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*Rwanda gained independence from Belgium on this date in 1962. Separated from Burundi, the episode is commemorated as Independence Day, a national holiday.
This came after decades of colonial strife resulting from the Berlin Conference of 1884. Modern human settlement of what is now Rwanda dates from, at the latest, the last glacial period, either in the Neolithic period around 8000 BC or in the long humid period which followed, up to around 3000 BC. Archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of sparse settlement by hunter-gatherers in the late Stone Age, followed by a larger population of early Iron Age settlers, who produced dimpled pottery and iron tools.
These early inhabitants were the ancestors of the Twa, aboriginal pygmy hunter-gatherers who remain in Rwanda today. Between 700 BC and 1500 AD, several Bantu groups migrated into Rwanda, clearing forest land for agriculture. The forest-dwelling Twa lost much of their habitat and moved to the mountain slopes. Historians have several theories regarding the nature of the Bantu migrations; one theory is that the first settlers were Hutu, while the Tutsi migrated later to form a distinct racial group, possibly of Nilo-Hamitic origin. An alternative theory is that the migration was slow and steady, with incoming groups integrating into rather than conquering the existing society.
Under this theory, the Hutu and Tutsi distinction arose later and was a class distinction rather than a racial one. The Republic of Rwanda is a landlocked country in the Great Rift Valley, where the African Great Lakes region and East Africa converge. Located a few degrees south of the Equator, Rwanda is bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is highly elevated, giving it the soubriquet "land of a thousand hills", with its geography dominated by mountains in the west and savanna to the east, with numerous lakes throughout the country.
The climate is temperate to subtropical, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons each year. Rwanda's population had increased from 1.6 million people in 1934 to 7.1 million in 1989, leading to competition for land. Rwanda has a population of over 12.6 million living on 10,169 sq mi of land and is the most densely populated mainland African country. Because of the Rwanda murders of 1994, the country has the youngest population on the continent averaging 19 years of age. A million people live in the capital and largest city Kigali.