The "king", who lives in Washington, has voiced his wish to return
not as a mere symbolic King but as a ruler in the country.
When asked why he thought his return would remedy the ills of the past 40 years,
the King's repeated response was that
his "children" would behave themselves when their "father" returned.
RWANDA KING WANTS RWANDA
But the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front RPF, has rubbished the proposed return.
"It is not as if the king has a magic wand which
he can wave over Rwanda and its problems would vanish.
Rule by kings has never been democratic,
it being confined to only one family or a small lineage of people,
and we do not believe that the best and most capable people
to deal with this country's problems
can come from only one family."
Rwanda's former king eyes return
by David Bamford, BBC, Aug 17, 2007
The man who ruled Rwanda until his overthrow in 1959, King Kigeli Ndahindurwa V, says he wants to return home for the first time in 48 years. But in an interview with the BBC, he says he can only return if the Rwandan people are prepared to accept him as their constitutional monarch. Speaking in the US, and now aged 72, he said he had discussed his idea with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. The president told him he was willing to consult his government on the issue.
Kigeli Ndahindurwa was the last of a line of absolutist monarchs who unified and ruled the kingdom of Rwanda until self-rule from Belgium loomed in the late 1950s. The royal family was from the Tutsi minority - but the Belgians favoured the Hutu majority and in 1959, while King Kigeli was abroad, they organised a coup. Tens of thousands of King Kigeli's supporters, including the entire royal family, fled the country. Rwanda was declared a republic under a Hutu president, and thousands of Tutsis were massacred. Three more decades of instability culminated in civil war and the Rwandan genocide of 1994. The war was won by a Tutsi rebel group, whose leader Paul Kagame is now president.
Now living in Washington DC, King Kigeli says he has recently met Mr Kagame - he does not say how recently - who, he says, told him that he and the royal family were welcome to return home. But King Kigeli told him that a question must first be answered. "The Rwandese people may or may not want me. But in order to return home, I need to know if they still want me to be their king."
Kigeli Ndahindurwa says he still regards himself as king because he was forced from his throne illegally. He wants to return as constitutional monarch but only if the government and the people agree. He says President Kagame did not reject the idea - he listened and said he would think about it, consult his government, and get back to him. King Kigeli says he is still waiting for that response.
Lunch with the King
by Brigitte Buergler, Pomona College, Winter 2001
"Does Your Majesty fly coach?" asked Assistant Professor of Politics Pierre Englebert. "Yes," replied the exiled king of Rwanda. "And under what name should I buy your ticket?" "King Kigeli V." And later: "King, what an interesting first name," remarked the airline representative when Englebert called to buy the ticket. "No, he really is a king!"
When Englebert described these phone conversations to his seminar class -- Political Economy of Africa -- the students laughed. After all, there was something a bit surreal about a living, breathing king visiting an undergraduate class to talk about his former kingdom. No one was sure how they should respond. "Should we call him King Kigeli or Your Majesty?" one of the students asked. "I don't know the protocol for talking to kings," answered Englebert.
It all began when sophomore Heidi Balch '03, while reporting on a research project about Rwanda, mentioned that the former king sometimes spoke at colleges. The "wouldn't-it-be-funny?" quickly became a "why-not?" and within a few weeks -- with funding from the International Studies Program -- the class found itself lunching with a real-life monarch.
As the students gathered nervously around the table, they felt a bit like children gathering around their father. At nearly seven feet in height, Kigeli dwarfed them all. But there was nothing intimidating about this gentle giant. As the students went around the table introducing themselves and telling him about their case studies for class, he wore a bemused grin. At each interesting point, he raised his eyebrows, which only showed up once raised, since they were usually hidden by his angular silver-rimmed glasses. His face spoke of a long, trying life.
In 1961, King Kigeli V Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa of Rwanda was in Kinshasa to meet with Secretary-General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjold when the Belgian government exiled him. A subsequent UN resolution urging Belgium to allow the King to return fell on deaf ears. Since then, King Kigeli has been in exile -- in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and eventually the United States, where he was granted political asylum. After his arrival in the U.S., he became increasingly vocal with the international community seeking change in Rwanda. He entered the public light most visibly with his prophetic 1993 warning of a possible genocide to come. Since 1994, when nearly a million Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutus, the king has been appealing to Rwandans and the international community to support his return as a catalyst for national reconciliation. Although he is Tutsi, he's seen by some as being above ethnic distinctions of Hutu, Tutsi and Twa -- especially since there was intermarriage of these groups within his dynasty.
