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 former president Habyarimana. 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 museum where visitors come to see flight remains and also seeing by themselves how the president lived.
The place is located just 4 kilometers from Kanombe Airstrip, on the eastern borders of Kigali. To reach there you take the road to the airport and continue driving for a few kilometers till you reach at the Kanombe military hospital on your right. Continue driving and the road will change from tarmac to dirt road. As you come to a big Kanombe primary school which is still on your right, from where the road will split into many routes. Turn on your left and that will lead you straight to the museum’s gate. The museum is always open seven days a week starting from 9 am to 5 pm (except during umuganda, when they open at 11 am).
The entrance for non-residents is Rwf 6,000 where as those with a resident visa pay Rwf 5,000, but do not forget to carry your residency card as it is one of the requirement required at the entrance. In case you need to take photos you have to pay another Rwf 2,000 and you are allowed to take photos outside the house and in the garden. Photos of the interior are not accepted.
The president commissioned the house to be built in 1976 and he shifted to this house in 1980 after it was constructed. , Habyarimana hired a French architect to make a plan for the house, but it him took time to lay a plan for this beautiful house . This is recognizable in the palace’s conventional and somewhat bulky inside design of rooms that has everything from a “secret” route to a room for carrying out witchcraft and extra rooms more so the room that was apparently used for torture and interrogation.
The president house is looks strange with some rooms superficially in a good condition and others displaying dangerous abandonment and disorder. This strange home gives a real picture of Habyarimana’s own sense of anxiety and mistrust as Rwanda’s head of state during a tremendously terrifying time in the country’s history. The house is full of sensors distributed around the house that were to alert the president in case of anyone walking through a certain corridor. The house had rooms with hidden weapons cabinet built into the television cabinet in his entertainment room. Perhaps the most inquisitive room in the house was the upper floor that had a chapel on one side and a room where he practiced his witchcraft and on the other side is where he consumed magic potions and sacrificed animals of all types together with his in-house 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.
At the very rear of 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 down on April 6th, 1994, causing the Rwandan Genocide. The plane unexpectedly crashed in the president’s own home yard, killing everyone there together with Burundi president by then. The crash also injured the python’s pond which escaped and nobody ever saw it again.
Overall the Presidential Palace Museum only takes about 1-2 hours to move around the house and the backyard and this will depend on how many stopovers you will make while moving. The guides are available to answer any question or about anything you may need to know. The house itself is in great need of repair, nevertheless, the house walls and all the furniture’s still look the same way they were left before Habyarimana was killed according to Rwanda history. It is absolutely worth read-through – keep your eyes open for any giant pythons in the grass.