Rwandan history at the Kandt House Museum

Monday February 25 2019

The Kandt House Museum in Kigali.

The Kandt House Museum in Kigali. PHOTO | JEFFERSON RUMANYIKA | NMG 

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About 500m from downtown Kigali is the Kandt House Museum.

It is the former Natural History Museum, which was changed to Kandt House Museum in December 2017.

I was taken around the museum by Susan, the museum tour guide.

One of the first things I saw when I walked into the compound was the bronze life-size statue of Richard Kandt, clad in German military regalia with a walking stick in his left hand and a peaked military cap in his right.

Kandt was the first German colonial Resident of Rwanda. He was appointed to the position in 1908 after leading the exploration northwest of German East Africa between 1897 and 1907.

German colonists set up Kigali as the administrative capital and thus the museum is named after him.

There are two main places to see in the museum — the main house, which contains much of Rwanda’s history, and the reptile park, which has snakes and crocodiles.

It was my first visit to a museum in Rwanda so I took my time going round. The house has three main exhibits.

The first part presents the social, economic and political aspects of Rwandan life, and the monarchy before the colonial period.

The museum shows the evolution of the standards of living, the flora and fauna of natural forests, and geological features.

The second part, which is also the biggest, traces the experiences of the Rwandan people during the colonial period.

It outlines their history specifically under the German rule from 1884, World War I and Rwanda’s involvement up to 1916, and Kandt’s life.

The third part of the exhibit documents Kigali before and during the colonial period, and its renaissance as a capital.

The guide then took me outdoors where there was a large statue of a gorilla and an enclosure with a baby Nile crocodile — about one and a half metres long — soaking up the sun.

The guide then led me to a small room of made of wood, which has snakes in glass enclosures. Inside lay some of the deadliest of African snakes.

They seemed well fed and did not require a lot of space. I had never been so close to the Black Mamba, Gabon viper, python and the spitting cobra.