The Presidential Palace Museum is one of the frequently visited memorial places in Kigali. A tourist attraction in the city, the place palace museum was the home to the late Juvenal Habyarimana – Rwanda’s last president before the 1994 genocide.
In April 1994, the then President of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana together with Cyprian Ntaryamira of Burundi, who had been given a lift by the former had their plane shot down and coincidentally fell into his house compound. This is the incident that sparked off the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.
Currently the place is a renowned museum flocked by tourists and local visitors who come to see flight remains and also witness /experience the former president’s way of living.
The place is located only 4 kilometers from Kanombe Airstrip, east of Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali. To reach there, you take the airport road, driving for a few kilometers till you reach Kanombe military hospital and can see it on your right.
As you continue driving, the road will change from tarmac to dirt. As you edge Kanombe primary school (still on your right), you get to a place where the road splits into many routes. All you have to do is turn on your left and drive straight to the gate of the museum. This museum can be visited any day of the week. It is open seven days a week. Visits start from 9 am to 5 pm. The only alternation comes during Umuganda, when the gates open at 11 am.
The entrance to this presidential palace museum in Kigali for non-residents is Rwf 6,000 where as people with a resident visa pay Rwf 5,000. You should not forget to carry your residency card as it is one of the requirements for entrance. Photography will cost you an extra Rwf 2,000, with condition that you only take shots from the exterior of the palace and not interior.
The president called for his house to be constructed in 1976 and shifted to it 4 years later in 1980 when the construction was done. The initial plan of the house was drawn by a french architect, who was hired by Habyarimana by then to lay him a beautiful foundation of a house.
This can be seen on the palace’s internal structure. The structure has rooms with secret routes, some leading to a room where the president used to carry out witchcraft from and another leading to a room where disobedient people were tortured from.
The president palace museum is very strange in looks. Some rooms look very good while others are just the opposite. This strange look is claimed to have come from the president’s own sense of worry and suspicion as a president during a tremendously terrifying time in Rwanda’s history.
The house is full of sensors that often alerted the president of movements in restricted corridors. Some rooms had weaponry hidden into television cabinets. However, the most inquisitive room in the house was the upper floor that had a chapel on one side and a mysterious room for witchcraft on the other side. This mysterious witchcraft room is where Habyarimana consumed magic potions and made animal sacrifices together with his witch doctor.
The gardens outside the house are more normal and well maintained in a good condition . The compound is well kept with variety of many beautiful trees and flowers of all types shading very lovely patches of grass crisscrossed by stone walkways.
The compound also has a tennis court, swimming pool, an outdoor bar and playground equipment are also a available. Near the center of the behind garden are the remains of a concrete pond that once stored the president’s treasured pet, a 300 pound python whose duty it was to fend off evil spirits, as well as imparting fear in any of the president’s visitors who was not in his favor.
Next to the palace yard deceits what may be the greatest piece of the institution – the leftovers of Habyarimana with his 60 passenger jet that were notably shot on April 6th, 1994, causing the Rwandan Genocide.
Habyarimana’s plane unexpectedly crashed in his own home yard, killing everyone, including Burundi president by then. The crash damaged the python’s pond which escaped and nobody ever set eyes on it again.
Overall, the Presidential Palace Museum takes only 1 – 2 hours to explore. This span depends on the stopovers you make. It could even be less.
The guides are available to answer any question or about anything you may need to know. The palace itself needs great repair. Nevertheless, the house walls and all the furniture’s still look the same way they were left before Habyarimana’s sudden death in 1994.
It is absolutely worth reading-through. Widen your eyes as you may see giant pythons moving on grass.