When Belgian colonialists arrived at the Rwandan palace in Nyanza, southern Rwanda, in 1916, King Yuhi V Musinga ordered his army, Indugaruga, to welcome them warmly and to remove their uniform- dating back to the German colonists- to wear Imikenyero- Rwandan traditional attire. He even told the locals to behave properly when they arrived. Although not a fan of colonialism, Musinga did not actively resist it because of the advice that was given to his father, King Kigeli IV Rwabugiri, who was warned by King Rumanyika of Karagwe (now Tanzania) to not rebel in any way. He sent word that if he did, they would depose him immediately or brutally murder him. This has led many people to regard Musinga as ‘weak’ for having not rebelled at the onset of Belgian colonization, until he was exiled and replaced by his young son. However, Dantès Singiza, a Historian in the AfricaMuseum of Belgium says research has proved otherwise. “Some people think that Musinga was weak because his resistance wasn’t active. The fact is that he actually resisted the Belgian colonialists, but strategically. People who knew him then, including the chiefs, say that he was a careful planner. He knew they would depose him- he saw it coming,” Singiza said. He added that Musinga was certain that many people would fight for him, should he have chosen war. But he had let everyone from his council know that he didn’t wish to fight, especially because it would have been a taboo for his blood to be spilled in Nyanza, where his palace was. He believed there would be a curse that would even affect his son’s reign. “When the people who lived in Mayaga (southern Rwanda) heard that the king was exiled to Kamembe, they immediately got their bows and arrows, and ran in the hills to fight the colonists, but the chiefs stopped them on their way,” Singiza noted. Talking to The New Times, he shared key points that showed Musinga’s passive resistance tactics that saw him rule 15 years under Belgian colonialism, despite strong differences. In total, Musinga ruled Rwanda for 35 years. The successor When the Belgian colonists found out that Musinga would never give in to all their plans, they decided to establish rapport with his then young son, Rudahigwa, whom they wanted to install after they deposed his father. Some people think that because the Belgians preferred Rudahigwa, he and Musinga were against each other, but Singiza argues that in fact, it was quite the opposite. “They were very close and they had the same ideology. Every time the colonists mentioned to Rudahigwa that they would make him king and exile his father, he would go behind their backs to tell him. Musinga knew he would be exiled because Rudahigwa had told him. They had a great relationship but in secret,” Singiza explained. When the plan to depose Musinga was being finalized, some chiefs, including Rwabutogo, Rwubusisi, and Kayondo, heard of it and went to the palace to let him know. He asked them, as if he didn’t know, who was going to replace him. “When they said Rudahigwa, he sighed in relief, because among his children, Musinga was sure that he was the one who would handle ruling during the difficult time. But then again, he felt a bit sad because he was only young,” Singiza noted. Rudahigwa was yet to turn 20 years of age. “You are going to make my son a ‘liberator’ (umutabazi) when he is still young,” Musinga complained, because he was worried that the Belgians would kill him. Rwabutogo, on the other hand, responded that they would fight for him. In pre-colonial Rwanda, a popular concept of fighting for the country known as ‘Gutabarira u Rwanda’ in Kinyarwanda, was widely practiced by almost all the kings who launched military expeditions to enlarge the Rwandan kingdom. One of the ways was to send people to targeted kingdoms, where they would shed their blood to bring curse to that land, and send good luck to the Rwandan army that would attack later and win. Such people were called ‘Abatabazi b’abacengeri’, which would loosely translate to ‘infiltrative saviours/liberators’, and one famous example is Princess Robwa Nyiramateke. However, even dying while fighting for the country made one ‘Umutabazi’, and Musinga was worried that his son would end up becoming one at a young age- which ended up being the case in 1959, 28 years later. Crowning a “fake” king In 1929, during one of the deadliest famines in Rwanda, Rwakayihura, the Belgian colonists ordered Musinga to tour the whole kingdom in order to console the dying citizens. While this may have been necessary, it was against the royal rituals. For context, all the Yuhi kings of Rwanda were crowned in the south, where they would stay until their death. They would only cross the River Nyabarongo as dead bodies, carried to be buried. Musinga thought that it wasn’t wise for him to start actively resisting the Belgian rule then, even worse because there was famine. He then discussed the matter with his council to find a way for him to tour the whole kingdom without committing a taboo. “They agreed that when they go on tour, Musinga would remove every royal clothing and ornament that only the king wore, and dress like a regular, but also abdicate the throne temporarily and install one of his sons. That way, he would cross the river as an ordinary person, and not the king,” singiza noted. Every time the king had to visit a place, the royal drums would be beaten in his honor, and the dancers would be entertaining him too. But during the tour, everyone but his aides stayed at the palace in Nyanza. This is something the Belgians would have never known of “The people were excited to see him. Some of them had never met him, so they didn’t quite spot what was going on. However, the chiefs knew exactly what was going on the moment they set their eyes on him,” Singiza explained. Burying Cyilima Rujugira two centuries later In traditional Rwanda, there was a royal burial ritual called ‘Inzira y’amabuga’, which was done by kings whose names were Cyilima and Mutara, where one buries the other. For this to be done, the serving queen mother had to drink milk until she died (‘kunywa’). When Mwami Cyilima II Rujugira died in 1708, in Gaseke- presently in Muhanga district, his body had to be transported to Nyanza by Mutara II Rwogera who ruled from 1830, more than a century later. When he had to transport the body, his Queen Mother Nyiramavugo Nyiramongi refused to drink milk. So, his body had to wait for another Mutara, who came 222 years later. When the Belgian colonists informed Musinga he was being deposed, it was on November 12. He immediately ordered that the body which had waited two centuries, to be buried, immediately. He was buried on the 13th, and on the 14th, Musinga was officially deposed and sent to Kamembe, away from the palace. “He knew that his son, who would be Mutara, had the duty to bury Rujugira, but he had started studying the catechism, and could have possibly not been able to do it because it was one of the rituals the staunch catholic Belgians had forbade the moment they arrived in Rwanda,” Singiza said. In 1941, Musinga was exiled to Moba, DR Congo, where he died three years later. Since the day he was deposed, his son who was then the king took care of him, although he was denied to to give him a decent burial in Rwanda by the colonists. Musinga is also remembered to have contributed to the growth of the traditional arts sector, and a lover of the Rwandan tradition and religion.