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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

93) Currency and coinage of Rwanda, East Africa: Francs and Centimes

93) Currency and coinage of Rwanda, East Africa: Francs and Centimes:

Rwanda: Background:

The Republic of Rwanda is a land-locked Central – Eastern African Republic, having Kigali as its capital and surrounded by Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Tanzania. The country is divided into five Provinces – Northern, Southern, Kigali, Eastern and Western. The Principal languages are Kinyarwanda spoken by most Rwandans and Swahili spoken mostly in the rural areas. English and French are the European languages of communication.

The earliest known inhabitants were the “Twa” people who still live in a minority – present day. Between 700 B.C. and 1500 A,D,, a series of migrations took place and Rwandan society got sub-divided into three main groups – the Hutus, Tutsis, and the original Twa.

Rwanda is well known for its lakes, especially Lake Kivu along the Western border. The highest mountain in the country is Mount Karisimbi. Rwanda is particularly known for its abundant wildlife, particularly the rare mountain gorillas which are a popular tourism attraction.

The Rwandan genocide:

Several confrontations between the Hutus and Tutsis took place, primarily for having a dominating influence over the country.

In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) a rebel group comprising mostly Tutsi refugees invaded Northern Rwanda from Uganda signaling the commencement of the Rwandan Civil War.

The Rwandan Government supported by French troops, initially gained the upper hand, but by 1992, both sides were evenly matched. The country saw the dislocation of several Hutus in the North and localized killing of Tutsis in the South.

A cease-fire was agreed to in 1993 which the shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana’s (who himself had seized power in a military coup) plane near Kigali Airport killing him and the Burundian President. Neither side claimed responsibility but it triggered the worst genocide in Rwandan history. Over the next 100 days or so, between 500000 and 1000000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed in pre-planned attacks on the orders of the interim Government.

To protect the Tutsis, the well organized RPF restarted their offensive and took control of the country in a methodical deployment and by July 1994, had the whole country under their control.

This led to an immediate exodus of about 2 million Hutus to several neighbouring countries fearing reprisals for the genocide. By 1996, several of them died of epidemic for diseases in Refugee camps. The neighbouring countries returned the Refugees to Rwanda.

A period of reconciliation and justice began thereafter, with the establishment of the “International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda” (ICTR) and the re-introduction of a traditional village court system known as “Gacaca” (on the lines of the “Gram Panchayats” in India).

Several steps have been taken to engage in reconciliation between the Communities after the genocide which led to more than two million people being killed. A “genocide memorial” has been set up in Kibuye, where Rwanda has recorded several genocide related experiences as a remembrance and to build up a consciousness that Rwandan society is not torn apart and does not experience such a nightmare again.

Some present facts about Rwanda:

-      Rwanda has become one of Africa’s most successful countries and one of the fastest growing nations in the World, from being a failed State after the 1994 genocide, when social, political and economic structures had collapsed totally.

-      56% of Rwanda’s National Assembly is represented by women. Every measure has been taken to ensure that Rwanda stays a successful/leading African State. Constitutional Amendments keep taking place all the time to keep Rwanda’s position as a successful African Nation.

-      From 2005–2012, Rwanda has reduced its poverty levels by 12.5%, the highest level recorded anywhere in the World. This was achieved by creating opportunities for people to create work for themselves. For example, farmers have been given access to fertilizers, seeds and services and encouraged to take up high –yielding cropping patterns.

-      Rwandan Government works hard towards keeping the country corruption free. Because of its focused efforts in this direction, it is often dubbed as a Police State. Nevertheless, it is now regarded as the safest country in the World.

-      Foreign investors find conducive investment opportunities, in the absence of corruption in any form.

History of Currency/coinage of Rwanda:
In 1916, the Franc was adopted as the currency in Rwanda, when the German occupation of the country was terminated, with Belgium occupying it. The Belgian Congo Franc replaced the German East African Rupie.

In 1960, the Belgian Congo Franc was replaced by the “Rwandan and Burundi franc”.

From 1964, Rwanda began to issue its own Franc. 

Currency/Bank Note issues:

The Rwandan franc is sub-divided into 100 centimes.

In 1964, initially, Rwanda-Burundi issued provisional Bank-notes by hand-stamping franc notes in the denominations of 20 to 100 francs and embossing notes in the denominations of 500 and 1000 francs.

These initial Note issues were followed by regular Banknote issues in the same denominations from 1964 to 1976.

In 1977, 20 and 50 franc notes were replaced by coins.

In 1978, 5000 franc notes were issued.

In 2007, 2000 franc notes were issued.

In 2008, 100 franc notes were replaced by bimetallic coins.

Present Series:

On the Front, the 100 francs Note (also called “Ijana Amafaranga”) shows a Farmer and his son ploughing a field with buffaloes. This Note has been withdrawn from circulation from 31.12.2009 after the introduction of the 100 franc bimetallic coin in 2008.

