King surrounded by his sons and courtiers, most with luscious long beards.

The Nigaristan Palace mural with Fath Ali Shah with sons and other key holders. Credit: Abdallah Khan 

Key Holders

Feb 25, 2022

I've only ever been in the home of one dictator, and he was long dead by the time I got there.

This was the strange house of Juvénal Habyarimana, the Rwandan president and member of the Hutu ethnic majority, who's assasination was the opening move in the 1994 genocide that took the lives of more than 800,000.

This home, an ex-presidential palace on the outskirts of Kigali, close to the airport, is nice. It's stark and modern in a 1980s, Scarface kind of way. Except hidden up in the roof of the house were both a small Christian chapel and also a room for practicing witchcraft.

The place had a dark vibe.

The beauty of the house of former Rwandan President Habyarimana
Ubwiza bwinzu ya Habyarimana. Credit: Muhirehussein12

The palace was recently converted to an art museum, but when I visited there was nobody around except me and the guide. We talked for a long time, and he painted a picture of Kinani as a paranoid and disturbed man.

My memory is soft, but I believe my guide spoke of ritual murder. He showed me the small house where 'Kinani' lived for some years after his mansion had been built, afraid to be assasinated. Which eventually he was.

Out behind the mansion, in walled field past the swimming pool, were chunks of wreckage from a Dassault Falcon 50 airplane.

Kinani had been on that plane when it went down. He crashed and died in his own backyard.

File:Juvénal Habyarimana (Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, USA - 1980).jpg
Juvénal Habyarimana, also known as 'Kinani' (Invincible), at Andrews Airforce Base in Maryland in 1980. He was president and dictator of Rwanda from 1973 until his assasination in 1994. Credit: Wikimedia