Republic since 1962. Gained independence from Belgium in 1962.
Head of state:
President Paul Kagame since 2000.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Bernard Makuza since 2000.
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Known as the land of 1,000 hills, this country couldn't be further from the cliched African image of arid deserts and dry bush. Winding roads hug verdant slopes, every inch carved into fields with crops ranging from banana trees to maize. In the valleys are great sweeping tea plantations, rice fields and coffee groves.
Rwanda has made a remarkable recovery from the 1994 genocide which saw more than 800,000 people killed at the hands of Hutu extremists and much of its infrastructure collapse. The country is now leading the way in using tourism for sustainable development and conservation. The bamboo and mid-altitude forests of the Volcanoes National Park in the north are home to the rare mountain gorilla and the high-altitude Nyungwe Forest in the south, one of the largest remaining rainforests in Africa, is home to 13 primates, including chimpanzees and colobus monkeys, rare orchids and nearly 300 different species of bird.
A landlocked country, Rwanda makes up for this with the stunning Lake Kivu, with beaches at Gisenyi and inlets and coves at Kibuye. Out in a kayak, you can paddle around forested islands and nod hello to the fishermen in dug-out canoes.