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Rwanda’s King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa passes on in exile

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By Our Reporterkigeri-v-ndahindurwa

The last reigning monarch of Rwanda passes on in exile. Many writers and researchers say they will never forget the smile on his face at his residence in Virginia and introducing himself in Rwandan as “Rwandan King who was overthrown by Belgium.”

Kigeli V Ndahindurwa (Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa; born 29 June 1936 – died 16 October 2016) was the last ruling King (Mwami) of Rwanda, from 28 July 1959 until the overthrow of the monarchy on 28 January 1961. He has been exiled in Virginia, USA.

King Kigeli has been criticized for his politics, especially for his opposition to the government of Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front and his willingness to collaborate or at least communicate with some of its more unpleasant enemies.

King Kigeli spoke of ethnic divisionism as a created phenomenon during multiple occasions, insisting that ethnicity never existed during monarch. He believed, “Ethnicity was politically motivated.”

He liked sharing stories from his long and colorful life with a sense of humor. Some people have been victims of RPF government for being Kigeli’s sympathizers with a special tag “Ingabo z’umwami” most of Kibuye residents where branded as having pro monarch sentiments.

A certain faction in the ruling RPF, wanted to have Kigeri back in Rwanda after being told that he was sick but feared approaching President Paul Kagame. As a result, they planted articles in pro government websites hoping to steer debate but the campaign almost went unnoticed.

One, Divine Rwiririza told Great Lakes Voice that for Kigeli Ndahindurwa to die in exile was a disgrace to the government of Rwanda, ruling RPF and the people of Rwanda…adding that “Having him [Kigeli] die in exile contradicts RPF’s claim of being patriotic, Pan Africanists and being revolutionists. RPF’s inability to repatriate the last King was a failure and against the policy of ending refugee status.”

Geoffrey Kanamugire said, if RPF failed to get to terms with the king who was in his old and last moments of his life, proved the government can’t negotiate with any critics.

Outspoken Pastor, Ezra Mpyisi who happened to be a monarchy secretary at one point, turned Adventist Pastor was reportedly trying to mediate the return of King Ndahindurwa who fled Rwanda in 1959. However, Mpyisi recently told the media in Rwanda that King Kigeli Ndahindurwa fate rested in the hands of President Kagame.

He had met many people in his life time, like King Idriss of Libya and other powerful leaders advocated for Rwandan refugees living in exile, visited Shanghai during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and met with Chou En-lai and how when his régime was toppled in 1959, he had escaped from his homeland disguised as a woman sitting in the back of a car. Rwanda’s opposition party, Democratic Green Party recently joined the campaign to have Kigeli V Ndahindurwa returned.

At one checkpoint, an anti-monarchist militant joked to the driver that Kigeri had better not be hiding in the trunk. King Kigeli loved children and telling them jokes. He helped advocating for Rwandan refugee children to study in Uganda, Kenya and the rest of the world.

Because he chose not to return to Rwanda except as its king, he never saw Rwanda again after he fled in 1959. He lived some 57 years in exile.

Kigeli V Ndahindurwa was born to Yuhi Musinga, the deposed King Yuhi V of Rwanda, and Queen Mukashema, one of his wives. He is ethnically Tutsi. Kigeli had fourteen siblings, being one of the youngest of his father’s many children. After his half-brother, King Mutara III Rudahigwa, died under mysterious circumstances on 25 July 1959 which many Rwandans to date believe that Belgian authorities assassinated him in Burundi by means of poisoning, it was announced on 28 July that Kigeli would succeed him as King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa.

Kigeli’s appointment was a surprise to the Belgian administration, who were not involved in his selection, and who described the event as a coup d’état.

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