Over lunch, the king spoke mainly Bantu dotted with French. He didn't seem to understand English, despite 40 years in anglophone countries. Except for a brief, enthusiastic exchange in Swahili with a student who had studied in Kenya, the entire conversation was conducted through a translator who sat at the King's side. Kigeli ate his modest salad slowly, his fork in his right hand pausing as he listened to questions.
"Under what conditions would you return to your country?" one student asked. "If the Rwandan people want me back," came the translation. "Do you have support from the international diplomats to return to the monarchy, or is it just a dream?" asked Englebert. "The majority of Rwandans are in favor of my return, some of whom still don't have the courage to show themselves," came the guarded reply. In short, he is waiting to be invited -- and even if that were to happen, he has a right to be careful. In Burundi, the president invited the old monarch back, only to kill him.
When asked why he thought his return would remedy the ills of the past 40 years, the King's repeated response was that his "children" would behave themselves when their "father" returned. His listeners wanted to believe, but most weren't sure. As Englebert sadly remarked: "My children fight even when I'm there."
Debate of king's return grips Rwanda
by Shyaka Kanuma, East African, July 1, 1999
DEBATE OVER the possible reinstallation of ex-Rwandese monarch, King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa has taken centrestage in the politics of this small East African state. The "king", who lives in Washington, has voiced his wish to return not as a mere symbolic King but as a ruler in the country.
But the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front RPF, has rubbished the proposed return. Officials said the RPF view is that Rwanda's problems cannot be solved by a mere return to the monarchy under Kigeli, but rather by more pragmatic actions.
The debate, which has dominated the local media, has now been taken to the Internet. Rwandans living outside the country have set up websites to air their views on the possible return of Kigeli, who ruled until 1959 when a "Hutu revolution" toppled him.
Said RPF secretary general Dr Charles Muligande: "It is not as if the king has a magic wand which he can wave over Rwanda and its problems would vanish. Rule by kings has never been democratic, being confined to only one family or a small lineage of people and we do not believe that the best and most capable people to deal with this country's problems can come from only one family."
However, in a phone-in programme on the state-owned Radio Rwanda last week, Ezra Mpyisi, the septuagenarian pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Kigali, said: "The kingship institution was developed by Rwandans and is a unifying factor for the whole country, unlike the rule of the republican governments forced upon Rwanda by Belgian colonialists, which have brought nothing but bad governance, divisive politics and bloodshed."
King Kigeli was driven out of leadership by the then MDR Parmehutu party under the leadership of Rwanda's first President, Gregoire Kayibanda, who also abolished the monarchy. Following a pogrom, a large part of the country's Tutsi population fled into exile in Uganda where they lived as refugees until 1994, when they fought their way back to rule Rwanda under the RPF.
Since he was toppled, Kigeli has lived in the US. The recent announcement of his intention to return, has received the support of several Rwandan opinion leaders in the diaspora, including Mr Claude Rukeba, leader of the UNAR (Rwanda National Union Party). Support for the king has also come from Mr Faustian Twagiramungu, former president of the MDR and one-time prime minister in the current government. He currently lives in exile in Belgium. A former prime minister in the late President Juvenal Habyalimana's regime, Dismas Nsengiyaremye has also voiced support for the monarchy. MDR (Democratic Republican Movement) secretary general and MP Mr Stanley Safari told The EastAfrican in a telephone interview last week: "First and foremost, I am a republican and I believe a republican sort of government is the best for this country. We in MDR certainly oppose the notion that people descended from one family can be the best rulers of this country."
Monarchism has been banned in Rwanda since the RPF took power in 1994, following a bloody war in which Hutu extremist Interahamwe fighters massacred an estimated half a million people, mainly Tutsis. In neighbouring Uganda, which helped the RPF to topple the Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana, traditional leaders are allowed to exist as purely cultural leaders without any political powers.
RWANDA KING NOT KINGLY
RWANDA KING NO TASTE
RWANDA MWAMI GO HOME
Rwanda's former king eyes return. BBC, Aug 17, 2007
Lunch with the King. Pomona College, Winter 2001
Debate of king's return grips Rwanda. East African, July 1, 1999
ROYAL REIGN IN RWANDA and RWANDA ROYAL PALACES and KAGAME AUNT QUEEN ROSALIE and HOW KAGAME BECAME LEADER
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