Rwanda’s history is one marred with perpetual civil war between the majority population of native Hutu people, who are peasant farmers, and the minority population of Tutsi, who arrived from the Horn of Africa in the 15th century. In 1894, the Germans and missionaries known as the “White Fathers” colonized Rwanda and made it a German protectorate. The Germans favored the Tutsi over the Hutu and put the Tutsis into power to operate as proxy rulers. The Tutsi ruling class established a monarchy and formed a feudal society, subjugating the Hutus into serfdom. In 1915, Belgian troops chased the Germans out of the country and took over, continuing Germany’s support for the Tutsi faction until the Hutu Revolution of 1959. Violence broke out and many fled the country, but in 1962, Rwanda was granted full independence under a leader who advanced a Hutu-favoring agenda. However, widespread corruption resulted in a military takeover of the government in 1973, resulting in one-party state.
Lay of the Land: In east Central Africa, perched on an isolated hilly plateau scattered with eucalyptus trees and banana groves, is Rwanda, called “the land of a thousand hills.” Lake Kivu and the Virunga Mountains, capped by 14,787-foot Mount Karisimbi, form a natural barrier to the west and northwest. The Kagera River, the source of the Nile River, is to the east, and the Ankanyaru and Ruzizi rivers are to the south and southeast.
Rwanda’s earliest history maintains that Tutsi cattle breeders came from the Horn of Africa in the 15th century. Soon after, they began to subjugate the Hutu natives by way of a feudal society headed by Tutsis, and established a monarchy under a mwami (king).
Diplomatic relations between the United States and Rwanda were established on July 1, 1962.
Relations between the United States and Rwanda are cooperative, and the U.S. is supportive of Rwanda’s implementation of democratic institutions in the wake of its bloody civil war.
About $34.15 million was exported from the US to Rwanda in 2009, while $19.16 million was imported to the US from Rwanda.
Rwandan Peacekeeping Official on War Crimes Controversy
According to the State Department, “Citizens’ right to change their government was effectively restricted and violence against genocide survivors and witnesses by unknown assailants resulted in deaths.”
Note: The Embassy in Kigali was established on July 1, 1962, with David J.S. Manbey as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
James Kimonyo became ambassador of Rwanda to the United States on May 18, 2007. He also serves as the non-resident ambassador to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Chile. Kimonyo led the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as a senior member. However, in Septemmber 2010, he switched to the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF because it has “superior programs” and “mature politics.” He also stated, “I came to realize that the RPF is difficult to defeat and it has the support of the majority of the population.”
A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Donald W. Koran was nominated in April 2011 by President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. ambassador to Rwanda.
Missouri native, W. Stuart Symington has served as the United States Ambassador to Rwanda since August 1, 2008.