Kigali, Rwanda - Hotels and Guest Houses
City of Kigali, Rwanda
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View of Kigali from the Genocide Memorial - Copyright © James Weis / Eyes on Africa
Kigali is the capital city of Rwanda, is situated in the center of the country, and ranges in altitude from 1,300-1,600 meters. Kigali was founded in 1907 and remained a small colonial outpost until Belgium captured the city from Germany in 1916. The city remained under Belgian rule until 1962 when Rwanda gained its independence. At that time the population of Kigali was a mere 6,000 people; today there are close to 1 million residents of Kigali. The city centre of Kigali is a lively and vibrant place, but surprisingly safe and clean and in 2008 received the prestigious Scroll of Honour Award by the UN Human Settlements Programme, the first African urban city to receive this award.
Today Kigali is the economic, political, cultural and transport hub of the country. Because of this, the city has continued to attract many from the rural areas who chase their dreams of prosperity in Kigali. This has led to severe stretching of the available facilities and the city authorities have been forced to look for ways of alleviating the inevitable shortages.
There is not a lot to do and see in Kigali apart from a visit to the Genocide Memorial. There is also a very good craft market that sells local and imported African crafts such as masks, bead work, paintings and other art.
The Kigali Memorial Centre opened fully in April 2004, the 10th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. The Centre is built on a site where over 250,000 people are buried. These graves are a clear reminder of the cost of ignorance. The Centre is a permanent memorial to those who fell victim to the genocide and serves as a place for people to grieve those they lost.
The Centre includes three permanent exhibitions, the largest of which documents the genocide in 1994. There is also a children's memorial and an exhibition on the history of genocidal violence around the world. The Education Centre, Memorial Gardens and National Documentation Centre of the Genocide all contribute to a meaningful tribute to those who perished and form a powerful educational tool for the next generation.
The Children's Memorial is a combination of large photographic images and subtle text captions. The exhibit features fourteen windows, each featuring the face of a child killed during the genocide. Beneath their portrait is a plaque which contains a few details about them and how they died. After passing through these rooms, the memorial opens into a much brighter space. In this room, there are several children's portraits which run from floor to ceiling. Along one wall, these portraits provide a backdrop for a growing display of pictures collected and brought by survivors to the centre. This memorial then leads to a balcony overlooking the rose-gardens, providing visitors with the opportunity to reflect on the memorial.
Places to Stay in Kigali, Rwanda
There are several hotels available for visitors to Kigali and we recommend any of the following for our guests:
Accommodations for Kigali, Rwanda
Hotel des Mille Collines
Kigali Serena Hotel
More about Kigali
Emergence from the Genocide
Beginning on April 6, 1994, Kigali was the focal point of the Rwandan Genocide - the slaughter of approximately one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu by Hutu militias known as interahamwe and some members of the Rwandan army - and of fierce fighting between the army and rebels who called themselves the Rwanda Patriotic Front.
When the genocide ended and with a new government in place, Kigali faced the problem of reconstruction while at the same time striving to provide services to its citizens. Initially, the top priority of the new government was to secure the city and resettle those who were uprooted during the genocide, while settling disputes arising from illegal occupation of land and property. Because of that focus most of the services previously offered by the city were neglected, giving rise to mounds of garbage, stretched water and sanitation facilities, deterioration of the road network and a non-existent urban transport system. Moreover, as a country coming out of a war situation, there were thousands of widows, as well as a huge number of demobilized former soldiers. Measures had to be taken to ensure that such people were incorporated into the society and not left to a life of destitution.
In 1998 the city authorities, with the support of the national government, embarked on a process of restoring the city's lost glory. The projects have been hugely successful and are a testament to the country's determination to rise above the past and shine as an example to the world.
The areas targeted for improvement included:
To deal with the runaway garbage problem, the city council decided to form associations whose members were tasked with the responsibility of collecting and looking for environmentally sound ways of disposing of the same. Groups of widows came in handy in this project. This was later expanded to include vulnerable women especially those living with HIV/Aids. The women swept the streets and collected the garbage, which was taken to a central place. The refuse was then sorted out and the biodegradable items used to make cooking bricks. The rest is taken to a garbage dump on the outskirts of the city.
Ban on plastics
Probably the greatest move by the city of Kigali was to ban the use of plastic bags. This reduced by a great percentage the total amount of garbage and helped to improve the general cleanliness of the city. Whereas in the past, Kigali choked under the weight of discarded plastic, this is no longer the case and a drive around the city of Kigali shows that the refuse problem has been greatly reduced.
Beautification of streets and pavements
One area that won the enthusiastic support of the local population was the decision to have residents planting trees outside both residential and commercial plots. It is common practice in Kigali to find a well cared for tree outside each building. In tandem with this was the decision to have building owners install pavements between the building and the main road. Those not keen on the pavements are given the option of planting trees and having a mini garden next to their business.
Like most cities in the developing world, Kigali was faced with the problem of public transport. The rickety taxis operating there contravened all known safety requirements thus leading to accidents, which caused injuries and in some cases even death. The idea was to streamline the operations of these public transport vehicles so that commuters would not only reach their destinations safely, but also consider the interests of other road users. Towards this end, cooperative societies were formed to take charge of public transport. Every small section and zone formed their own association, while the motor cycle taxi operators (known locally as motos) were also organized into groups and zoned for easier operation. It is here that a lot of demobilized soldiers were absorbed.
This has always been the biggest headache for the city fathers as they look for ways of effective and environmentally friendly ways of disposing of human waste. Traditionally, Kigali has relied on septic tanks which then empty the discharge into a central place. However, the city's new Master Plan includes the building of a treatment plant.
The long term objective of the city council is to reduce by a great margin the existence of slums within its boundaries. This is being done in a two-fold manner- building improved houses for the slum dwellers or improving the living conditions of those whose slums are not removed. The city authorities, believing in eviction with a human face, have successfully built the Batsinda site where residents of the former Kiyovu slums are being settled. The new houses are two bed roomed and have electricity, ICT centres as well as rain water harvesting tanks' Meanwhile in the other slums like Nyamirambo, public works are underway to improve road network and garbage collection initiatives.
Ban on smoking in public places
The ban on smoking in public smoking has contributed to the general cleanliness of the city. Most buildings and even bars and restaurants display prominent signs warning against engaging in the practice.
Ban on fuel guzzlers by government officials
Also making a small contribution to the city's environment was the decision by the Central Government to discourage the use of fuel guzzling vehicles by ministers and other government officials. Seen as a first in Africa, this order transferred vehicle ownership from the government to the individual ministers. Under this, the ministers get a uniform fuel allowance for their personal vehicles which they use for official duties. For out of town duties, the ministers have the choice of getting and signing for a vehicle from a common pool.
Vision 2020 is Rwanda's development plan to transform the economy into that of a middle income country. It wants per capita income increased in an equitable way from $290 to $900; to reduce the number of poor people to 25 percent of the population (from 60 percent); to increase life expectancy to 65 years (from 41 years in 2000); and to increase literacy to 90 percent of the population (from 48 percent). In doing all that, it also wants to become the internet capital of East ad Central Africa.
Economic growth, alone, is not sufficient to bring about the necessary rise in the standard of living of Rwanda's population. To vanquish hunger and poverty, growth must be Pro-Poor, giving all Rwandan's the chance to gain from the new economic opportunities. Vision 2020 aspires for Rwanda to become a modern, strong and united nation, proud of its fundamental values, politically stable and without discrimination amongst its citizens.
History and General information about Rwanda, click Rwanda Info
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