Rwanda Religion and Languages

By | March 5, 2021

According to franciscogardening, Rwanda is a landlocked African country located in the eastern region of the continent. It has a population of around 12 million people and covers an area of 26,338 square kilometers. The capital city is Kigali, which is also the largest city in the country. The official language of Rwanda is Kinyarwanda but other languages such as French and English are also spoken. Rwanda has a long history as an independent state with strong ties to its East African neighbors. Its economy relies mainly on services, supplemented by agriculture and mining. With a GDP of $10 billion USD in 2020, Rwanda remains one of the smaller economies in Africa.


According to Countryaah, Rwanda has undergone a radical demographic change since the genocide of the Tutsi population in 1994. Of 7.6 million residents in 1993, 1 million are estimated to have been killed. 125,000 Rwandans are still refugees or asylum seekers, mainly in neighboring countries. About 220,000 children are orphans.

Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa (485 residents per km2, 2019). Most of the population resides on the ridges that cross the country. In 2019, only 19 percent of the population was estimated to live in cities; the population of the country’s largest city Kigali increased very rapidly at the time of the 1994 genocide and is 859,300 residents (2013).

The three main groups are hutu, tutsi and twee. Hutu is usually estimated at around 85 percent of the total population. Tutsi, akin to the Nilotic Shepherds of East Africa, emphasizes like these the importance of warlike virtues such as courage, self-restraint and political independence for their own part. The Tutsi population (1 million) has decreased as a result of the 1994 genocide, when between 500,000 and 1 million people were killed; from having made up 14 percent of the population, Tutsi now constitutes about 10 percent. Two are pygmies and are estimated at 27,000. They have traditionally lived in the Gishwati forest but have been banished from there. Today many branches feed on pottery.

In sharp contrast to this shepherd culture, the majority population is hutus (over 9 million) agricultural culture, akin to the cultures of the tropical rainforest belt in Congo (Kinshasa). While a Tutsi reputation is based on aristocratic values ​​such as a long genealogy, political independence and a worthy gentleman’s appearance, a Hutus reputation is rather based on whether he succeeds in creating material wealth through hard work, even if he does so by subjugating himself to the client. a patron of Tutsi descent.

These fundamentally opposed value systems, combined with a 600-year tradition of endogenous casteism and political dominance and social disrespect on the part of Tutsis, are the backdrop to the disputes that constantly flared up between Tutsi and Hutu since Rwanda became an independent state.


Official languages ​​are Rwanda, which is also the mother tongue of all ethnic groups in the country, as well as French and since 2008 also English.


Today, almost everyone living in the country is Christian. The Catholic Church (established in the country in 1889) is the predominant Christian faith community with over 40% of the nation’s members as members. Every tenth Rwandan is said to be a member of Rwanda’s Anglican Church (established in the country in 1920) and about as many are said to belong to one of the Pentecostal or Baptist communities in the country, while Seventh-day Adventists are half as many. Almost 5% of the population are Muslims and just over 3% practice traditional domestic religion (primarily). In addition, there are minorities of Hindus and Baha’i followers.

During the colonial period, the country was governed by the constitutions and legislation of the colonial powers (Germany 1894–1918 and Belgium 1919–62), which in various ways had close ties to Christian churches. During the Belgian colonial period, the close ties of the Catholic Church to the state helped to strengthen the contradictions between Hutus and Tutsis, where they were later favored by the Belgian colonial power. Before independence in 1962, the Hutus had broken the Tutsis’ monopoly of power. However, the Catholic Church was still closely associated with the power elite in the ethnically and politically divided Rwanda. The 1994 genocide, when more than 800,000 Rwandans, mostly Tutsis, were murdered, led many to leave the Catholic Church.

According to the Rwanda Constitution of 2003, with amendments 2005, and other laws, the state is secular and there is religious freedom in the country. Everyone has the right to choose and practice their religion and it is forbidden to discriminate against anyone on religious grounds. It is further prohibited to enter in passports or other identity documents or otherwise, e.g. with headgear on the passport photo, showing which religion you belong to. The reason for these restrictions is that, under Belgian rule, information on ethnic affiliation was introduced in passports and other identity documents, which helped the murderers to find their victims during the 1994 genocide.

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All organizations, including religious communities, that are not run for profit and who want legal status must be registered. By law, the compulsory school is required to teach religious knowledge. Parents have the right to place their children in private religious schools for religious reasons.

National religious holidays are Good Friday, Mary’s ascension to heaven, Id al-adha and Christmas Day.

Rwanda Population by Religion


Butare, formerly Astrida, city ​​and cultural center of Rwanda, 1,750 m above sea level, (2012) 50,200 residents.

Catholic bishopric, university (founded in 1963), national museum (traditional African art); Airport.


Gisenyi [gise ni], capital of the prefecture in Rwanda, in the northwest of the country, on the northeastern shore of Lake Kivu, (2012) 136 800 residents.

Seat of a Catholic bishop (Diocese of Nyundo); Large brewery, coffee roastery, dairy industry, tobacco trade; Airport.


Kigali, capital of Rwanda, in a wide high valley in the center of the country, 1,540 m above sea level with around 1.0 million residents.

Kigali is the country’s economic center and transportation hub.