To strengthen the sense of brotherhood within the community building of the Ummah complex, we embarked on a journey called ‘Exploring Countries’, and our journey continues. Today’s destination is Rwanda, one of the African countries.
Rwanda’s Geographic Location
Let’s start by getting to know Rwanda’s location. It is a country located in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa. It shares its borders with Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda. Its capital is Kigali. Rwanda, located in the Great Lakes Region, is home to 23 lakes. Additionally, the country is rich in rivers, including notable ones like Kagera, Akanyaru, Ruzizi, and Nyewarongo.
Population of Rwanda
According to the data from 2018, the population of the country is 12.5 million. More than half of the population is under the age of 25, constituting a young and youthful demographic. Therefore, these figures indicate that Rwanda has a dynamic population.
Ethnic and Religious Composition of Rwanda’s Population
Hutus make up 84% of the population, Tutsis make up 14%, and the remaining 1% is comprised of Twas. Regarding religious beliefs in Rwanda, Christians constitute the majority at 84%, followed by Muslims at 15%, and the remaining 1% belongs to those adhering to local beliefs.
A Brief History of Rwanda
The exact date and founders of the first settlement in the country are not known. The oldest known kingdom is the Kingdom of Rwanda, established in the 13th century. Rwanda was a German colony until the end of World War I in 1890, and it was Christianized through missionary movements. Towards the end of World War I, it was occupied by Belgium and became a mandate of Belgium. In addition, in 1946, it was declared a safe zone under Belgian administration. However, it regained its independence in 1962. Furthermore, in 1994, a genocide instigated by external forces occurred between the two ethnic groups in the country.
The Situation of Muslims in Rwanda’s History
It is possible to divide the situation of Muslims in Rwanda into pre-1994 and post-1994 periods. Muslims living during the colonial period of Germany and Belgium before 1994 faced great difficulties. They were only allowed to live in specific areas and were prevented from contacting the rest of the population, leading to their exclusion. Muslims were also deprived of rights such as property ownership, conducting trade, farming, and livestock farming, just to name a few.
This situation began to change with the genocide in 1994. This was because Muslims started to draw attention, not only by sheltering those seeking refuge during the genocide regardless of their religious and ethnic backgrounds but also by their calls for the people to act sensibly during that period. Since 1994, the Muslim population in the country has doubled.
The Situation of Rwandan Muslims Today
Today, Rwanda has more than 600 mosques and an equal number of Quranic schools. Additionally, there are schools providing Islamic education to meet the needs. Therefore, Muslims are also politically represented in the present day.
The Origin of the Name Rwanda
Let’s also touch on the origin of the name of the country, which is officially called the Republic of Rwanda. The name comes from the ancient Rwandan language, the word “Rwanda.” This word means “to grow, to expand.”
Other Names for Rwanda
Due to its stable economic growth in recent years and its goal to become a regional trade center in East Africa, Rwanda is referred to as “Africa’s Singapore.” Additionally, because of its hilly terrain, it is also known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills.”
Languages Spoken in Rwanda
The country has four official languages. In Rwanda, the first language they call Kinyarwanda is the official language. However, during the colonial period, French and English also became official languages. Recently, Swahili also became one of these languages by law. In addition, none of the four official languages are widely spoken in the country. Almost the entire younger generation speaks English. Due to the impact of the 1994 genocide, people prefer not to speak French. Additionally, Swahili is used as a language of integration with neighboring countries.
Administrative and Political Structure of Rwanda
The country is governed by democracy. The president is determined through nationwide elections. The country’s parliament consists of the National Assembly and the Senate. Therefore, the National Assembly has representatives from all sectors. Out of the 80 seats here, 53 are determined by general elections. Among these, 24 are female members. 2 members are determined by the National Youth Center, and 1 member is determined by the Federation of Disabled Associations. In terms of administrative structure, it consists of 5 administrative regions.
Economy of Rwanda
The country, which experienced a major economic downturn in 1994, has entered a process of reconstruction in recent years and achieved a growth rate of 7%. The main source of livelihood in the country is agriculture. The main agricultural products are coffee, tea, potatoes, bananas, and maize. The second most common source of livelihood after agriculture is livestock farming (especially cattle farming). Although Rwanda is not very rich in underground resources, some minerals such as gold and tin are extracted. Construction is a growing sector in Rwanda today. The infrastructure and transportation sectors are also being expanded with government support.
Famous Mosques of Rwanda
The first mosque in Rwanda is the “El-Fetih” mosque, built in 1913. There are now numerous large central mosques across the country. One of these is the El-Kudsi Mosque in the capital, Kigali.
Climate of Rwanda
Despite being very close to the equator, Rwanda has a temperate climate due to its high elevation. There are two rainy seasons in a year. The monsoon rains in the September-December period are called “umuhindo,” and those in the February-June period are called “itumba.”
Cuisine of Rwanda
Rwanda has a cuisine where fruits are frequently used in dishes. Especially, bananas and plantains are used extensively. They even fry bananas and eat them. They also have a unique beverage called Bralirwa. Additionally, if we were to list the essentials of Rwandan cuisine, they would be tropical fruits, seafood, spiced potatoes, and goat meat.
National Parks of Rwanda
Rwanda hosts three important national parks. These are: Akagera National Park, Nyungwe Rainforest National Park, and Volcanoes National Park. Volcanoes National Park, which is home to mountain gorillas, is one of the most important parks in Africa. Nyungwe Rainforest is the only remaining example of the numerous rainforests that the country once had. It serves as an important park for activities such as nature walks and birdwatching.
Must-See Places in Rwanda
Lake Kivu, located between Rwanda and Congo, is one of the choices for those who want to watch beautiful scenery and spend a pleasant time. There is also a place in Rwanda that will capture the interest of art enthusiasts and history buffs. Where is it? Of course, the Rwanda National Museum. Opened in 1989 in memory of the 25th anniversary of the country’s independence, the museum displays numerous artworks reflecting Rwanda’s cultural and historical past.