Most of Rwanda is situated at 5,000 ft (1,520 m) or higher, and the country has a rugged relief made up of steep mountains and deep valleys. The principal geographical feature is the Virunga mountain range, which runs north of Lake Kivu and includes Rwanda's loftiest point, Volcan Karisimbi (14,787 ft/4,507 m). There is some lower land (at elevations below 3,000 ft/910 m) along the eastern shore of Lake Kivu and the Ruzizi River in the west and near the Tanzanian border in the east. In addition to the capital, other towns include Butare, Gisenyi, and Ruhengeri.
About 85% of the inhabitants are Hutu, and the rest Tutsi, except for a small number of Twa, who are a Pygmy group. Since independence, ethnic violence has led to large-scale massacres and the creation of perhaps as many as three million refugees. Kinyarwanda (a Bantu tongue), French, and English are the official languages, and Swahili is also spoken. Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, and its population has a high annual growth rate that is usually around 3%. About 90% of the people are Christian (more than half of these Roman Catholic, with Protestant and Adventist minorities) and 5% (mostly Tutsis) are Muslim. A small number follow traditional religious beliefs.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.