The banknotes of the thousand hills.

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Historical context

At the end of the 19th century, Rwanda was attributed to the German Empire at the Berlin conference. The first German colonizers, then Belgians, discovered an African society made up of three ethnic groups: the Hutus, the Tutsis and the Twa. Very quickly, the colonial administration relied on the Tutsi who were assimilated to a so-called superior "race" while the Hutu ethnic group was considered inferior. Access to benefits, education and administrative positions is therefore exclusively and primarily reserved for Tutsi. The terms “Hutu” (commoner) and “Tutsi” (noble) become an identity reference leading to an antagonistic differentiation of society between these two groups. And although this distinction between Hutu and Tutsi pre-existed before colonization, the ethnic cleavage then becomes more and more abysmal. This tension will continue to be exacerbated until the inevitable outbreak in 1988 of a civil war which will tragically mark the history of the country by the genocide of the Tutsis perpetrated between April and July 1994.

Rwanda banknotes Issues

The country gained independence in January 1961 and Grégoire Kayibanda, a Hutu, became the first President of the Republic in October 1961. The country did not have the means to mint money and the young National Bank of Rwanda (NBR) must be patient with the 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 franc notes issued by the Bank of Issue of Rwanda and Burundi. The three smallest values are then overprinted with a black “National Bank of Rwanda” stamp and signed by Governor Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana. The 500 and the 1000 francs have the same specificities but in the form of a relief embossing which is less easy to detect for collectors.


Front of 100 francs Type 1960. Dimensions: 150 x 70 mm.

The second issue was put into circulation between 1964 and 1976. This consists of a series of 5 banknotes of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 francs bearing on the front, the national flag, a stylized map or the coat of arms of the Rwanda. The backs pay tribute to the country's natural resources, including particularly dynamic agriculture.


Back of 1,000 francs Type 1964. Dimensions: 165 x 70 mm.

The third issue of 1974 contains only one 500-franc note bearing the image of President Juvénal Habyarimana. The fourth issue of 1978 continues to promote Rwandan agriculture and presents for the first time the exceptional sites of this region of the Great Lakes. Called the "Land of a Thousand Hills", Rwanda is bordered to the north by a chain of high volcanoes, to the east by the Akagera marshes, to the south-east by the Bugesera marshes, to the south-west by the Nyungwe forest massif, where the source of the Nile is located and to the west by the immense Lake Kivu ...


Back of 100 francs Type 1978. Dimensions: 135 x 70 mm.

Between 1981 and 2019, the National Bank of Rwanda issued 8 new additional series following the themes presented above to arrive at a current total of 41 banknotes. Rwanda is the 69th country to enter the Numizon catalog ... Quickly discover a new country to collect!

Our sources

  • "The Banknote Book: Rwanda" by Owen W. Linzmeyer.
  • "Rwanda" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1961-present, 17th edition (pages 825 to 830).
  • "Rwanda" Wikipedia.
  • Photos from and Heritage Auctions sales archives.
  • Reference website: Bank Note Museum.

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