Rwanda's population is made up almost exclusively of two ethnic groups, the Hutus, traditionally farmers, and Tutsi, descended from a tribe of cattle herders. Before the 19th century, differences between the groups appear to have been as much occupational and hereditary as ethnic, and intermarriage was, and still is, common. Both speak the same language, Kinyarwanda.
According to the human rights group African Rights, the minority Tutsi became dominant during the 19th century because cattle as a form of disposable wealth enabled them to mobilise an army and they became the country's political elite.
Ethnic divisions were exploited by Belgium, which ruled Rwanda after the turn of the 20th century, systematically excluding Hutus from education and administrative positions.
But in 1959, after Tutsi leaders began to press for independence, they switched allegiance and aided a Hutu uprising which led to the killing of 10,000 Tutsi and an exodus of many Tutsi refugees to neighbouring Uganda and Burundi.
Once it gained independence in 1962, Rwanda was run by a single party, the Hutu-dominated National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND) which used schools and other institutions to reinforce its power. It retained the national identity card, used by the Belgian colonialists, which obliged all Rwandans to register as either Hutu or Tutsi.
Further clashes between Hutus and Tutsi occurred in 1973 and the mid 1980s. In October 1990 fighting broke out between the Rwandan Government Armed Forces (FAR) and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR), when a 10,000-strong army of mainly Tutsi exiles crossed the Ugandan border.
The conflict forced the ruling MRND to sign a peace agreement in August 1993, and agree to the formation of a power-sharing government, leading to multi-party elections. The United Nations sent in 2,700 troops to keep the peace.
On April 6, 1994, an aircraft carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down, leading to a coup by extremists within the MRND opposed to the agreement, sparking the genocide and the resumption of fighting by the FPR.
A new Government, led by the FPR, but with support from other political parties except the MRND, was established on July 18, pledged to hold democratic elections under the UN agreement.
Population 1993 7.8 million Population now 4.8 million Killed in genocidewar 1.0 million Refugees outside country 2.0 million Children under 16 in 1993 3.7 million Primary school children in 1993 1.1 million Now 900,000 Children orphanedlostseparated in war 95,000 Children under 17 in army 4,000 Children in detention 1,028