While its change of name is still taking time to bed down, Huye is, after Kigali, Rwanda’s most important city. Situated in the south, in Huye Province, with a population of just over 80 000, it is especially known for its university, its scientific and cultural academic institutions and for the finest national museum in Africa.
Small, friendly, its tree-lined streets are easy to negotiate, boast a range of hotels, terraced restaurants and craft-orientated shops. Rue De Kigali, for example, is home not only to the wonderful Hotel Ibis, but also to Expo Vente, a genuine, value for money craft shop known throughout Rwanda.
A significant intellectual tour de force, Huye’s bilingual National University of Rwanda – the oldest in the country – has garnered international praise, particularly in areas of cultural interest (traditional medicines, for example) which have been studied in relation to modern scientific structures and discoveries.
Those interested in central African history will be delighted by the faithful reconstruction of a nineteenth century mwami’s palace at Nyanza, just outside Huye. If this were not all, there is in the highly thought of Nyakibanda Seminary, the Ruhande Aroboatum and events staged by the world famous Intore Dance Group.
The jewel in Huye’s crown, however, is most certainly its National Museum. A gift from the Belgian government, and co-designed with the Royal Museum for Central Africa of Terverun (Belgium), it houses one of the finest ethnographic collections in all Africa. Beautifully curated, it is a fascinating, hands-on study of central African history, spanning the large pre-colonial kingdoms of Rwanda and Burundi, the advent of European expansionism and twentieth century colonialism.
With a hand in the workings of much of Rwanda’s cultural heritage sites, and in efforts to show, through history, the organised coming together of previously disparate ethnic groups, the museum remains extremely pertinent to any discussions regarding the events of 1994.