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A view across Kigali
Location of Kigali in Rwanda
Location of Kigali in Rwanda
Kigali, population 851,024 ( 2005), is the capital and largest city of Rwanda. It is situated in the center of the nation at location 1° 57.245' S, 30° 3.570' E. (-1.954167, 30.059444).

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History - Contents

Kigali was founded in 1907 under German colonial rule, but did not become the capital until Rwandan independence in 1962. The traditional capital was the seat of the mwami (king) in Nyanza, while the colonial seat of power was in Butare, then known as Astrida. Butare was initially the leading contender to be the capital of the new independent nation, but Kigali was chosen because of its more central location. Since then the city has grown very quickly and is now the major political, economic and cultural centre of Rwanda.Beginning on April 7, 1994, Kigali was the scene of the Rwandan Genocide — the slaughter of approximately one million Tutsis by Hutu militias and the Rwandan army — and of fierce fighting between the army (mostly Hutu) and Tutsi-dominated Rwandese Patriotic Front. Although damaged, the city's structure has recovered.

Geography - Contents

Satellite image of Kigali
Satellite image of Kigali
The city is built in hilly country, sprawling across about four ridges and the valleys in between. The city centre is located on one of these ridges, with the main government area on another. The tops of the ridges have an average elevation of 1,600m (5,246ft) while the valleys are around 1,300m (4,270ft). The bigger houses and office buildings tend to be on the tops of the ridges, while the poorer people live in the valleys. The city is ringed most of the way round by higher hills, with some suburban sprawl rising up these. The highest of these is Mt. Kigali, with an elevation of 1,850m (6,075ft) above sea level.

Economy - Contents

Tin ore ( cassiterite) is mined nearby, and the city built a smelting plant in the 1980s. Business in Rwanda is growing, and many new buildings are emerging across the city, including the BCDI tower and the Centenary House office block. Tourism and expatriate NGO workers provide important input into the economy also.

Transportation - Contents

A row of minibus share taxis waiting to depart  in Kigali, Rwanda
A row of minibus share taxis waiting to depart in Kigali, Rwanda

The city is home to an international airport, Kigali International Airport, with passenger connections daily to Nairobi and less frequently to Addis Ababa, Brussels, Bujumbura and Johannesburg. There are also weekly cargo flights to Amsterdam. There is also one domestic air route from Kigali, to Cyangugu in the far south-west. The airport is somewhat limited by its location on the top of a hill, and a brand new one is being considered in the Nyamata area, some 40km from Kigali.

Kigali is the hub of the Rwanda transport network, with hourly express bus routes to all major towns in the country. The major nationwide companies are Okapi Car, Atraco, Stella, Omega (minibuses), and Onatracom, which offers a big bus service, while Volcano Express (to Butare), Virunga Express (to Ruhengeri), Muhabura Express (to Ruhengeri and Gisenyi) serve specific destinations. There are also taxi minibus services ( matatus) leaving from Kigali, which also go through to the major towns, but which stop frequently along the route to pick people up and set them down. These services do not run to a fixed timetable, and one often has to wait an hour or more for them to fill up before departing.

Public transport within Kigali is exclusively by taxi minibus ( matatu), with a number of different routes, connecting the main hubs of Mu Mujyi (the city centre), Nyabugogo, Kacyiru, Kimironko and Remera. Similar to the national taxi minibuses, these services wait to fill up before setting off from the terminus, then pick up and drop off frequently en route. Most routes within the city operate on a flat fare of 150 FRW (about US {extended_page_content}.25).

Private hire
Kigali has many taxis (known as 'special hire' or 'taxi voiture'), which are generally white with an orange stripe down the side. Fares vary from 1000 FRW (.75) up to 2500 FRW (.50) for a journey right across the city. There are also motorbike taxis ('taxi moto'), which offer a service similar to a taxi, but for lower prices, typically in the range 200-1000 FRW.

Hotels - Contents

The city now has three international class hotels, built as part of the country's bid to increase tourism and better support business travellers. The Mille Collines hotel became a refugee centre during the genocide, as famously depicted in the film Hotel Rwanda (although the hotel shown in the film is in fact in South Africa). There is also a Novotel in the Kacyiru area, and the Intercontinental, which was built in 2003.
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