There is something special about the Campaign Against Genocide Museum (CAG), which is located at the Parliamentary Buildings in Kimihurura.
This is according to Robert Masozera, the Director General of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda (INMR), which currently manages eight national museums across the country including the CAG.
“It’s the only museum in the region that displays the history of people who are still alive,” he told The New Times.
Masozera said that the fact that the museum embodies the story of people like President Paul Kagame and many members of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), who are still alive, makes it extremely exciting to visit, especially by young people who want to learn about the country’s history.
“This is of great interest for visitors because it makes the museum’s content more authentic,” he said.
Nearly two years after it was opened, the Campaign Against Genocide Museum (CAG), has become the most visited of all the eight museums under he institute, attracting many Rwandans and foreigners, especially those from the East African Community region.
“We suspect the museum’s content is of great interest for Rwandans, especially the youth who are inspired by the history it showcases,” Masozera said.
CAG museum is built in the Parliamentary building in Kigali, which was once known as Conseil National de Development (CND), and which harbors a lot of memories of the struggle to liberate the country, which was mounted by the Rwanda Patriotic Front, through its armed wing, the Rwanda Patriotic Army.
During the liberation struggle, the building hosted RPF politicians and a 600-strong protection force (3rd Battalion) from RPA, from 28th December 1993 as they were in the preparations for the installation of a broad-based Transitional Government and the National Transitional Assembly in the country.
It’s the same protection force that was given the order first on April 7, 1994 by the RPA Chairman of High Command, then a Major General Paul Kagame and now current President of Rwanda, to break out from their initial positions at the Parliamentary Buildings in order to defend themselves and rescue victims of Genocide against the Tutsi that had just been started by the then genocidal government.
That order is famously known as the ‘order to stop the genocide’ and it marks the beginning of a four-month campaign against Genocide that led Rwanda to Liberation Day on July 4, 1994 and continued until August 22, 1994 when the government army that was committing genocide (FAR) and its interahamwe militia were pushed out of the country.
The museum depicts in details how the Campaign Against Genocide Plan was executed by RPF politicians and their allies among many other Rwandans as well as the RPA soldiers, following the withdrawal of UN troops that left the targeted Tutsi under the mercy of the Genocidaires.
The museum thus shows how only the RPF/A forces, who were in the war of liberation, took the unilateral decision to stop Genocide, rescue victims of Genocide, and defeat the Genocidal forces, against all odds.
CAG Museum also has its external part comprised of monuments including that of the 12.7mm Machine Gun that helped in stave off the advancing genocidal forces of the then government – the same that was executing the Genocide – from different parts of Kigali.
Medard Bashana, the museum’s manager, said that about 6,000 visitors tour the facility every month.
While 70 per cent of the visitors are Rwandans, especially the youth such as school children on study tours and youth groups in different communities visiting to learn about the history, the rest are foreigners mostly from the EAC region, according to Bashana.
Masozera said that interest from the youth has especially driven up the number of visitors at CAG if compared with other museums.
“The young people are very excited and inspired by the liberation story. They are fascinated by the story of soldiers during the liberation struggle and that’s why they flock to the museum,” he said.
Youth testimonies of why they visit the place validate the Director General’s perception.
Peline Mudahunga, 21, visited the museum on Tuesday from Kabuga in Kigali City’s Gasabo District where she lives with her mother.
“I have always wanted to visit the museum because I have information that my dad was a member of the RPA and died after liberating the country,” she said.
She added: “I had visited so many museums but none of them had documented the lives of soldiers at the battlefield. I came here to learn about that at this museum”.
For Lumière Kwibuka, 18, he has always wanted to visit the museum because his peers among the youth told him about it.
“I was curious about the planning of the campaign struggle to liberate the country. Those who visited the area would tell me about it and I wanted to hear more about it myself,” he said.
Entrance fees for CAG are like any other fees at the Institute’s eight museums, at Rwf1, 500 for nationals (adults), $5 for EAC citizens, $8 for foreign residents in Rwanda and $10 for non-residents.
Students pay Rwf700, $2, $3 and $5 respectively for nationals, EAC citizens, residents and non-residents.
Masozera said that given the interest generated for visitors by CAG, the same level of interest could in the future be generated by the Mulindi-based National Liberation Park Museum in Northern Province’s Gicumbi District, which exhibits a bunker that protected President Paul Kagame during the Liberation Struggle.
The Liberation Park Museum is still under construction and the official said it could be completed by 2021 when it will be able to display books, military equipment, and other interesting materials related to the struggle.
Sitting on a hill that is surrounded by tea plantations, Mulindi is also renowned for being the seat of the High Command of the RPF/A throughout the struggle.
Additional works will also be done on CAG, especially on its external parts, such as bunkers that were used by RPA soldiers at the Parliamentary building, as well as their break-out areas.
Of the eight museums run by the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda, CAG museum is the most visited, followed by the Huye-Based Ethnographic Museum, while the king’s Palace Museum based in Nyanza District is the third most visited.