Rwanda to commemorate King Rudahigwa’s death

Rwanda will for the first time commemorate the death of Umwami Mutara III Rudahigwa who passed away under unclear circumstances on July 25, 1959 in Bujumbura, Burundi.
Sports and Culture Minister Joseph Habineza
Sports and Culture Minister Joseph Habineza

Rwanda will for the first time commemorate the death of Umwami Mutara III Rudahigwa who passed away under unclear circumstances on July 25, 1959 in Bujumbura, Burundi.

Rudahigwa was enroute to United Nations headquarters in New York, USA.

The date of his death has for long been kept alive and his family has annually held commemorative ceremonies in his memory.

On Saturday, Rwanda will join his family for the first time in marking the 50th anniversary of the Umwami’s sudden death.

The Ministry of Culture and Sports has organised a series of activities to commemorate this occasion.

Minister Joseph Habineza, under whose Ministry falls the heroes’ remembrance, said King Rudahigwa will always be remembered for being patriotic, protecting the kingdom’s territorial integrity and his subjects.

“Rwandans should remember him for his fight for the noble cause and his heroic actions,” he said in a press briefing yesterday.

The minister highlighted some of the King’s unforgettable activities that included the Mutara Fund that facilitated many of his subjects to access education.

Rudahigwa is also remembered for the boost he gave to the spread of Christianity by accepting to be baptised, making him the first Rwandan King to turn to Christianity.

He also dedicated the whole Rwanda to Christ the King, a name that belonged to the Catholic Parish of Nyanza in Southern Province where King Rudahigwa had his Palace.

Fifty years after his death, circumstances surrounding the King’s death remain mysterious.

As he was planning to leave Bujumbura for New York, the then exiled King is said to have died from a disease that he had already been vaccinated against.    

Minister Habineza said question marks remain as to what caused Umwam’s death.

However some reports say that Rudahigwa may have been killed to prevent him from addressing the United Nation general assembly on issues concerning his determination to get Rwanda out of the shackles of colonialism.

“But surely a research should be carried out to find this out, it is not too late, we can start doing this research,” said Habineza who regretted that the only people who would have done it in time were the colonial leaders but they chose to keep quiet.

King Rudahigwa, baptised Charles Leon Pierre, was born in 1911, and became the first Rwandan King to be enthroned while his father was still alive, that was on July 10, 1931.

He first married Nyiramakomali in 1933 but was divorced seven years later to remarry Queen Rosalie Gicanda in 1943.

Activities to mark half a century of his death will start on July 24, with a football match.

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