Sunday, 15th January early in the morning at around 7:15 am family members, friends and distinguished Rwandans departed from King Faisal Hospital where was kept the kings body towards Nyanza, in the Sothern Province where he was crowned on the 28th July 1959.
Thousands of people had turned up to witness one of the greatest moments of Rwanda’s history, the funeral of its last king among them are messengers from different existing kingdoms of the Eastern Region of Africa who had known Kigeli from different circumstances. He was buried besides his brother King Mutara the 3rd Rudahigwa at Mwima Hill after a court battle between his relatives arguing over where he should be buried, whether in the US where he spent 24 years in exile or his home, Rwanda.
His Majesty the King's body from King Faisal Hospital Mortuary
Around 11 am, the holy mass began at Rukari Royal Palace, now a cultural museum, the same place where King Kigeli was put to throne 57 years ago. The religious ceremony was led by Bishop Philip Rukamba who reminded that King Kigeli was a good Christian since his early age until his death.
Previously before the wrap up of the holy mass, Ezra Mpysi who has served as counselor for both King Rudahigwa and Kigeli 5th Ndahindurwa and acted as a great friend to their family through thick and thin, took the floor and told the story of King Kigeli since his early age and even before he was a king. He said that King Kigeli was a very brave boy before he was crowned King and would advise his brother Rudahigwa who was the king by the time over some cumbersome decisions.
During his long speech, Pastor Ezra Mpyisi enlightened the story of Kigeli that was new to some people, showing the big role of the United Nations in turning the Rwandan King into a refugee for the longest years of his life. He said that the Belgians who were colonizing Rwanda by the time forced Kigeli into exile when he was in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo helping his friend Lumumba Patrice raise the Congolese flag instead of the Belgian flag. Mpyisi said that Kigeli bravely got up when everyone was afraid to demote the Belgian flag and he did it without any doubt and even stepped on it. By doing this, Kigeli marked an independent country that should be led by its own people instead of the whites who had taken over the region and wanted to make Africa their own place where they should mess with what they want and define African people’s lives.
When the Belgians in Rwanda learnt that King Kigeli was in Congo, they announced to the UN that the king had fled the country and that they should not be accounted responsible once the king dies on his way back to his country. Kigeli who had never had the idea of fleeing his kingdom understood that the Belgians only did that to warn him not to come back, unless he wanted his own death. That is how the king became a refugee and banned from his own kingdom. The story proceeds with what Mpyisi calls a big mistake made by the UN and resulted into the 1994 genocide. This is the 1961 referendum that was done in the absence of the king who was by the time in Tanzania in exile.
Mpyisi mentioned that the king secretly came into the country and stayed at Nyamirambo, Kigali to participate into the referendum that was supposed to make Rwandans choose between a monarch and a republic. This never happened because the Belgians learnt about the presence of the king and took him with a helicopter to an anonymous place to kill him in order not to have a fair referendum. The king was saved by late Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere who was the president of Tanzania. He threatened to close Lake Tanganyika (which was the only place where goods were delivered to Burundi and Rwanda) once his refugee (King Kigeli) was done any harm.
After that, the King moved to Uganda where he had a lot of friends and later on to Nairobi, from Nairobi to the United States of America where he was granted assylum and had access to social welfare. Mpyisi also said that the king denied American citizenship to keep the pride as a king and he died with the only status of a Rwandan King into exile.
When he died, his family went into fight over where his body should be buried but the side of those who wanted him to be buried home in Rwanda won the trial. “We only told the truth in the court. Beyond everything, there was God, we never told lies and we won” Said Pastor Ezra Mpyisi who warned the gathered crowd to believe in God. Mpyisi mentioned that he was overjoyed by the fact that King Kigeli was having his funeral service in the exact spot where he stood 57 years ago being crowned King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa.
After Pastor Mpyisi, came Princess Speciose Mukabayojo, the one and only sibling for Kigeli who was left after all the others who were King Yuhi V Musinga’s children had passed away. She is an old woman with little physical strength and her son reported the speech for her. She said that her brother was a very kind person and that she will always love him. She thanked everyone who put efforts into bringing the king to be buried home. She also thanked the government that has been there through the very distressing moments the family was going through, especially thanking Paul Kagame, the president of the Republic of Rwanda.
Minister of Sports and Culture Ms Uwacu Julienne was representing the government in this event, she said that the government of Rwanda was saddened by the death of King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa and it will give any needed support for the royal family.
Letters from Ankole Kingdom (J.William Katatumba of the Ankole Kingdom) , Toro kingdom and from Mwenda Mutebi, kabaka of Buganda as well as a message sent by Rose Mary Karungi from Canada were read. All recalled that Kigeli was a nice person who never tarnished his image wherever he was and was good at making friends wherever he lived.
“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1. Pastor Ezra Mpyisi who is pastor in the 7th Day Adventist Church talked about this biblical verse to describe Kigeli, who never tarnished his image when he was in Rwanda and wherever he lived in exile.
The monarchy was abolished in 1961, two years after Kigeli, born Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa, ascended to the throne. Kigeli had tried to come back to his homeland while still alive but failed to reach agreement with the country's government.
Kigeli was buried in his homeland, Nyanza, Southern Province at Mwima Hill after his body was repatriated from Washington on Monday 9th January 2017. He had been living in exile in the United States since 1992. Kigeli died in October, 2016 at the age of 80. The former monarch was buried near the tomb of his half-brother and predecessor Mutara III, who died in 1959.
The whole funeral in photos:
The King's body ready to be moved to Nyanza
Princess Mukabayojo Speciose arrival at the hospital
Minister Uwacu Julienne (in blue umushanana) was at the hospital at 7 am
Police was in front, leading the trip to Nyanza
Now we are at the royal Palace in Nyanza, Rukari
The king's crown
Youngsters in the protocol
The Priests stepping in for the holy mass
Chorale de Kigali singing in the holy mass
Bishop Philip Rukamba led the holy mass
Minister Uwacu Julienne and other guests of honour
Pastor Ezra Mpyisi, a former royal counselor and longtime friend to the royal family
One of the people who was in the court with Pastor Mpyisi to have the king buried in his homeland
This Lady was also in the court
And this one too
Both ladies represented princess Mukabayojo Speciose who would not turn up to witness in the USA court
Mukabayojo was seated on front of the crowd as her son reported her speech
Her son speaking mom's words
The holy mass wraping up, everyone moving to Mwima Hill, not far from the palace
The choir singing on the way to Mwima
People moving to Mwima
Mwima, a place that keeps late King Mutara the 3rd Rudahigwa and his queen Rosalia Gicanda
Pastor Ezra Mpyisi ready to say bye to his hero, the King
The body arrives at Mwima
The bishop at Mwima
His majesty the King buried near his brother
Mutara the 3rd Rudahigwa's tumb
Mukabayojo saying bye to her brother
Minister Uwacu puting flowers on the king's tumb
Photos: Ashimwe Shane Constantin/Afrifame Pictures