On top of the Note is mentioned the name of the issuing Authority – “Banque Nationale du Rwanda” in French and “National Bank of Rwanda” in English. There is a warning to counterfeiters – “Counterfeiting is punishable by Law” (in English) and “La Loi Punit Le Contrefacteur” (in French). On the right is the logo/emblem of Rwanda. The denomination of the Note is given in both French and English – “Cent francs” and “one hundred francs”. This Note was issued on 01.09.2003.

On the Back of the 100 franc Note is the Kivu Lake at Kibuye.

Lake Kivu (Kivu itself means lake) is one of the African Great Lakes on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Since 1894 when it was first visited by a German, it has been witnessing the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi people in Rwanda and their allies in Congo. Kibuye is the city near which the Lake is situated and it is believed that the beach town was turned into a place of terror when about 90% of the town’s Tutsi population was massacred during the genocide. Lake Kivu, also, witnessed the horror of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and had a dark chapter in its history, when bodies of several victims of the genocide are said to have been dumped into its waters. Kibuye city now has a “genocide memorial” in memory of the victims.

Also, on the Back is mentioned in Kinyarwanda “Banki Nasiyonali Y’u Rwanda” and “Itegeko Lihana Umuntu wese Uzigana Iyi Noti” and “Amafaranga”. The mirror image initials of “BNR” can be seen on the reverse towards the bottom of the oval water-mark window.

On the Front, the 500 francs Note (also called “Amafaranga Magana Atanu”) shows the Building of the National Bank of Rwanda or the “Banque Nationale du Rwanda” located at Kigali. On top of the Note are the inscriptions "Banki Nasiyonali Y'u Rwanda" and "Iyi Noti Yemewe N’Amategeko” in Kinyarwanda . This Note was issued on 01.07.2004.
  On the Back, the 500 francs Note depicts the scene of a Tea Plantation being harvested.

 The name of the National Bank of Rwanda in English and French appears on the Back on this denomination, instead of the Front as in the case of the 100 franc Note. The denomination of the Note "Cinq cents francs" (in French) and "five hundred francs"(in English) are mentioned. Also mentioned on the Note is “Ce billet A Cours Legal” (in French) and “This Note is legal tender” (in English).

On the Front, the 1000 francs Note (also called “ Amarafaranga Igihumbi) shows the National Museum of Rwanda, located at Butare. Also mentioned is the name of the National Bank of Rwanda in Kinyarwanda ““Banki Nasiyonali Y’u Rwanda”. Also mentioned on the Note is “Iyi Noti Yemewe N’Amategeko”.  This Note was issued on 01.07.2004.

On the Back, the 1000 francs Note shows images of a golden monkey in the Volcanoes National Park. Also mentioned on this face is "Mille francs" (in French) and "francs one thousand" in English and the name of the National Bank of Rwanda in English and French.

Volcanoes National Park lies in the North-Western Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. It covers five volcanoes, viz., Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo out of the eight volcanoes found in the Virunga Mountains. The park is best known for the Mountain Gorilla (“Gorilla beringei beringei”). The golden monkey (“Cercopithecus mitis kandit”) is also found there in addition to several antelopes, hyenas, elephants and bird species.

  On the Front, the 2000 francs Note (also called “Amafaranga Ibihumbi Bibiri”) shows a Satellite Dish and a Radio Tower.

On the Back, the 2000 francs Note shows coffee beans. Also, mentioned, inter alia is "Duex Mille " (in French) and " two thousand francs" in English.

On the Front, the 5000 francs Note (also called Amafaranga Ibihumbi Bitanu ”) is depicted a Mountain Gorilla in Volcanoes National Park.This Note was issued on 01.04.2004.

On the Back, the 5000 francs Note shows artistically woven baskets. Also, mentioned, inter alia, on the Note is "CinQ Mille" (in French) and Five thousand Francs" (in English).

In 1964, 1 franc (cupro-nickel), 5 franc (bronze) and 10 franc (cupro-nickel coins were issued.

In 1969, the composition of 1 franc coins was changed to aluminium due to rising cost of minting.

Later, in 1970, ½ and 2 franc coins were introduced in aluminium.

In 1974, the size of the 10 franc coin was reduced.

In 1977, 20 and 50 franc coins were brought into circulation. These were minted in Brass.

In 2004, a new series of coins replaced the existing ones, having all the existing denominations from 1 franc to 50 francs, with a new bimetallic 100 franc coin being added in 2008 which replaced the 100 franc Note.

Rwanda has joined up with five other countries under the banner of “East African Community” to have a new common currency – the “East African shilling” from 2013 onwards.

(The above Notes are from the collection of Ajit George. Article researched and scanning of Notes done by Rajeev Prasad)


  1. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented on 09.04.13:
    Very colourful Notes and meaningful pictures of the crafts etc. in Rwanda(E.A.).

  2. Thank you. I was, myself, very impressed by the work that has gone into planning and designing these Notes.