Bringing Rwanda’s History to life

  • By Andrew Israel Kazibwe
  • February 21, 2012
The former State House is now a Museum.

Located in Kanombe, the eastern suburb of Kigali City, approximately 4 kilometres from Kigali International Airport, 300 meters from Kanombe Military Court - is the Presidential Palace Museum.

Presidential Palace Museum opens daily.
A red iron gate opens into a tarmacked compound surrounded by beautiful flowers and gardens. The Presidential Palace is a unique and quiet place where one is treated to Rwandan historical display of knowledge through pictures, paintings, wood curving, furniture and artefacts as you tour the interior and exterior of the palace.

The museum displays a variety of rich history and culture that indeed one needs to see for themselves. For example the evolution of Rwandan fashion from the 1900s -1960s where you notice that the art of dressing and decoration in Rwanda started long ago, and was based on different statuses of people; married, wealthy, ruling class and how the missionaries used to dress.

The pictures displayed in the museum portray different ancient hair styles and some of the first kings like King Yuhi V. Musinga. The wood carvings display interesting compositions of different activities such as cooking, eating, digging, dancing and hunting - which were carried out by the ancient Rwandans.

A closer view of the Presidential Palace Museum.
This former State House has a living room, dinning, kitchens, bathrooms, sauna and a study room. But perhaps most exciting is the gigantic elephant-foot-table, in the master bedroom, designed from elephant skin.

The exterior has beautiful gardens in a cool atmosphere, a swimming pool, a snake pool and a tennis court and the remains of the plane crash that killed former Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira.

John Baptist Safari, a tour guide at the Presidential Palace Museum tells us more about this place. Below are the excerpts.

Q: When was the museum launched?
A: Initially, it was a Sate House for former presidents Juvénal Habyarimana and Pasteur Bizimungu. It however started operating as a museum in 2008.

Q: What was the major objective of converting the former presidential palace into a museum?
A: At first, due to the ethnic divisions promoted by the Habyarimana regime, the Tutsi were not allowed into this place, so the government opened it up for all Rwandans and the public.

Q: How has the turn up of people been ever since this museum started?
A:  In 2008 we used to receive 10 to 20 visitors a day, and in 2009 the number increased to between 30 and 40. But since 2010 we now receive 70- 90 guests, of whom 20 are foreigners. According to statistics of our entrance records and revenue, this shows that there is great progress in the turn up. We currently host different schools which too come here to learn of the country’s history.

Q: What other activities take place at this museum?
A: Since we have beautiful gardens and ample space, these gardens are hired for functions like; wedding ceremonies, parties and other social gatherings.

Q: What future plans do you have for this place?
A: We are in the process of bringing this place’s features back to life. For example, we are in negotiations with various companies to renovate the swimming pool. We also plan to bring a python and place it back by the snake pool and a crocodile. This is an expensive venture to establish but it will make this environment more interesting and educative.
We plan to build a shelter for the plane debris so that they are not destroyed by weather. We would like this place to be both an education and recreation centre.

Q: Any advice to the people out there?
A: Since we have a mobile museum which will be moving around from place to place - showing educative films about our culture, I encourage all Rwandans to make use of it. It was in Kigali last year and it is now in the Western Province - Nyanza, Muhanga, and Huye.
Also I encourage the public to reach out to these museums for more knowledge and facts about the Rwandan history and culture.
The museum is open daily – admission fee for adults is Rwf 1000 while students and children pay Rwf 500. Adult visitors from outside the East African Community pay Rfw6000 while children enter for Rwf 3000.

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