History in Rwanda
It is not known when the territory of present day Rwanda was first inhabited, but it is thought that humans moved into the area following the last ice age either in the Neolithic period, around ten thousand years ago, or in the long humid period which followed, up to around 3000 BC. Archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of sparse settlement by hunter gatherers in the late stone age, followed by a larger population of early Iron Age settlers, who produced dimpled pottery and iron tools. These early inhabitants were the ancestors of the Twa, a group of aboriginal Pygmy hunter-gatherers, who still live in Rwanda today. At some point between 700 BC and 1 AD, these settlers were joined by Bantu farmers from the west, known as Hutus. The Hutus, with their sedentary farming lifestyle, soon outnumbered the Twas and began to take over their traditional hunting grounds, forcing them to retreat into the forests. Later a third group, the cattle-raising Tutsi, migrated to the area. The Tutsi were generally taller than the Hutus and the Twas, and were distinct in physical appearance. It is not known when the Tutsi arrived and from where they came, but there is evidence that they were of Cushitic origin, coming from the Horn of Africa. Over time, the distinction between the three groups became blurred and some sources question whether they are truly of separate racial or ethnic stock.
According to oral history the Kingdom of Rwanda was founded in the 14th or 15th centuries on the shores of Lake Muhazi in the Buganza and Bwanacyambwe regions. At that time it was a small state in a loose confederation with larger and more powerful neighbours, Bugesera and Gisaka. By playing these neighbours against each other, the early kingdom flourished in the area, expanding westwards towards Lake Kivu. In this expanded kingdom, the Buganza region became a powerful religious site, being synonymous with the earliest and most revered mwamis of the kingdom. In the late 16th or early 17th centuries, the kingdom of Rwanda was invaded by the Banyoro and the kings forced to flee westward, leaving the eastern area in the hands of Bugesera and Gisaka. The formation in the 17th century of a new Rwandan dynasty by mwami Ruganzu Ndori, followed by eastward invasions, the retaking of Buganza and the conquest of Bugesera, marked the beginning of the Rwandan kingdom's dominance in the area. At its peak, the Kingdom of Rwanda extended west and north into what is now the DRC and Uganda, reaching the shores of Lake Edward.
The colonial era in Rwanda began in 1884 when the territory of Ruanda-Urundi
was assigned to Germany by the Berlin Conference, being united with Tanganyika
to form German East Africa. Gustav Adolf von Götzen became the first
European to significantly explore the country in 1894, crossing from the south-west
to Lake Kivu and meeting the Mwami. In the following years, German missionaries
and a small number of military personnel began to arrive in the country and
a Resident was established. The Germans did not significantly alter the
societal structure of the country, but exerted some influence by supporting
the Mwami and the existing hierarchy and by placing advisers at the courts of
local chiefs. They also observed and perpetuated the ethnic divisions of
the country, favouring the Tutsi as the ruling class and aiding the monarchy
in putting down rebellions of Hutus not wishing to submit to central Tutsi control.
In 1916, during World War I, Germany lost control of Ruanda-Urundi to Belgian
forces; the territory was then declared a League of Nations mandate in 1919,
with Belgium being asked to govern. The Belgian involvement was far more
direct than the German, and extended the coloniser's interests into education,
health, public works and agricultural supervision; the last was especially important
with improved techniques reducing the incidence of famine. Belgium also
maintained the existing class system, promoting Tutsi supremacy and disenfranchising
the Hutus by subjugating their northwest kingdoms into the Mwami's central control.
The Belgian authorities considered the Hutus and Tutsis different races and
in 1935 introduced identity cards labelling each individual as either Tutsi,
Hutu or Twa. This classification was often based arbitrarily on physical characteristics;
borderline cases were decided on cattle ownership with those owning ten or more
cattle labelled Tutsi and others as Hutu.
