Kigeli V of Rwanda

Kigeli V Ndahindurwa (born Jean-Baptiste Ndahindurwa; 29 June 1936 – 16 October 2016) was the last ruling King (Mwami) of Rwanda, from 28 July 1959 until the abolition of the Rwandan monarchy on 25 September 1961, shortly before the country acceded to independence from Belgium.

Kigeli V Ndahindurwa
Kigeli V of Rwanda at the NLC.jpg
Kigeli V shortly before his death at the National Liberal Club in London
Mwami of Rwanda
Reign28 July 1959 – 28 January 1961
PredecessorMutara III of Rwanda
SuccessorYuhi VI of Rwanda (in pretense)
Born(1936-06-29)29 June 1936
Kamembe, Ruanda-Urundi
Died16 October 2016(2016-10-16) (aged 80)
Washington D.C., U.S.[1]
Burial15 January 2017
Nyanza District, Rwanda[2]
FatherYuhi V of Rwanda
MotherMukashema Bernadette[4]
ReligionRoman Catholicism

After a brief period of moveabouts after leaving Rwanda, the titular King lived in exile during the final part of his life in the town of Oakton, Virginia, United States. In exile, he was known for heading the King Kigeli V Foundation, an organisation promoting humanitarian work for Rwandan refugees. He was also notable for his activities in maintaining the dynastic, cultural heritage of his formerly reigning royal house, including noble titles, dynastic orders of chivalry and other distinctions.

After the king's death, a successor was said to be shortly revealed. In January 2017, it was announced that Yuhi VI of Rwanda would succeed him. Yuhi VI is the nephew of both the late King Kigeli V and the previous King Mutara III, as well as a grandson of King Yuhi V of Rwanda.

Early life and educationEdit

Kigeli was born Ndahindurwa on 29 June 1936 in Kamembe, Rwanda, to Yuhi Musinga, the deposed King Yuhi V of Rwanda, and Queen Mukashema (born Mukashema Bernadette), the seventh of his eleven wives.[5] He was ethnically Tutsi.[6] Kigeli had fourteen siblings, being one of the youngest of his father's many children.[7]

When Kigeli was 4 years old,[6][8] his father was exiled by the Belgian government to Moba, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[8][9] Following the death of his father, in 1944 he returned to Rwanda.[10] Kigeli was baptised in the Catholic Church in his teens,[11] taking the Christian name Jean-Baptiste,[12] and remained a devout Catholic throughout his life.[6]

He received his education at the Groupe Scolaire Astrida (now Groupe Scolaire Officiel de Butare) in Rwanda,[5][13] and at the Nyangezi College in the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo.[5][14] After he finished school in 1956,[6] he worked in local government in Rwanda until 1959.[5]

Reign in RwandaEdit

Brass lapel pin Vive Kigeli V "Long Live Kigeli V"

After his half-brother, King Mutara III Rudahigwa, died under mysterious circumstances on 25 July 1959, it was announced on 28 July that Kigeli would succeed him as King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa.[6][15] "Kigeli" is sometimes transcribed as "Kigeri".[16][17] Though married, Kigeli's late half-brother had had no children; the abrupt, shocking nature of the death prompted widespread talk of some kind of assassination having occurred.[7]

Kigeli's appointment was a surprise to the Belgian administration, who were not involved in his selection, and who described the event as a coup d'état,[6][18] a view shared by the newly politically empowered Hutu elite.[19] Kigeli himself also felt shocked and overwhelmed at the news of his ascension.[7] The tense atmosphere and presence of armed Rwandans at the funeral prevented the Belgians from objecting,[11][20] as well as preventing Hutu interference.[21] Despite this, Kigeli was initially favoured by all sides: Tutsi traditionalists, Hutu nationalists, and the Catholic clergy all felt optimistic on his appointment.[11] However, the manner of his appointment led to a loss of prestige for the Belgian authorities, and gave both Hutu and Tutsi revolutionaries the impression that violence might further their goals. The fact that the Tutsi establishment had engineered the rise to power also compromised Kigeli's ability to act in the traditional role as a neutral arbiter of differing factions.[20]

Kigeli V in 1961

Kigeli duly followed regal tradition by disregarding past ethnic and ideological affiliations, embracing the role of the 'father of all Rwandan people'. However, political instability and tribal conflict grew despite efforts by the monarchy and others. Only a month after Kigeli's November 1959 ascension, Hutu versus Tutsi militancy increased to the point that hundreds died. Many Tutsi went into exile. Issues with the increasingly restive Hutu population were encouraged by the Belgian military, promoting widespread revolt. Kigeli later wrote, "I am not clinging to power... I will always accept the people’s verdict; what I cannot accept is that the Belgian Administration should influence or distort this verdict."[7]

In July 1960, Kigeli sought safe haven in the newly independent nation of Congo.[7] In 1961, Kigeli was in Kinshasa to meet Secretary General of the United Nations Dag Hammarskjöld when Dominique Mbonyumutwa, with the support of the Belgian government, led a coup d'état that took control of the Rwandan state.[7] The monarchy's rule was formally overthrown on 28 January 1961.[22] The coup resulted in the 1961 referendum about the fate of the nation's royal system.[7]

