Paul Kagame was born in October 1957 in Gitarama Prefecture, Rwanda, of Tutsi parents. In 1959, barely three years old, he was forced into exile with his parents. He fled Rwanda to Uganda in the first great mass exodus of the Tutsi after the overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy by the Hutu majority. He remained a refugee for 30 years in Nshungerezi refugee camp, near Mbarara in western Uganda. Life as a refugee and the persecution of his people experienced in Uganda under Milton Obote's second rule (1980–85) were formative in his determination to return to Rwanda in the future.
Kagame married Jeannette Nyiramongi in 1989. They have four children. Kagame's hobbies include tennis and football.