King Kigeli V’s body repatriated for burial

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King Kigeli V passed on last year, he was 80. File.

The body of Kigeli V Ndahindurwa arrived in the country, yesterday, from the US.

King Kigeli V died on October 16, 2016. He was 80.

The repatriation of the deceased’s body follows a court battle between members of his family, where one side wanted his body brought and buried in his ancestral country, while others wanted him buried in the US.

A court in the US state of Virginia ruled last week that the 80-year-old monarch’s body be brought home for burial.

At Kigali International Airport to receive Kigeli’s body were members of the family and senior government officials.

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Sports and Culture Minister, Julienne Uwacu (R) walks with family members of Kigeli V at Kigali International Airport yesterday, where they had been to receive the monarch's body from the United States. Faustin Niyigena

Dr James Vuningoma, the executive secretary of the Rwandan Academy of Language and Culture (RALC), said it was a moment for solidarity, togetherness and support.

“For some weeks there has been debate within his family, whether to be brought to Rwanda or to stay where he was in America. A decision later was reached that he could actually be brought home, which is a great achievement for the family and for the country because it would have been absurd for our former king to be buried in a foreign land,” he said.

Vuningoma added that both government and members of the family have been waiting for the final repatriation of the late king to give him a befitting send-off in accordance with Rwandan cultural norms.

“Our culture reminds us to provide support and compassion,” he added.

Vuningoma noted that the king’s family will meet and then advise government on the next course of action, adding that government will support the family where needed.

Jean Baptiste Ndahindurwa (Kigeli V) was a son of Yuhi Musinga, a former Rwandan king, born in 1936 in the present Rusizi District and was brother of the late Mutara Rudahigwa, another king whose monarchy ended in 1959 after his death.

Kigeli, who took over from his brother Rudahigwa, ruled for a short time until 1961 before he was deposed and subsequently exiled, first in different neighbouring countries before he ended up in the US, where he lived until his death.

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