Juvénal Habyarimana, Rwanda's president from 1973 to 1994
Rwanda's establishment as a UN Trust Territory under Belgian administration in 1945, coupled with a wave of Pan-Africanism across the continent, started the colony's move towards independence. The 1950s saw two movements develop - the Tutsi elite, who favoured early independence under the existing system, and the Hutu emancipation movement led by Grégoire Kayibanda, which sought an end to "Tutsi feudalism". The Tutsi movement received support in its quest for indepence from the Communist bloc, which led the Belgians to dramatically drop their long-standing support and favour the Hutu. Tension between the two groups escalated throughout the decade, culminating in November 1959 when the beating up of a Hutu politician and false news of his death sparked a violent backlash against the Tutsi known as the wind of destruction. During the following years hundreds of Tutsi were killed, and more than 100,000 were exiled into neighbouring countries. Under the stewardship of the pro-Hutu Belgian colonel Guy Logiest, democratic elections were held and a referendum was passed, abolishing the monarchy and establishing a republic. Rwanda was separated from Burundi and gained independence under Kayibanda in 1962. The following years were characterised by cycles of attacks by rebel Tutsis in exile and large scale slaughter and repression of Tutsi within Rwanda. In 1973 Juvenal Habyarimana became president in a bloodless coup, claiming the government had become too corrupt, ineffective and violent. In the years following the coup Rwanda enjoyed relative economic prosperity and violence against Tutsis reduced, although pro-Hutu discrimination continued.
In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed mostly of Tutsi refugees, invaded northern Rwanda from Uganda, initiating the Rwandan Civil War. The Rwandan government, supported by troops from France, was initially successful in suppressing the rebels but the RPF grew in strength and by 1992 a stalemate had developed. Despite continuing ethnic strife, including the displacement of large numbers of Hutu in the north by the rebels and periodic localized extermination of Tutsi to the south, pressure on the Habyarimana's government resulted in a cease-fire in 1993 and the negotiation of a peace settlement in Arusha, Tanzania. The cease-fire ended on April 6, 1994 when Habyarimana's plane was shot down near Kigali Airport, killing the president and his Burundian counterpart. It is still unknown who launched the attack, with each side blaming the other. The shooting down of the plane served as the trigger for the Rwandan Genocide. Over the course of approximately 100 days, hundreds of thousands of Rwanda's Tutsis and Hutu political moderates were killed in apparently well-planned attacks, on the orders of the interim government under the Hutu Power ideology. Estimates of the death toll have ranged between 500,000 and 1,000,000, or as much as 20% of the total population of the country. The Tutsi RPF quickly restarted their offensive, and were able to take advantage of the deteriorating social order to defeat the army and seize control of the country.
Approximately two million Hutus, participants in the genocide, and the bystanders, with anticipation of Tutsi retaliation, fled from Rwanda, to Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and for the most part Zaire. Thousands of them died in epidemics of diseases common to the squalor of refugee camps, such as cholera and dysentery. The United States staged the Operation Support Hope airlift from July to September 1994 to stabilize the situation in the camps.
After the victory of the RPF, the size of United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR, henceforth called UNAMIR 2) was increased to its full strength, remaining in Rwanda until March 8, 1996.
In October 1996, an uprising by the ethnic Tutsi Banyamulenge people in eastern Zaire marked the beginning of the First Congo War, and led to a return of more than 600,000 to Rwanda during the last two weeks of November. This massive repatriation was followed at the end of December 1996 by the return of 500,000 more from Tanzania after they were ejected by the Tanzanian government. Various successor organizations to the Hutu militants operated in eastern DR Congo until May 22, 2009.
After its military victory in July 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front organized a coalition government similar to that established by President Juvénal Habyarimana in 1992. Called The Broad Based Government of National Unity, its fundamental law is based on a combination of the constitution, the Arusha accords, and political declarations by the parties. The MRND party was outlawed. Political organizing was banned until 2003. The first post-war presidential and legislative elections were held in August and September 2003 respectively.
Between 1994 and 1997, the GDP growth was nearly 70%. In the following years, annual GDP growth remained relatively high between 6% and 9%. The last three years have also seen spectacular GDP growth at an average rate of over 8%. In 2008, Rwanda registered double digit growth at 11.2%.