King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa was yesterday laid to rest in Nyanza District, at the peak of Mountain Mwima, right next to the tomb of his late brother and predecessor, Mutara III Rudahigwa.
The funeral ceremony which attracted thousands of mourners started with a requiem mass celebrated by Bishop Phillipe Rukamba in the royal court at the palace in Nyanza town, currently a designated museum, where people had gathered to pay their last respects to the deceased King.
First to pay tribute was Pastor Ezra Mpyisi, a close friend of the family and former close aid and adviser to the late king, who expressed gratitude to relatives who fought hard to have the remains of Kigeli repatriated and briefly narrated the history of the deceased since his birth, during the coronation, his exile until his death.
“The King died with dignity, he loved the country which explains why he never acquired any other citizenship for all the years he was in exile,” said Mpyisi, who also worked with King Rudahigwa.
Second to pay tribute was the only surviving sister to Kigeli, Princess Speciose Mukabayojo, an elderly woman who grew up with the late King both in Rwanda and even when they went into exile.
“This is a historical day in our life, I thank God for his endless support, grace and blessings, I grew up with him (King Kigeli V) and we loved each other so passionately, our love became even stronger when we remained the only descendants to King Musinga,
“I will forever love him, and on top of this, I am glad we are sending him off where he was crowned and next to our elder brother, the Late King Mutara Rudahigwa,” she said.
Princess Mukabayojo further thanked the government for the support accorded to the family in the process of repatriating the body from the United States where Kigeli died in October last year, adding that this is true to the spirit of unity and reconciliation that this government has preached for over the past two decades.
Several Kingdoms paid tributes
The funeral ceremony was attended by representatives of different kingdoms across the region and among those who paid tribute are those from the Kingdoms of Buganda, Toro and Ankore all in Uganda and members of the royal family of Burundi.
The government expressed condolences to the bereaved family during the occasion and promised support.
“Government was very saddened by the passing of the late King, we express our sincere condolences to the surviving family and we wish to promise our support,” said Julienne Uwacu, sport and culture Minister who spoke on behalf of the Government.
Kigeli’s death sparked controversy between factions within his family, where some wanted him interred in the United States, while others called for his repatriation for burial in Rwanda.
A legal battle ensued and a court in the US state of Virginia, where the monarch resided prior to his death, ruled that he should be buried in Rwanda.