Official name: Republic of Rwanda
Area: 26,338 square kilometers (10,169 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Karisimbi (4,519 meters/14,826 feet)
Lowest point on land: Rusizi River (950 meters/3,117 feet)
Hemispheres: Southern and Eastern
Time zone: 2 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 248 kilometers (154 miles) from northeast to southwest; 166 kilometers (103 miles) from southeast to northwest
Land boundaries: 893 kilometers (555 miles) total boundary length; Burundi 290 kilometers (180 miles); Democratic Republic of the Congo 217 kilometers (135 miles); Tanzania 217 kilometers (135 miles); Uganda 169 kilometers (105 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
Rwanda is a small, landlocked country located south of the equator in east-central Africa. With an area of 26,338 square kilometers (10,169 square miles), it is almost as large as the state of Maryland.
Rwanda has no territories or dependencies.
High altitudes keep the climate moderate in much of Rwanda despite its proximity to the equator. In addition, trade winds from the Indian Ocean moderate the temperatures on the Central Plateau, where the annual average is 21°C (70°F). Temperatures in the mountains of the northwest are lower, especially at night, yet they average near 32°C (90°F) in parts of the eastern lowlands. Average annual rainfall can range from as little as 76 centimeters (30 inches) in the eastern lowlands to 179 centimeters (70 inches) in the mountains. The yearly average rainfall on the Central Plateau is about 114 centimeters (45 inches).
The divide between two of Africa's great watersheds, the Congo and Nile basins, extends from north to south through western Rwanda at an average elevation of almost 2,743 meters (9,000 feet). On the western slopes of this Congo-Nile ridgeline, the land slopes abruptly toward Lake Kivu in the Great Rift Valley on the western border of the country. The eastern slopes are more moderate, with rolling hills extending across the central uplands at gradually reducing altitudes to the plains, swamps, and lakes of the eastern border region.
Rwanda can be divided into five regions from west to east: 1) the narrow Great Rift Valley region along or near Lake Kivu, 2) the volcanic Virunga Mountains and high lava plains of northwestern Rwanda, 3) the Congo-Nile Ridge, 4) the rolling hills and valleys of the central plateaus, which slope eastward from the Congo-Nile Ridge, and 5) the savannahs and marshlands of the eastern and southeastern border areas, which are lower, warmer, and drier than the central upland plateaus.
Rwanda is landlocked and therefore has no oceanic coast.
Rwanda has many lakes. The largest, Lake Kivu, is located in the midst of the volcanic peaks in the Virunga Mountains and forms part of the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The lake has a surface area of 2,665 square kilometers (1,025 square miles) and reaches a maximum depth of 475 meters (1,558 feet). Lake Cohoha and Lake Rugwero lie in Rwanda's southeast, partly extending into Burundi. There are also eight sizable lakes that lie entirely within Rwanda: Lakes Rwehikama, Ihema, Muhazi, Mugesera, Hago, and Rwanye in the east, and Lakes Ruhondo and Burera in the north.
Most of Rwanda's rivers are in the eastern part of the country. The Kagera River in the east forms the boundary with Tanzania and part of the boundary with Burundi. With a total length of 692 kilometers (430 miles), the Kagera is the longest river in Rwanda. The Nyabarongo River and its tributaries drain much of the Central Plateau. In the west, the Ruzizi flows southward from Lake Kivu along the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, into Burundi, and on to Lake Tanganyika. In the south, the Luhwa and Akanyaru Rivers form parts of the boundary with Burundi.
There are no deserts in Rwanda.
Much of the countryside is covered by grasslands and small farms extending over the rolling hills that cover much of the Central Plateau; this terrain has given Rwanda the nickname "Land of a Thousand Hills."
Rising from high lava plains in the northwest corner of Rwanda are the Virunga Mountains, Rwanda's only mountain range. They consist of five volcanic peaks, two of which still emit smoke and steam. The highest of these is Mount Karisimbi, which rises to over 4,519 meters (14,826 feet).
The system of caves in the Gisenyi region of northwestern Rwanda is infamous for the 1994 massacre of some eight thousand Hutus, an ethnic minority, by the rival Tutsi people.
The Central Plateau has an average altitude of 1,432 meters (4,700 feet); becoming progressively lower in elevation as it extends toward the eastern border.
There are no railways in Rwanda. The capital city of Kigali is connected with nearby towns in Burundi and Uganda by a well-traveled road.
Carr, Rosamond Halsey, and Ann Howard Halsey. Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda. Rockland, MA: Compass Press, 2000.
Harelimana, Froduald. Rwanda: Society and Culture of a Nation in Transition . Corvallis, OR: Harelimana, 1997.
Murphy, Dervla. Visiting Rwanda. Dublin, Ireland: Lilliput Press, 1998.
Rwanda Information Exchange. http://www.rwanda.net/ (accessed April 11, 2003).
Rwanda Page . http://www.sas.upenn.edu/African_Studies/Country_Specific/Rwanda.html (accessed April 4, 2003).