The election results showed that, with about 95% turnout, around 80% of voters opposed the continuation of the monarchy. Kigeli criticized the affair as rigged; soon after re-entering Rwanda prior to the election, Belgian officials put him under house arrest.[7]

The government officially deported Kigeli to what is now Tanzania on 2 October 1961. He subsequently lived in multiple other locations, leaving the region of Tanganyika (living in Dar es Salaam) for places such as Kampala, Uganda, and Nairobi, Kenya. He was granted political asylum in the United States in July 1992. He resided in the U.S. for the rest of his life.[7]

Exile activitiesEdit

Granted political asylum by the United States, he settled near Washington, D.C., where he claimed welfare, and lived in subsidized housing.[6][23] He subsequently settled in the Oakton, Virginia, area.[citation needed]

He traveled internationally to speak on behalf of the Rwandan people and repeatedly called for peace and harmony between the different groups. Kigeli continued to remember the victims of the Rwandan genocide and attempted to reconcile all political, ethnic, and religious parties in Rwanda to use the democratic process to solve any disputes. Kigeli was a friend of former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela and the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Patrice Lumumba.[citation needed]

In an August 2007 BBC interview, Kigeli expressed an interest in returning to Rwanda if the Rwandan people were prepared to accept him as their constitutional monarch. He said that he had met President Paul Kagame and that Kagame had told him that he and his family were free to return, but Kigeli said that in order to do so, he needed to know if the people still wanted him to be king. According to Kigeli, Kagame said that he would consult the government about the issue.[24]


He was the head of the King Kigeli V Foundation,[25] whose mission is to bring humanitarian initiatives on behalf of Rwandan refugees.[citation needed]

Death and successionEdit

Kigeli died of a heart ailment at the age of eighty on the morning of 16 October 2016 in a hospital in Washington, D.C..[1] His private secretary, Guye Pennington, said that an heir had been chosen and would be announced shortly.[26] Kigeli never married, in obedience to a rule banning marriage for kings while they were out of the country.[26]

Although Kigeli never married, on 9 January 2017, the Royal House announced that his nephew, Prince Emmanuel Bushayija (to reign as Yuhi VI of Rwanda), would succeed him as pretender to the Rwandan throne.[27] He is the son of the half-brother of Kigeli, Prince William Bushayija.

After Kigeli's death, it was revealed he had at least one daughter, Jacqueline Rwivanga, married to Andrew Rugasira 1998-2015 and a mother of five.[28]



Status and recognitionEdit

As titular King in exile, as part of maintaining his royal family's cultural heritage, Kigeli V issued chivalric orders and titles of nobility with himself as fount of honour, in accordance with traditional customs.

Research in 2016 found that noble Rwandan titles were given to non-Rwandans by King Mutara III, the prior King of Rwanda. This was consistent with King Kigeli's statements that his elder brother, when he reigned as King, granted orders and noble titles to non-Rwandans. An independent article confirming this was printed in an article titled "African King Gets Papal Honor from Vatican" in The Guardian, a publication of the Roman Catholic diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, United States, 4 July 1947.[29]

The titles are recognised by Burke's Peerage[30] and the Augustan Society.[31]

However, the activities have also been a subject of controversy by critics.

An article in 2013 presented that donations between $1,000 to $8,000, and services of up to $30,000, have been given prior to the grant of honours.[32] The web site of King Kigeli issued a statement in September 2016 that awards were based on merit, related to past demonstrable charitable work, occupational achievement, and educational background, and that a passage fee could apply.[33]

Since the President of the International Commission on Orders of Chivalry could not recognise the titles as part of Rwanda's historical tradition in 2013, he labelled Kigeli's activities in titles "very sad", calling on them to not be awarded.[32] The King's Secretary General of the time replied, "Who has the right to question his authorities but God and his countrymen?"[32]

Title and style of addressEdit

Foreign titlesEdit

House ordersEdit

  •   Grand Master of the Royal Order of the Drum, first awarded by Kigeli[6]
  •   Grand Master of the Royal Order of the Crown, first awarded by Kigeli[6]
  •   Grand Master of the Royal Order of the Crested Crane, first awarded by Kigeli[6]
  •   Grand Master of the Royal Order of the Lion (Intare), first awarded by Mutara III Rudahigwa[6]

Foreign ordersEdit

Foreign orders and decorations received by the King:[35]

