Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in November 2009, becoming its 54th member.
In 2008 the Government of Rwanda decided to change the medium of education from French to English.
In September 2008 Rwanda became the first nation in the world to elect a majority of women MPs: 45 of the 80 members of the Chamber of Deputies. The number increased to 51 women deputies in the September 2013 election.
The Republic of Rwanda is a landlocked country with land borders with four countries: Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo (clockwise from the north). Water covers 1,390 sq km of the country; the largest lakes include Bulera, Ihema, Kivu (straddling the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo), Mugesera and Muhazi, and there are many rivers. The country comprises five provinces.
Kigali (capital, pop. 1.13m in 2012), Gisenyi (126,706), Ruhengeri (59,300), Butare (50,220), Gitarama (49,038), Byumba (34,544), Cyangugu (27,416), Nyanza (25,417), Rwamagana (18,009), Ruhango (17,051), Gikongoro (16,695), Kibuye (12,325) and Kibungo (11,537).
There are 14,000 km of roads, 19 per cent paved. There is no railway.
The main international airport is Kigali International.
Rwanda is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
Rwanda joined the East African Community in July 2007. Commonwealth leaders, holding their biennial CHOGM in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, admitted Rwanda as the association’s 54th member on 28 November 2009.
The terrain is rugged with steep hills and deep valleys, rising in the north to the highest peak, Karisimbi (4,519 metres), which lies in a range of volcanoes. The country is popularly known as the ‘land of a thousand hills’.
Though the country is close to the Equator, the climate is tempered by altitude; it is hot and humid in the valleys, and drier and cooler in the higher elevations. The rainy seasons are March–May and October–November; the hottest season August–September.
The most significant environmental issues are drought, limiting the potential for agriculture; overgrazing; soil erosion and degradation; and deforestation due to almost universal use of wood as a fuel.
Thick equatorial rainforest is found in the north and west of the country – forest covering some 18 per cent of the total land area – and savannah in the east. Forest cover has increased at 1.6 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises 49 per cent and permanent cropland ten per cent of the total land area.
National parks and game reserves cover some eight per cent of the country and include the Volcanoes National Park (famous for its mountain gorillas) and Akagera National Park (elephants, buffaloes, giraffes and zebras). Some 20 mammal species and 14 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).