January 28, 2013 - Democracy Day in Rwanda

When I think of the tiny African nation of Rwanda, I don't think of democracy—I think of genocide.
That's because in the early 1990s Rwanda had a grisly civil war between two different ethnic groups, and in 1994 there was a horrific massacre. The word genocide means the deliberate killing of a particular group of people—and when Hutu extremists killed about a million Tutsi (and moderate Hutu)—well, that qualifies as genocide.

But Rwanda is trying to put that horrific past behind it and tell the world about the good things about the nation. Here are some of the “best of” Rwanda:

  • It is one of only two countries in which mountain gorillas can be seen, and gorilla tracking has helped tourism grow. Chimps, golden monkeys, and other primates live safely in Nyngwe Forest, another popular attraction.
  • Traditional arts include imigongo, which is cow dung art. (You read that right—it's made with cow poop!)

  • Rwanda was the first country to be ruled by a parliament in which women outnumber the men (after the 2008 elections).

  • Rwanda is attempting to become the Switzerland or Singapore of Africa. Like Switzerland and Singapore, it is a small nation that is positioning itself as very business-friendly. (And like Switzerland, Rwanda is landlocked and very mountainous. It is sometimes called the Land of 1000 Hills, and the entire nation lies at high latitudes.) Rwandan President Kagame is trying hard to make sure the cities and towns are clean and orderly, he has personally started a trade relationship in which CostCo and Starbucks buy Rwandan coffee, and he has succeeded in luring some tech companies, such as Google, to invest in his nation.

Check out photos of Rwanda here and also over here.

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