Eastern Africa


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Rwanda is known as “the land of a thousand hills” and it is located in the Great Rift Valley, between the African Great Lakes region and East Africa. Despite being one of the smallest countries on the African mainland, it is also the most densely populated. The area that is now Rwanda was probably first settled by the Twa, followed by the Hutu, and then by the Tutsi. The Tutsi kings, ruling The Kingdom of Rwanda, dominated other ethnic groups, centralized power, and enacted anti-Hutu policies. Rwanda boundaries reflect the fully established nation-state that existed until the introduction of German rule, followed by Belgium. During European colonization, Rwanda and Burundi formed a single administrative entity, and both nations ruled through the kings and perpetuated a pro-Tutsi policy. In 1961, Rwanda had declared itself a republic, overthrowing the monarchy and moving full political power into Hutu hands. In response, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front launched a civil war in 1990. In 1994, the aircraft where presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, both Hutus, were flying was shot down, and the genocide that followed by Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu until the RPF ended the genocide with a military victory. Although insurgencies continued to trouble Rwanda’s government, a new constitution prevented further ethnic strife, and the country’s economy, adversely affected by the conflicts, started to gradually recover. Much of Rwanda’s traditional cultural heritage revolved around the Tutsi kingship. Since independence, however, another set of traditions from the Hutu heritage has emerged. Music and dance are an integral part of Rwandan culture, particularly drums and the highly choreographed intore dance, or dance of heroes, as well as the hoe dance from the north. Imigongo is a unique cow dung art traditionally produced throughout the country.

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