A restive Hutu population, encouraged by the Belgian military, sparked a revolt in November 1959, resulting in the overthrow of the Tutsi monarchy. Two years later, the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) won an overwhelming victory in a United Nations-supervised referendum.
During the 1959 revolt and its aftermath, more than 160,000 Tutsis fled to neighboring countries. The PARMEHUTU government, formed as a result of the September 1961 election, was granted internal autonomy by Belgium on Jan. 1, 1962. A June 1962 United Nations General Assembly resolution terminated the Belgian trusteeship and granted full independence to Rwanda (and Burundi) effective July 1, 1962.
Gregoire Kayibanda, leader of the PARMEHUTU Party, became Rwanda's first elected president, leading a government chosen from the membership of the directly elected unicameral National Assembly. Peaceful negotiation of international problems, social and economic elevation of the masses, and integrated development of Rwanda were the ideals of the Kayibanda regime. Relations with 43 countries, including the United States, were established in the first 10 years. Despite the progress made, inefficiency and corruption began festering in government ministries in the mid-1960s.
Ethnic-based strife has been a common theme throughout Rwanda's history. A civil war begun in 1990 experienced a temporary cessation of fighting with the signing of a peace accord in 1993. However, fighting resumed in April 1994 with the initiation of state-orchestrated genocide. During the three-month long attempted genocide Rwandans killed up to 1 million of their fellow citizens.
In April 2000, Rwanda's Vice President (and former Commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front), Paul Kagame became the nation's first Tutsi President. The next year, the government began implementation of a grass-roots, village-level justice system, known as gacaca, to address the enormous backlog of genocide cases.
Rwanda in 2009 staged a joint military operation with the Congolese Army in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to rout out an extremist insurgency, and the governments restored diplomatic relations. Rwanda also joined the Commonwealth in late 2009.
Source: The World Factbook, 2014.