Ecclesiastical decorationsEdit

City awardsEdit

Other awardsEdit


  1. ^ a b "Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, Rwandan king without a crown, dies at 80". The Washington Post. 18 October 2016.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Rwanda: Clan of the dynasty Abanyiginya". Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 31 October 2002.
  4. ^ "Genealogy". Archived from the original on 28 November 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Randall Fegley (2016). "Hutu Power and Genocide". A History of Rwandan Identity and Trauma. Lexington Books. p. 29.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "A King With No Country". Washingtonian. 27 March 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Kigeli V: Rwandan king with no throne".
  8. ^ a b Alison Des Forges (2011). Defeat Is the Only Bad News. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 245.
  9. ^ A. Ndahiro; J. Rwagatare; A. Nkusi, eds. (2015). Rwanda: Rebuilding of a Nation. Fountain Publishers. p. 13.
  10. ^ Aimable Twagilimana (2007). Historical Dictionary of Rwanda. Scarecrow Press. p. xxviii.
  11. ^ a b c J. J. Carney (2014). Rwanda Before the Genocide. Oxford University Press. p. 107.
  12. ^ "The Kings of Rwanda – Fathers of a Nation Part III: Not For the Power, But For the People". H. M. King Kigeli V. Archived from the original on 18 August 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  13. ^ "GSO-Butare marks 83rd anniversary". The New Times. 25 September 2012. Archived from the original on 30 July 2013.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  14. ^ "Kigeli V: Rwandan king with no throne". Daily Monitor. 16 March 2014.
  15. ^ Aimable Twagilimana (2007). Historical Dictionary of Rwanda. Scarecrow Press. p. xxix.
  16. ^ "Kingdom of Rwanda". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  17. ^ Aimable Twagilimana (2007). Historical Dictionary of Rwanda. Scarecrow Press. p. 181.
  18. ^ J. J. Carney (2014). Rwanda Before the Genocide. Oxford University Press. pp. 106–7.
  19. ^ Aimable Twagilimana (2007). Historical Dictionary of Rwanda. Scarecrow Press. p. 82.
  20. ^ a b Deborah Mayersen (2014). On the Path to Genocide. Berghahn Books. p. 124.
  21. ^ Endre Sík (1974). The History of Black Africa. IV. Akadémiai Kiadó. p. 332.
  22. ^ Leonhard Praeg (2007). The Geometry of Violence. AFRICAN SUN MeDIA. p. 39.
  23. ^ Pickert, Kate (5 June 2008). "Life After the Throne, As King Gyanendra prepares to depart from the Nepalese royal palace, TIME takes a look at how other former and wannabe Monarchs have weathered the loss of their crowns: Kigeli Ndahindurwa V, Former King of Rwanda". Time. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  24. ^ David Bamford, "Rwanda's former king eyes return", BBC News, 18 August 2007.
  25. ^ Lyons, Patrick J. (23 July 2007). "Dwindling Links to Monarchies Past". The Lede, The New York Times News Blog. The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2010.
  26. ^ a b Emily Langer (18 October 2016). "Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, Rwandan king without a crown, dies at 80". Washington Post. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  27. ^ "Africa highlights: Tuesday 10 January 2017 as it happened". BBC News. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017. Ex-Pepsi Cola employee becomes Rwandan king. Posted at 10:22 UTC. A 56-year-old man who lives in the UK and once worked for a soft drinks company in Uganda has been named Rwanda's king-in-exile. Prince Emmanuel Bushayija succeeds his grandfather (recte, uncle), King Kigeli V, who died in the US [sic] in October aged 80. In a statement, the Royal House said the new monarch grew up in exile in Uganda, and later worked for Pepsi Cola in the capital, Kampala. 'He then went on to work in the tourism industry in Kenya, before returning to Rwanda between 1994 and 2000. Since then, His Majesty has lived in the United Kingdom, where he is married with two children,' it added.
  28. ^ Heir to Late King of Rwanda Revealed, Holds Ring From Father. Retrieved 25 January 2017.-
  29. ^ "African King Gets Papal Honor from Vatican". The Guardian. Arkansas: Roman Catholic diocese of Little Rock. 4 July 1947. p. 5.
  30. ^ Stair Sainty, G. & Heydel-Mankoo, R. (2006). World Orders of Knighthood and Merit. Burke's Peerage. pp. 795–798.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  31. ^ "Other Non-Ruling Dynastic Honors and Orders of Merit". Augustan Society.
  32. ^ a b c "Noble titles: Honours and offers". The Economist. 28 September 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
  33. ^ "Clarification on Awards of Honors, H M King Kigeli". 13 September 2016. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  34. ^ "The Royal Trip to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - June 29 Part II - H. M. King Kigeli V".
  35. ^ "Decorations - H. M. King Kigeli V".
  36. ^ "His Majesty receives the Order of Merit of the Royal House of Portugal - H. M. King Kigeli V".
  37. ^ "COMMON COUNCIL" (PDF). City of London Corporation. 16 July 2016. p. 6.

External linksEdit

Kigeli V of Rwanda
House of Ndahindurwa
Born: 29 June 1936 Died: 16 October 2016
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mutara III
King of Rwanda
25 July 1959 – 28 January 1961
Monarchy dismantled
Titles in pretence
Loss of title
Coup d'état
King of Rwanda
28 January 1961 – 16 October 2016
Succeeded by
Yuhi VI of Rwanda