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Rwanda rises from relatively flat plains in the east along the Tanzania border to steep mountains in the west along the continental divide between the Congo and Nile rivers.

From the continental divide, the land drops sharply to the shores of Lake Kivu, which forms most of Rwanda's border with Congo.

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During the 1994 genocide, an estimated 80 percent of the Tutsi population living in Rwanda was killed, perhaps 600,000 people, but after a Tutsi-dominated government came to power in Rwanda in 1994, an estimated 700,000 Tutsi refugees returned from abroad.

Meanwhile, several hundred thousand Hutu also died in the genocide and war and from diseases like cholera that spread in refugee camps when, at the end of the war, several million Hutu fled to Tanzania and Congo.

Each group had distinct roles in public rituals, and each group had a distinctive mode of dress.

The monarchy served as an important unifying symbol, representing the interest of all three ethnic groups.

A system of cattle vassalage bound local communities together and tied them to the monarchy.

Areas outside the central kingdom retained their distinct political and social organizations to varying degrees, with some chief-taincies merely paying tribute to the Rwandan king, but remaining otherwise autonomous.As a result, the size and ethnic breakdown of the population are thought to be roughly comparable today to that before the 1994 war.Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa.The colonial overlords helped the Rwandan monarchy to centralize its control and extend its social system throughout the territory that is contemporary Rwanda, eliminating the local social and political variations that had existed in the precolonial period.By establishing modern state institutions in Rwanda, the colonial administrators also imported the ideas of nationality associated with the modern nation-state.Hutu and Tutsi were also linked together throughout much of the territory in a system of cattle vassalage, in which Tutsi patrons provided cattle to Hutu clients.

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