Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has launched a new tourism product dubbed the Liberation Tourism Trail to showcase Rwanda’s history, particularly the one revolving around liberation struggle.
The120-kilometer trail comprises 33 tourism sites across the country including battlefields, assembly or command points of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) during the 4-year war that commenced on October 1, 1990, and culminated into the halting of the Genocide against the Tutsi on July 4, 1994.
The RPA was a military wing of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF- Inkotanyi) which rescued the nation from the verge of extinction by the genocidal government.
To kick-start selling the product, 35 professional guides on Saturday, February 15, completed a 15-day comprehensive training.
The training offered three major skillsets about the war, including the warfare know-how used by the guerrilla force, field visits and rehearsing the narration part, according to Rtd Lt. Col. Ndore Rurinda, the Course Coordinator and an experienced military instructor.
The training was organised in partnership with Rwanda Defence Force, Institute of National Museums of Rwanda and the Private Sector Federation through its chamber of tourism.
After a tour of the Museum of the Campaign against Genocide at Parliament, graduating guides demonstrated their knowledge of the liberation history.
The new product also seeks to diversify the country’s tourism sector.
"We are expecting to grow the tourism sector, increase the number of products and the number of days tourists spend in Rwanda," said Denise Benzige Omanyi, RDB’s Cultural Tourism Project Manager.
She added: “The liberation of Rwanda is, in its own way, an important story. We keep getting a lot of people asking us what happened. So we had to find a better way of telling where and how it happened."
Heritage tourism is nascent in Rwanda.
Frank Gisha, Director General of Tourism Chamber at PSF, said history cannot be counterfeited, hence the need for Rwandans to benefit from their history.
Jeannette Rugero, one of the trained guides is optimistic that the new product will attract more tourists and foreign exchange earnings.
She believes the initiative will enable her to preach the right history to Rwandans and foreigners.
Some of the country’s liberation history is contained in the famous episode of a battalion of 600 RPA soldiers who were trapped there as the Genocide climaxed.
The documentary is available in historic sites including the Campaign against Genocide Museum at the Parliament building.
Moukhtar Omar Sibomana, Production Designer of The 600, a documentary film that depicts the story of that operation who also participated in the training commends its overall impact on using cinema to tell the history of Rwanda.
"We were trained by people who fought the fight, we visited the sites and all of that gives the real history. So as a filmmaker, it is a great opportunity that has just inspired us for more films that tell our stories."
Apart from the Campaign against Genocide Museum in Kimihurura, the trail will include, the RPA entry point in Kagitumba, Nyabwishongwezi where the liberators’ first commander, Maj. General Fred Gisa Rwigema, was killed and Gabiro—the first barracks to be captured by the liberators as well as Nyagatare —the first town to be captured.
Other sites include the RPF and RPA headquarters in Mulindi, Kaniga where Radio Muhabura was stationed and Rubaya Sick Bay of Rubaya, all in Gicumbi as well as and Ruhengeri Prison and RPA reorganisation place in Urugano in Musanze.