At A Glance
Rwanda is still struggling to deal with the aftermath of the genocide that engulfed the country in 1994, when Hutu extremists killed hundreds of thousands of people. Most were hacked to death with machetes.
- About 800,000 killed in 100 days
- Raped women living with HIV/AIDS
- Economy growing, but health still dire
Most of the victims were from the minority Tutsi tribe, but moderate Hutus were also slaughtered.
The international community's failure to prevent the brutality led to some profound soul-searching.
The genocide also sowed the seeds for years of regional war that devastated neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda, a lush green country in the heart of Africa, is associated in the world's consciousness with one of the largest genocides of modern history. About 800,000 people were killed during 100 days of slaughter between April and July 1994.
The killings were carried out by Hutu extremists who targeted ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Hutus are the majority tribe in Rwanda, but the Tutsis had been favoured by colonial European rulers.
Although Hutus took the reins of power after independence from Belgium, resentment of the Tutsis led to periodic massacres.
In neighbouring Burundi, Tutsis are also a minority, but have traditionally dominated politics. Large numbers of Rwandan Tutsis have fled across the border over the decades, while Hutus from Burundi have often sought safety in Rwanda.
Historians say the 1994 massacres were not a spontaneous eruption of violence but carefully planned by a small group within the political, military and economic elite.
They started when a plane carrying the president and his Burundian counterpart was shot down on April 6.
President Juvenal Habyarimana was perceived as a moderate Hutu, far removed from the extremists who preached rabid anti-Tutsi rhetoric in the months before the killing began.
A radio station set up by hardliners spread the rumour among Hutu villagers that Tutsis were preparing for warfare.
"(It) severely damaged the bonds of solidarity between Hutu and Tutsi, people who lived and farmed together as neighbours on almost every one of Rwanda's thousands of hills," according to a report by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies.
Observers put much of the blame on former colonial rulers who exaggerated differences between the two groups and favoured Tutsis, giving them administrative jobs.
The Europeans created a stereotype of Hutus as shorter, darker and less intelligent than Tutsis, who were characterised as tall and slender. But the line between Hutu and Tutsi identity was actually fairly fluid, with frequent intermarriages.
Rwanda's elite had been comprised of Tutsis since the 17th century, 400 years after Tutsis migrated into what is now Rwanda. However, there were also plenty of Tutsis lower down the social scale, living alongside Hutus and the Twa people, the other minority tribe.
Most victims of the 1994 slaughter were chopped down with machetes. Estimates of the death toll range from 500,000 to 1 million. The Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda estimates 800,000 people died, at least half a million of them Tutsis.
Moderate Hutus who wouldn't go along with what was happening were also killed.
Despite the fact U.N. soldiers were in the country monitoring a peace agreement made a year earlier, they were told not to intervene, and it was Tutsi-led rebels from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) who stopped the massacre.
When the RPF, led by Paul Kagame, took control of the country in July 1994, thousands of Hutus fled across the border to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fearing reprisals.
Aid agencies stepped in to assist the refugees, who were struck down by a massive cholera epidemic as they sheltered on the edge of the eastern Congolese town of Goma.
It took a while for the relief organisations to realise the people they were helping included large numbers of killers and their families, and that militia leaders - known as Interahamwe, which means "those who fight together" - virtually controlled the refugee camps.
The exodus from Rwanda sowed the seeds for years of conflict that devastated DRC and contributed to the violence that continues to rumble on in the east of the country.
The Interahamwe's presence in the east was used by Rwanda to justify two invasions of Congo in 1996 and 1998. The second helped spark a five-year war in Congo which sucked in six armies. (See our Congo briefing.)
The conflict and its aftermath left millions dead, mostly from war-related hunger and disease.
The Rwandan genocide had a profound effect on the humanitarian world and was a turning point for everyone - journalists and aid workers alike - who had anything to do with the region at the time.
Many struggled to comprehend how the rest of the world failed to step in or even acknowledge that genocide was happening under their noses and how aid agencies and international media were so slow to analyse the aftermath.
The U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was set up in northern Tanzania and began work in 1997. Rights campaigners say it has been painfully slow, processing a tiny number of cases and sentencing little more than a handful of people to prison terms.
At least a dozen key suspects are still at large.
Because so many Rwandans were accused of participating in the killing, only the most serious genocide cases have gone to the ICTR, which is due to wind up trials by the end of 2008 and close appeals by the end of 2010.
Rwanda has meanwhile tried thousands of lower-level suspects, either in its regular national courts, or in a special system of traditional justice known as "gacaca" courts.
However, many of the accused have spent so long in detention waiting for their hearings that a lot of them have been released after confessing some of their crimes.
This has left many survivors living in villages alongside the people who killed their relatives, with a sense that justice hasn't been done.
The widespread sexual violence that accompanied the 1994 slaughter has also left its legacy. Aside from the psychological scars, thousands of women are now living with AIDS.
Critics have also accused the ICTR of focusing solely on the Hutus to the exclusion of any war crimes that might have been committed by the other side.
The picture has been further complicated by Rwandan government allegations that top French officials were directly involved in the bloodshed. The Rwandan accusations followed war crimes charges brought against Kagame himself by two European judges.
There is little to suggest Kagame or the French officials accused by Rwanda will ever face trial.
Despite the huge hurdles it has faced, the Rwandan government - still led by Kagame - has achieved stability for the country and is often praised as a model aid recipient.
Critics say Kagame's authoritarian leadership style hampers democracy, but supporters credit him with restoring order and healthy economic growth, especially by developing new sectors like technology.
The World Bank has praised the coffee-growing country as one of the fastest reforming economies in the region.
Rwanda has made strides in democracy, education and women's rights, as outlined in a 2007 U.N. report. However, the report says that wealth is concentrated in the top income bracket and warns that rising inequalities could threaten growth.
The country has also been hailed for taking huge steps to combat the HIV virus and reducing the prevalence rate. However, inadequate health care remains a major issue.
Kagame's party, which took three-quarters of the votes at the first post-genocide parliamentary polls in 2002, won by a wide margin again in the September 2008 polls.
More than half the seats were filled by women, making Rwanda the only country in the world where women outnumber men in parliament.
AllAfrica.com compiles news on Rwanda from African media and other sources. The
BBC country profile gives a good potted history and links to local media.
The Human Rights Watch Rwanda page has reports on the country's judicial reforms and the war crimes trials. The site also has a genocide section called Leave None to Tell the Story. This HRW page has information on death toll estimates.
SURF, a British-based fund which helps survivors of the genocide, offers comprehensive educational materials and background. It's a good source for information on the human consequences of the massacres, and points of view from survivors living with the legacy of bereavement, disfigurement, rape and HIV/AIDS.
report by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies explains the role radio played in stirring up ethnic hatred and organising the slaughter.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda website is fairly basic, but keeps a tally of prosecutions.
The U.N. Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) compiles data on HIV rates and trends over time.
We've compiled a reading guide on Rwanda with a rundown of 10 books.