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Last king of Rwanda Kigeli V passes away at 80

The last king of Rwanda, Kigeli V, died early Sunday, his official website said. He was 80.

By   |  Updated On : October 17, 2016 11:07 AM

Washington :  

The last king of Rwanda, Kigeli V, born Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa in Kamembe, the monarch went into exile in 1960 after clashing with the Belgian colonial power. The information about his death was reported on his official website. He was 80. 

He ruled the east African nation for less than a year before being forced into exile, finally settling in the United States. In 1961, the monarchy was abolished.

The king began a life of exile in east Africa, including Kenya and Uganda, before leaving for America, where he settledin the suburbs of Washington in 1992.

Details of his death early on Sunday were not immediately known.

"It is with a very heavy heart that we announce that HisMajesty King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, the last King of Rwanda,died early this morning," read a statement on his website.

"He was a devout and dedicated believer and the lastanointed African Roman Catholic king to reign over a fullcountry."

Funeral arrangements, and details on the heir to thethrone will be announced at a later date, the statement said.

King Kigeli had come to power after succeeding his half-brother Mutara III, who died in unclear circumstances on theeve of the Hutu "social revolution" which sent hundreds ofthousands of ethnic Tutsi fleeing.

Most of them did not return home to Rwanda until afterthe 1994 genocide, which left some 800,000 dead, mostly fromthat minority.
Kigeli V is a Tutsi, but the tradition is that the monarchy represent all Rwandans of all ethnicities.

In September 1961, the monarchy was abolished byreferendum and Rwanda gained independence the following year.
While in the United States, the exiled monarch led theKing Kigeli V Foundation to aid Rwandan refugees.

A 2013 profile in Washingtonian magazine, found himliving in subsidised housing, on food stamps and donations, inOakton, Virginia, happy to hand out chocolates to neighbors'children. "They call me the King of Africa," Kigeli said of the neighbours, in that report. "Ah, it's good." For decades he spoke of returning to his east African home land a tiny, land locked country that ranks among the world's poorest nations but as monarch.

Since 1994 and the rise to power of current President Paul Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which emerged from a former Tutsi rebellion the issue of a potential return by the king was regularly brought up. Yet every effort failed: the RPF authorities have alway ssaid they were ready for him to return, yet only as a private citizen. The former monarch held out hope he could return to the throne.

First Published: Monday, October 17, 2016 10:49 AM

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