Kigali, Rwanda | AFP |
The remains of Rwanda’s last king, Kigeli V, arrived in the country Monday after a court battle between his relatives over where he should be buried, an official said.
King Kigeli died in October, aged 80, in the United States. He had been living in exile in the suburbs of Washington since 1992.
His death prompted a spat between relatives living in America and those in Rwanda over where he should be buried and a US court ruled last week in favour of those in his home country.
“We are very happy to have him back in his country of birth,” said James Vuningoma, executive secretary of the Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC), who was at the airport when the king’s remains arrived.
However Kigeli’s Royal Council said in a statement that the king had not wanted to be buried in Rwanda “as long as the current government administration that was hostile to his majesty in life was still in power.”
The council had backed the relatives living in the US, while the government backed the king’s half-sister who wanted his remains to be brought to Rwanda.
Born Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa, King Kigeli came to power in 1959 and was forced to leave the country the following year after clashing with the Belgian colonial power. In 1961, the monarchy was abolished.
The king began a life of exile in east Africa, including in Kenya and Uganda, before leaving for America.
For decades he spoke of returning to his tiny, landlocked east African homeland. However he only wished to do so as king, arguing for a constitutional monarchy much like that in Britain.
However authorities were only willing to have him back as a private citizen.
His family welcomed the repatriation. Family member Medard Rutijanwa told AFP it was “a feeling of joy, of great joy because we have waited for a long time”.
Rutijanwa added that the late king should be buried in the coming days in Nyanza, the African country’s former royal capital.
His body has for the moment been transferred to the King Faisal hospital in Kigali, according to Vuningoma.