The Great Rwanda AIDS Stamp Project

The four Rwanda (2003) stamps are the most difficult AIDS stamps in the world to obtain. Toward the end of finding them, I have created this project so to show my progress in tracking down a source for these stamps.

An official proclamation
June 2, 2009

Having heard nothing back from the Rwandan postal service by e-mail in spite of several attempts to reach them at multiple addresses, I put aside this project for a while to work on other matters. I have picked it up recently however and found this interesting tidbit.

I found the official proclamation by Rwandan President Kagame authorizing the sale of these stamps. (I hope that link doesn't go bad -- it's an incredibly icky looking URL that I shrank down via the TinyUrl service) What is fascinating is that the proclamation was dated April 8, 2005. Meaning there were almost 18 months between the release date on the Universal Postal Union website and when the proclamation was released saying they should be distributed.

Whatever the release date, the proclamation specifically states they were to be used for both in-country and international use, and that first day covers must be purchased at the head post office in Kilgali.

I found on another Rwandan government page that 30% of the revenue from these stamps was to be used for the fight against HIV. A pity that they are not more available. I am not sure how many international collectors of AIDS stamps are out there, but I am sure there are a fair number that would purchase them.

The Hunt Begins!
January 2, 2009

There are four Rwanda AIDS stamps.

We know these exist because Rwanda has registered them with the Universal Postal Union. Furthermore, the Rwandan postal service listed their issue date as November 21, 2003 in a letter to the UPU (.pdf format) regarding illegal stamps issued in the name of Rwanda.

I have yet to find a single collector or dealer who has these stamps in their possession. I managed to track down one Frechman who had a single stamp from the set for trade, but he had traded it away by the time I wrote him. I found him on Le Marche du Timbre stamp exchange website. I don't speak a word of French, but was able to navigate it with the assistance of an online translation website. Another traded on the website listed another stamp in the series as available for trade, but he did not respond when I wrote him. No Google search has ever found any seller of these stamps, and I have searched extensively.

Scott and Stanley-Gibbons catalogs do not list the set in their catalogs. I do not know about Michel or Yvert. Perhaps one of you has access to the catalogs and can check?

On the bottom of the stamps there is a writing in small text. The lower-right has the issue year, 2003. The lower-center says "Castor", which is the abbreviated name of the printing company. The lower-left is extremely hard to read, but after Google various possibilities I learned these are the artists who designed the stamps. The artists are...

Jean de Dieu Munyurangabo - He drew the picture on the 20 FRW stamp. He was easy to find on Google, as he is a successful photographer / artist / graphic designed in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. I even found a possible way to contact him. He posted a message on a Yahoo group forum once. Yahoo doesn't release his e-mail, but does make it possible to contact him. I wrote him a message at his Yahoo mail account over the Chrismas break in 2008. I am not sure the message went through, so if I don't hear back from him by early-mid January I'll try again. If that fails, I'll post a link to the Yahoo group message here eventually so some of you can try to contact him. While it's possible that he has a set of the stamps (is Rwanda still using them?) in his scrapbook somewhere, I was more hoping he might have an idea on someone in Rwanda that might have multiple sets to sell.

Epaphrodite "Epa" Binamungu - He painted the 30 and 500 FRW stamps. He was also easy to find on the Internet. He is the co-owner of an art gallery in Kigali, and has exported his artwork for exhibit and sale outside of Rwanda. The gallery has a half-completed website in French. I e-mailed the gallery but received only a message back from someone named Brian Basson saying he was unable to help me. He suggested I try Stanley-Gibbons in London, but their website doesn't even list the Rwandan stamps as existing, so I don't think they be much help. I also e-mail'ed the artist directly (his e-mail address is on the website) when I wrote the gallery, so perhaps he will reply with something more useful.

Félicien Bigirabagabo - He created the artwork for the 200 FRW stamp. I am not sure this is the correct spelling. I had my browser do a close-up of the stamp and, after searching for 500 variations on this name Google returned something useful. This name/spelling is likely the artist, as this is the name of a artist formerly from Rwanda who is now in North America. I found one mention of him living in the USA. Several other websites mentioned him appearing at an event in Canada. I was able to find nothing on the artwork he has created, nor any way to contact him. I used several "people finder" websites for both the USA and Canada, but none had any listing for Bigirabagabo. I suspect the reference to him living in the USA is incorrect, and that he still lives in Rwanda. Any artist working under his own name would have popped up more references on Google otherwise.

I recently contacted Namib Stamps, a dealer website that specializes in some African nations. Rwanda isn't their specialty, but perhaps they can track it down or might have an idea on where to look for it. I'll let you know what they say when I hear back from them.

I have also written to their postal service website (which I discovered after I tracked down the artists. Figures, eh?). Hopefully they will have the stamps in stock and be able to help me. Should you write, be aware that their address does not work.

Beyond this? I have few leads. The Rwandan postal service has an official website -- I plan on both e-mailing and writing them in the next few days. As a last resort I plan to write the Rwandan embassy in New York in the hopes I will learn something useful. I still have hope I will be able to track down these stamps.