THERE IS no lost love between Rwandas former Monarch and its current President, Paul Kagame, or so the rumor often goes. King Kigeli, the last King of Rwanda with one of the shortest-lived reigns, has been in exile since 1960 when he was ousted by Rwanda’s first President Dominique Mbonyumutwa who then led a referendum to abolish the monarchy. Today, it is no secret that his living conditions are a far cry from his brief prestigious past. In “A King with no country,” the author Ariel Sabar describes a King living in poor conditions in the United States and barely surviving on food stamps. More than fifty years of exile later, why is the King of Rwanda yet to return home? Is it because he wouldn’t be welcomed by the current government? Or is he, like every other individual of Rwandan decent, welcome to return home at a moment’s notice? Should he be allowed to retain his title of ‘Mwami’ (King) at the very least on an honorary basis? These are the questions I set out to elucidate. Unfortunately, my quest for intrigue and secret feud between a Republic and a King led me to a much less exciting discovery: an ill advised, aging King who seems to have lost the values of dignity and placing citizens before self that should define any leader. As they often do, the rumors of a below the surface conflict with Rwanda’s government proved to be untrue or, at the very least, extremely misguided. In fact, it turns out the Government of Rwanda has been working for the past two years to ensure a dignified return for Rwanda’s last King. According to sources close to the steering committee set up to lead talks with the monarch, King Kigeli himself expressed excitement at the idea of his return. Contrary to popular belief, it was a return that aimed to respect his role as a representative of a historical institution. He was to be provided a beautiful home overlooking the town of Nyanza, the former capital of Rwanda, and a sizable allowance. My sources went further to confirm that the return of Mwami Kigeli V was, at one point, imminent. As the final stage of his return drew near, a delegation led by Pastor Ezra Mpyisi, a former advisor to Mwami Mutara Rudahigwa, made the trip to visit King Kigeli V only to find the plan had changed. The King had suddenly opted out of returning home. According to the committee in charge of his return, King Kigeli V referred to a neighbouring country as the reason for his change of heart. Part of Rwanda’s process of reconciliation includes making peace with our past, however troubled it may have gotten at one point or another. This is what Rwanda sought to achieve by attempting to restore dignity to the King and preserve an institution future generations could learn from. With his choice to remain in exile, as a refugee living on food stamps, the King seems to have acted in blatant contradiction with what one might consider common sense. At 78 years of age, as not only the longest African Monarch living in exile and having out-reigned all his ancestors, why turn down the opportunity to be part of his homeland again? Did anyone advise him otherwise? Could King Kigeli V be more interested in being a pawn in regional politics than part of a nation seeking to build a dignified future and reconcile with its past? Your guess is as good as mine. The writer is an editor and political analyst on the Great Lakes Region.