King Mutara III Rudahigwa is feted among Rwandan heroes. He is in the category comprised of heroes known for their extraordinary acts for the country marked by sacrifice, high importance, and example. He was the 27th and second-last king of Rwanda. He was the firstborn of 43 children by his father and predecessor to the throne, Yuhi IV Musinga. Rudahigwa is today classified among the Imena category of national heroes. ALSO READ: Rwanda’s leading lights who exemplified heroism Born to King Musinga and Kankazi ka Mbanzabigwi in March 1911, Rudahigwa died at the age of 48 under mysterious circumstances when Rwanda was in a difficult political situation. During his adolescence, Rudahigwa attended the current Groupe Scolaire Butare at that time referred to as Groupe Scolaire de la Charité, named after its founders (The Charity Brothers). After graduation, he became an assistant to his father, which according to historians is among his first heroic acts. “In the first place, he demonstrated his heroism when other students went to look for jobs from the colonists, but he chose to go help his father and became his assistant at a time the father was fighting Belgian colonialists,” said Clotilde Umubyeyi, a historian who recalls that Rudahigwa spent three years with his father until 1927. ALSO READ: HEROES DAY: Celebrating Félicité Niyitegeka’s life as a selfless martyr At the age of 18 in 1929, he became the sub-chief of Ndiza (current Muhanga District), that is the time when his father was pushing back on Belgians as they tried to trim his powers. Nevertheless, historians say that by appointing him as a sub-chief by the colonialists, they were trying to drive a wedge between him and his father and this was an attempt to draw him closer to Kabgayi, the then office of the colonial residency. In that tough political situation, Musinga was banished to Zaire (currently DR Congo), and Rudahigwa was enthroned on November 16, 1931. Though some people think that he should have turned down the crown because his father was still alive and thus the reigning monarch, historical evidence shows he was instructed to do so by his father. “He disclosed the plan to his father that the colonists were planning to chase him away and enthrone another King (himself), but his father instructed him to obey their rules so as to help Rwandans get used to the new system,” recalls Umubyeyi. “Yes, they will kill you too but let’s take them slowly,” Umubyeyi says while repeating the words Musinga said to his son. One year after his reign, identity cards profiling people along ethnic lines were introduced, but he strongly opposed them, which marked the start of his battle against the Belgians. Rudahigwa’s reforms Despite reigning during a hostile political environment, Rudahigwa carried out another range of positive reforms. He abolished “Ikiboko” which was a violent supervisory system where Rwandans were forced by colonialists and their collaborators to work in plantations, during which they were beaten and punished in violent ways. Rudahigwa also created the Mutara Fund which helped build schools and pay school fees for Rwandan children. Most Rwandan schools were built after the 1950s when he embarked on developing Rwandan education. He also built food silos (ku bigega) where Rwandans would store their produce during bumper seasons to cushion them against starvation during the bad seasons. Rudahigwa also built a milk-cooling plant in the Nyanza area and encouraged the breeding of dairy cattle so that all parts of the country can get milk. A mysterious death King Rudahigwa died on 25th July 1959 under mysterious circumstances. He had travelled to Burundi to take a test ahead of a trip he intended to make to the United States where he was due to attend the UN General Assembly. He was expected to deliver a speech agitating for independence from Belgians. Ludo de Witte, a Belgian author, has conducted in-depth research and published two books on the deaths of Prince Louis Rwagasore, the Burundian Prince, and Emery Patrice Lumumba, the ex-Congolese prime minister – both Rudahigwa’s contemporaries. Rwandan activists wonder why he can’t conduct the same research on the real cause of Rudahigwa’s death.