By David Himbara
For Kagame, Development Means Big Buildings
When I heard that the Kigali Marriott Hotel was collapsing and in need of financial bailout by the regime of General Paul Kagame, I was not surprised. This is because hardly anything the Kagame regime does ever makes sense to me. For example, the regime has spent a fortune on big buildings – especially hotels. To Kagame, development means tall buildings. He sank US$300 million in Kigali Convention Center. He has also encouraged private investors to pump money into hotels. In 2008, for example, Kagame gave public land to Chinese investors to build a mega hotel – that is how the US$65 million Marriott Hotel came to be. It was finally launched in 2016. The Marriott Group explained their venture in Rwanda in 2016 as follows:
“In the Middle East and Africa region, we successfully opened the Kigali Marriott Hotel in Rwanda, becoming one of the first international hotel brands to have a presence in the country.”
By January 2018, however, the story of the Kigali Marriott Hotel had gone sour. Its investors, New Century Development Ltd, are not able to pay its loans and salaries of its workers, according to Rwanda minister of finance, Claver Gatete. The Kagame government is stepping in to save the hotel. The Rwandan newspaper, Umuseke, wrote an excellent article about this disaster.
One must ask the following questions: Where are these hotels supposed to get clients in their thousands to make money? Where are the hundreds of tourists from overseas? Simply put – how are these mega hotels to generate revenue to recover their investments let alone make profit?
The Kagame Regime Markets Kigali With Death
The biggest shock is how the Kagame regime markets Kigali as a tourist destination. The major attractions advertised have to do with death. Take for example what is advertised by the Rwanda Development Board as The Presidential Palace:
“The Presidential Palace, residence of the former president of Rwanda, President J. Habyarimana – is near the airport on the eastern outskirts of Kigali. Habyarimana was the president whose plane was shot down on the 6th April 1994, the event that some say triggered the Rwandan Genocide. The former state house is now a museum that gives an overview of Rwanda’s history and a visit to the remains of the Falcon 60 presidential jet that are housed in a walled garden on the property.”
Other main attractions advertised by the Rwanda Development Board include Kigali Genocide Memorial advertised as follows:
“Inaugurated on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the Kigali Genocide Memorial at Gisozi is where 259,000 victims have been buried. This memorial also serves to educate about how the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi took shape and examines genocide in the 20th century.”
Then there is Camp Kigali Belgian Monument advertised by the Rwanda Development Board as follows:
“A small museum in Kigali City lies at the site of the massacre of 10 Belgian UN Blue Beret. At the onset of Genocide under the command of General Dallaire, they were deployed to guard the house of Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingimana. When the genocide began, Presidential Guard soldiers invaded the home, disarmed the Belgians and transported them to Camp Kigali where they killed them. The ten stone pillars memorialize the ten soldiers killed.”
How Many Tourists Are Interested In Spending Serious Money To Visit Death Sites?
Dear General Kagame, this is insane. You seem to live in death. You are caught up with Killings. You can’t make successful tourism businesses from the death of the former president or that of other Rwandans. Hotels and convention centers thrive by promoting positive things such as food, nightlife, business conferences, trade shows, local tours, shops, and outdoor activities.
Successful convention centers offer services and resources to help attendees plan a trip out and around their conference. Remember, some of the attendees bring their family and children to have fun. This is the sure way of helping the Kigali Marriott Hotel to survive – instead of giving it money that should be uplifting Rwandans from poverty.