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Hundreds attend last Rwandan king's funeral

16 January 2017, 15:16

Nyanza - Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral of Rwanda's last king, Kigeli V, in the country's former royal capital Nyanza on Sunday.

Kigeli was buried in his homeland after his body was repatriated from Washington on Monday. He had been living in exile in the United States since 1992.

Kigeli actually died in October at the age of 80 but his funeral was delayed by a court battle between his relatives, arguing over where he should be buried - in the US or his place of birth.

The religious ceremony took place outdoors in the grounds of the old King's Palace, now a modest museum, in Nyanza, around 100km from the capital Kigali, a local journalist told AFP.

The Rwandan king's crown was placed on Kigeli's grey coffin while his family wore traditional "umushanana" dress.

Dozens of local residents joined Kigeli's family and Rwanda's culture minister Julienne Uwacu to pay their respects.

"He was a man who fought for Rwanda's independence," said 69-year-old farmer Anastaze Musonera.

"Even in exile, he was a friend of Rwanda. He didn't criticise, he didn't tarnish Rwanda's image."

Jean de Dieu Tuyinsize said he had learnt about Kigeli at school.

"We're happy he's come home to be buried here in Rwanda," said the 27-year-old builder.

The former monarch was buried on a hill near the tomb of his half-brother and predecessor Mutara III, who died in 1959.

The monarchy was abolished in 1961, two years after Kigeli, born Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa, ascended to the throne.

But by then he had already left the country after clashing with colonial power Belgium in 1960, having approached the United Nations for help in obtaining independence.

He was exiled first to east Africa before eventually settling in the US.

Kigeli had tried to come back to his homeland while still alive but failed to reach agreement with the country's government.

He insisted on returning as king, whereas president Paul Kagame, in power since the end of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, would accept him only as a private citizen.

- AFP

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