The former Nyarugenge Prison, popularly known as ‘1930’, stands on a prime property in Kigali’s centre business district. Plans are underway to construct what could be the country’s biggest cathedral on the 5.5 hectare piece of land. Sam Ngendahimana.
After years of speculation about what next for the premises formerly occupied by Nyarugenge Prison, popularly known as ‘1930’ the expansive prime property is set to accommodate what could be the country’s biggest Catholic cathedral.
Located in Kigali’s Central Business District, the facility is one of the oldest buildings in Kigali and among the oldest prisons in the country, having been built some 90 years ago – in 1930.
The Kigali Catholic cathedral, which is also the seat of Kigali Archdiocese, in currently at St Michel Church in Kiyovu, which is old and relatively small.
The last group of inmates from the ‘1930’ prison were relocated from the historical prison in July 2018 to the new Mageragere correctional facility slightly away from the bustle and hassle of the CBD.
This left the prime 5.5 hectare piece of land open for re-developement.
The City of Kigali’s Director of Kigali Urban Planning and Construction One Stop Centre, Fred Mugisha told media on Wednesday that though the plan is still in its initial stages, the Catholic Church had been given a go ahead to develop a concept.
“There is a proposal to turn the land over to the Catholic Church which has showed an interest in developing a state-of-the-art cathedral. They are now working on a concept detailing the kind of structure they intend to put up and we will take it from there,” he said.
Mugisha pointed out that to preserve the heritage/landmark of the facility, the Church has been asked to deliver a design with details on how they intend to integrate the old edifice in their works.
“Heritage enthusiasts should not worry because we intend to make sure that the heritage is preserved and it will be done in such a way that it can even be a tourist attraction. That is one of the main guidelines that we gave them,” he said.
Mugisha said that by the end of February, the concept will be complete indicating the features, capacity and much more and construction works are expected to be complete by the end of 2021.
Wish come true
This is a wish come true for Kigali Archdiocese Archbishop Antoine Kambanda only a year after he took over as the new leader of the church.
During Christmas mass last year, Kambanda told members of the congregation that the plan for a new cathedral were ‘progressing well’, but did not comment much on the progress made.
Earlier that year, at the ceremony to install him as the new Archbishop, Kambanda told the tens of thousands of Christians including President Paul Kagame that it was time to have a cathedral that matches the beauty and modernity of the City of Kigali.
“The City of Kigali has developed in remarkable ways. We thank our leadership, particularly the President, for the infrastructure and cleanliness, which is admired by all our visitors. My wish is that we can build a cathedral that is in line with the current Kigali trends,” he said.
In his speech at the ceremony, President Kagame responded to this wish with a pledge to join the church in building the cathedral.
“We shall work together to build it. We will build a new and great cathedral and when that time comes, we shall, if possible build it in a new location. All this will depend on the wishes of the Catholic Church,” he said.
Previously, several ideas to develop the premises into apartment buildings, then later a heritage hotel have been flouted but none of them have ever been pushed forward.