Huye, formerly known as Butare, is a city with a population of approximately 350,000 (city and surrounds) in the Southern Province of Rwanda. It was the formal colonial capital of Rwanda.
The city of Huye has long been regarded as the intellectual capital of the country, while Kigali holds most political power. The Belgian colonial rulers named the city Astrida in honor of Queen Astrid of Belgium.
Butare Cathedral was a gift from the Belgian King Albert and Queen Astrid. It was erected between 1936 and 1937 with the intention of making Astrida the capital of Rwanda-Urundi protectorate; native porters laboriously carried building materials from Congo and Nyungwe Forest. This great church, the largest in Rwanda, was built to help strengthen Christianity as well as the power of the then Belgian colonial administration.
The first Catholic mission in 1900 in the country lies only a few kilometers from the town center at Save Hill.
Huye is well known for the National Ethnographic Museum of Rwanda, built in the early 1990s and an excellent source of information on the cultural history of the country and the region. It houses one of Africa’s finest ethnographic museum collections, both pre and post-colonial archaeological and artistic artifacts and photographs – a rich insight into Rwandan culture with displays of farming, hunting, fishing, pottery and dress from long-ago times.
The Groupe Scolaire in Huye is the largest and oldest secondary school in Rwanda having been founded in 1929 by the Brothers of Charity to educate Rwandans to assist the Belgian colonial administration.
Huye is home to the largest university in Rwanda, the National University of Rwanda. The university focuses on Science, Technology and Humanities with the language of instruction both French and English.
The nine faculties comprise a Faculty of Medicine, Agriculture, Arts / Media and Social Sciences, Applied Sciences, Law, Science Economics and Management, School of Public Health and School for Foundation Language Skills
In the grounds of the University lies a 200-hectare Arboretum established in 1934 by the colonial government of Rwanda-Burundi as an international scientific project and to serve as a source of exotic tree seed to solve the supply crisis for timber in Rwanda. The Arboretum now belongs to the Institute of Agricultural Sciences of Rwanda and is home to around 210 species of stately 60-year-old trees alive with birds, bats, monkeys and gazelles; 50 Ha. are given to protected natural indigenous trees and bush, similar to Nyungwe Forest. There are fantastic walks and the opportunity to learn about bee keeping and the fish farm project adjacent to the forest, all within the centre of the town of Huye.
The Rwandan National Institute of Scientific Research can be found in Huye – a scientific institution that plays an important role in science and technology in Rwanda. The institute has worked with the National University of Rwanda in the Phytomedicine and Life Sciences Research Plan that began research into pharmacopeia and traditional medicine in the country at the National University of Rwanda in 1972 in the Faculty of Medicine. The Rwandan National Institute of Scientific Research later became involved and also collaborates with researchers from the National Institute of Scientific Research (INRS) and researchers from the Institute of Agronomic Sciences of Rwanda (ISAR).
It is also home to the Stade Huye (Butare Stadium) in downtown Huye with a capacity of 20,000.