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Rwanda Country Background
In 1959, three years before independence from Belgium, the majority ethnic group, the Hutus, overthrew the ruling Tutsi king. Over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and some 150,000 driven into exile in neighboring countries. The children of these exiles later formed a rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and began a civil war in 1990. The war, along with several political and economic upheavals, exacerbated ethnic tensions, culminating in April 1994 in the genocide of roughly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The Tutsi rebels defeated the Hutu regime and ended the killing in July 1994, but approximately 2 million Hutu refugees - many fearing Tutsi retribution - fled to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and the former Zaire. Since then, most of the refugees have returned to Rwanda, but about 10,000 remain in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo and have formed an extremist insurgency bent on retaking Rwanda, much as the RPF tried in 1990. Despite substantial international assistance and political reforms - including Rwanda's first local elections in March 1999 and its first post-genocide presidential and legislative elections in August and September 2003 - the country continues to struggle to boost investment and agricultural output, and ethnic reconciliation is complicated by the real and perceived Tutsi political dominance. Kigali's increasing centralization and intolerance of dissent, the nagging Hutu extremist insurgency across the border, and Rwandan involvement in two wars in recent years in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo continue to hinder Rwanda's efforts to escape its bloody legacy.

Tutsi, Hutu, Hema, Lendu, and other conflicting ethnic groups, associated political rebels, armed gangs, and various government forces continue fighting in Great Lakes region, transcending the boundaries of Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to gain control over populated areas and natural resources - government heads pledge to end conflicts, but localized violence continues despite UN peacekeeping efforts; DROC and Rwanda established a border verification mechanism in 2005 to address accusations of Rwandan military supporting Congolese rebels and the Congo providing rebel Rwandan "Interhamwe" forces the means and bases to attack Rwandan forces; as of 2004, Rwandan refugees lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Zambia.

Rwanda is a poor rural country with about 90% of the population engaged in (mainly subsistence) agriculture. It is the most densely populated country in Africa and is landlocked with few natural resources and minimal industry. Primary foreign exchange earners are coffee and tea. The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda's fragile economic base, severely impoverished the population, particularly women, and eroded the country's ability to attract private and external investment. However, Rwanda has made substantial progress in stabilizing and rehabilitating its economy to pre-1994 levels, although poverty levels are higher now. GDP has rebounded and inflation has been curbed. Despite Rwanda's fertile ecosystem, food production often does not keep pace with population growth, requiring food imports. Rwanda continues to receive substantial aid money and obtained IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative debt relief in 2005. Kigali's high defense expenditures have caused tension between the government and international donors and lending agencies. An energy shortage and instability in neighboring states may slow growth in 2006, while the lack of adequate transportation linkages to other countries continues to handicap export growth.

chief of state: President Paul KAGAME (since 22 April 2000)

head of government: Prime Minister Bernard MAKUZA (since 8 March 2000)

cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president

elections: President elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term); elections last held 25 August 2003 (next to be held NA 2008)

election results: Paul KAGAME elected president in first direct popular vote; Paul KAGAME 95.05%, Faustin TWAGIRAMUNGU 3.62%, Jean-Nepomuscene NAYINZIRA 1.33%

Bicameral Parliament consists of Senate (26 seats; 12 members elected local councils, 8 appointed by the president, 4 by the Political Organizations Forum, 2 represent institutions of higher learning, to serve eight-year terms) and Chamber of Deputies (80 seats; 53 members elected by popular vote, 24 women elected by local bodies, 3 selected by youth and disability organizations, to serve five-year terms)

elections: Senate - last held NA, members appointed as part of the transitional government (next to be held in 2011); Chamber of Deputies - last held 29 September 2003 (next to be held in 2008)

election results: seats by party under the 2003 Constitution - RPF 40, PSD 7, PL 6, additional 27 members indirectly elected
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