The Presidential Palace Museum, the fortress of former Rwandan President Juvenel Habyarimana. It is also locally known as ‘Habyarimana’s house’. Habyarimana’s plane was shot down on April 6th 1994 and the incident ignited the Rwandan Genocide that claimed several human lives. Currently the palace is a museum where tourists can see how the former president lived.
Located 2 kilometers from Kigali International Airport, The Presidential Palace Museum is one of the museums in Kigali that offers visitors an opportunity to tour the former state house and also get an synopsis of Rwanda’s history.
The Presidential Palace Museum is situated in Kanombe, on the eastern fringes of Kigali. To access the once luxurious palace, take the road to the airport and when you pass the airport carry on driving for some kilometers till you reach Kanombe military hospital on the right side. Continue and the road will change from tarmac to dust. When you find Kanombe primary school on your right, the road will split. Take the left split and that will lead you straightforward to the museum. The palace is open 7 days a week from 9.00 am to 5pm (with the exception of umuganda, when they open at 11 a.m).
Entering the museum for non-residents is Rwandan Francs 6,000 and for people with a resident visa part with Rwf 5,000. Always come with your residency card as they do verify your immigration status. Taking photos at the palace, you pay Rwf 2,000 and this qualifies you to take pictures outside of the house and the gardens.
The house was commissioned by Habyarimana to be constructed in 1976 and he moved into it in 1980. The president employed a French architectural engineer to design the palace, but nice-looking much took over every design choice. This is noticeable in the fort’s strange and rather solid interior arrangement of rooms that consist of everything from an “underground” passageway to a room for sorcery and an additional room used seemingly for torture and cross-examination.
The house is rather bizarre with particular rooms in ostensibly decent condition and others displaying total neglect and disorder. The weird home offers a brand of Habyarimana’s personal sense of terror and fear as Rwanda’s leader during a tremendously dangerous era in the country’s past. The palace has sensors dispersed around the house which were to notify the leader if somebody was rambling through a certain access strip or crisscrossing one of the many set of steps. There is also a concealed cabinet for weaponries constructed into the television cupboard in his theatre chamber. Conceivably the most inquisitive fragment of the house is the upper level that consists of a chapel on one side and an apartment where Habyarimana did his witchcraft. On the other side is where he consumed magic medicines and sacrificed animals of all categories together with his domestic witch specialist.
The grounds outside the house are average and well-maintained and featured with several fine-looking trees of all varieties shielding very pleasurable coverings of grass inter-weaved by steppingstone footpaths. Too encompassed are a tennis courtyard, swimming pool, an open-air bar and some outdoor play area equipment. Nearby the centre of the back lawn are the remainders of a solid tarn that at one time contained the commander’s favourite pet, a python of 300 pounds whose work was to fend off wicked spirits plus inculcating anxiety in some of the president’s guests not in his favour.
At the very end of the fort compound lies what possibly is the most impact piece of the palace, the leftovers of Juvenel Habyarimana’s luxury jet, the Falcon, a 60-passenger plane that was excellently brought down on the evening of April 6th, 1994, exploding the Rwandan Ethnic massacres during which, nearly a million lives were lost. By coincidence, the blown plane crashed in the leader’s own courtyard, killing all on board, not sparing the then president of Burundi president Cyprien Ntaryamira. The crash also impaired the python’s pool, prompting the reptile to escape and it has never been seen again.
Overall, the Presidential Palace Museum merely takes about 60 minutes or more to walk completely basing on how many intervals you break to observe and ask your questions to your guide. As you check out, just look out for any gigantic pythons in the greensward.