Located in central Africa, many people associate Rwanda with the events of the 1994 genocide– and rightly so to an extent. However, the country has since managed to recollect and build itself into one of the safest and cleanest in Africa. The region also actively contributes to peacekeeping missions, and its parliament encourages women’s leadership. Here, we highlight some fascinating facts about Rwanda that you probably didn’t know.
1. Rwanda Is Known As the Land of a Thousand Hills
Because it is surrounded by volcanic mountain ranges, countless indigenous rolling hills, and its general high elevation, Rwanda is commonly referred to as the “land of a thousand hills.” Trekkers are not short of options in the region.
2. Kinyarwanda is Rwanda’s National Language
Spoken by about 98% of its population, Kinyarwanda is Rwanda’s national and principal language. The German language was partly used during the colonial period. The Belgians also introduced French in 1916, making it the official language until the country gained independence in 1962.
Following the return of English-speaking Rwandan refugees in the 90s, the educational system in the country switched from French to English in 2008.
3. Rwandese Love Their Cows
Cows and milk are so prevalent in Rwanda that people meet at milk bars to socialize and drink milk. As a show of immense gratitude, Rwandese say “nguhaye inka,” translating to, “I give you a cow.” When they want to wish each other well, they say “gira inka,” which means “May you have a cow.”
4. Women’s Leadership Is Popular in Rwanda
In 2008, Rwanda became the first country globally to have women hold more than 60% of seats in parliament. Other countries where women outnumber men in elective seats include Cuba and Bolivia.
5. There Is a Day for Countrywide Community Work in Rwanda
Popularly known as Umuganda Day, the last Saturday is set aside for mandatory community work in Rwanda. Led by the president, natives take two hours in the morning to unclog drainages, clean, and pick litter from the streets. Police officers usually supervise the process; absconding attracts hefty fines and possible jail time.
6. It Is a Tourism Magnet
Rwanda ranks among the best tourism destinations in Africa. The country has everything from wild animals to volcanic mountains and beautiful scenery. It is perfect for business, medicine, cultural, religious, and dark tourism.
7. European Colonizers in Rwanda Favored Tutsis
Tutsis are naturally taller with slender bodies. As such, during the colonial period, the European colonizers in Rwanda favored them as they thought the Tutsis were closer to resembling them than the Hutus. This created tension and animosity among the two native tribes and is part of the reasons that led to the Rwandan genocide.
8. It Is One of the Fastest Growing Countries
Even though the country was marred by the 1994 genocide and continues to suffer from its effects, the Rwandese managed to regroup and salvage their country from poverty and other adversities. Today, Rwanda is among the top five most developed countries since 2000.
9. Plastic Bags Are Illegal in Rwanda
To protect their environment and reduce litter, Rwanda banned plastic bags. Anyone caught with them risks a fine of up to $150. Also, customs usually confiscate plastic bags from travelers at the airport.
10. Rwanda Has Many Volcanic Mountains
Located in the country’s Virunga Mountains region, Rwanda has five of the world’s most incredible volcanic mountains. They include Mount Bisoke, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Gahinga, Mount Karisimbi, and Muhabura Volcano. Standing at 4,507 meters above sea level, Mount Karisimbi is the tallest.
11. Rwandese Have A Sexual Practice Called “Kunyaza”
In Rwanda and some parts of Burundi, Kunyaza refers to a sexual practice aimed at facilitating orgasm and ejaculation of females during copulation.
12. Its Capital, Kigali, Is the Cleanest in Africa
Kigali is the biggest and the capital city of Rwanda. Located close to the country’s geographic center in a region of rolling hills, Kigali is an economic, educational, and cultural center. Since the government started implementing its ban on plastic bags/ sachet, Kigali has emerged as Africa’s cleanest city.
13. Rwanda Uses Technology to Improve Its People’s Health Standards
In 2016, Rwanda introduced a program that sees drones deliver blood and medical supplies to remote areas. The project aims to reduce delivery times, limit the chances of facilities running out of blood component stocks, and improve the supply chain quality by digitizing it.
14. The Rwandan Genocide Lasted 100 Days
The Rwandan genocide presents a dark sport in the country’s history. Approximately one million people lost their lives, and millions more were displaced. Surprisingly, it took only 100 days to cause the insurmountable loss.
15. It Contributes A Lot to the UN’s Peacekeeping Missions
Rwanda is one of the top countries contributing to the United Nation’s peace keeping programs. The country was among the organization’s founding members and has since sent its troops to the Central African Republic and Sudan, contributing a lot to peace restoration.
16. The Population of Lions Was Also Affected By the Rwandan Genocide
As an aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, national parks such as the Akagera Park were converted into camps for displaced people. As a result, the population of lions and other animals in the reserve reduced significantly as herders poisoned them.
17. Rwanda Once Had the Lowest Life Expectancy Rates
In 1992, going into 1993, Rwanda had a life expectancy rate of 27 years. Today, the number has grown to about 64 years, further highlighting how far the country has come. Not that the previous life expectancy rate doesn’t mean that people couldn’t live past 27 years; it means that many infants could survive to adulthood, hence lowering the average age.
18. Gorillas Aren’t Kept in Zoos in Rwanda
In Rwanda, Gorillas aren’t kept in zoos. Instead, tourists pay to trek into the mountains, where the animals exist in groups. Usually, some experts accompanying trekkers know where to find the gorillas, so the chances of seeing some after paying are very high.
19. Rwanda Inspired One of the Saddest Films Ever
Featuring famous actors such as Don Cheadle and Sophie Okanedo, Hotel Rwanda (2004) is one of the saddest films ever. The movie was inspired by the 1994 genocide that saw many people killed and others displaced. It depicts all aspects of humans, from the heartless to the caring and most gracious.
20. It Is a Landlocked Country
Rwanda is a landlocked country bordered by Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi.