tutsis and Hutus. The Tutsis enjoyed greater economic power and owned cattle, while the Hutus worked as farmers on land generally owned by Tutsis. Rwanda was taken over by Germany (becoming a German protectorate in 1899) and the Belgium (in 1915). In 1959, the Tutsi monarchy was overthrown following a Hutu revolution. This evolved into a civil war in 1990 and to the genocide of the Tutsi population. Over 800,000 Tutsis were killed and many others fled to neighbouring countries. In 1995, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted and tried several prominent persons for their role in the Rwandan genocide.
Rwanda was once a lush land covered in forests, yet deforestation and farming has destroyed many of its original ecosystems. Today, the only major mountainous forest area is the Nyungwe Forest, which is home to over 100 butterfly and 300 bird species. These include the colourful regal sunbird, with its emerald green head, read breast and yellow body. Nyungwe is also home to chimpanzees, vervet and golden monkeys, the duiker antelope and many more animals. Volcanoes park meanwhile, is the best area to view the country’s main tourist attraction: the gorillas. Nyungwe is also a haven for flora, with around 1,000 species of plants living in the forest. Rwanda in general is covered in savanna grassland and boasts over 280 species of flowering plants, including smallest water lily in the world: the gorgeous white-and-yellow nymphaea thermarum.
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