Rwandan King Kigeli V to visit CSUN for speech

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King Kigeli V, in exile from Rwanda, is scheduled to visit campus on Thursday and Friday as part of CSUN’s annual Africa Week event.

The African Studies Interdisciplinary Program and the Pan-African Studies Department will present Kigeli V’s speech, “My Life, My People and the Future of Rwanda,” which will be held in the Oviatt Library Thursday at 2:30 p.m.

“He will speak about a place most of us know very little about,” said Tom Spencer-Walters, chair of the Pan-African Studies Department. “Kigeli V’s bloodline goes back over 500 years.”

Marvin Boateng, vice president of ASO, said he expects many people will be interested in the event because an actual king will be visiting the CSUN campus.

Kigeli V’s visit will be open to all students, faculty and staff, as well as community members.

“The speech will give a chance for students to ask questions about the (Rwandan) genocide,” said Francis Appiah, president of ASO.

Boateng said a lot of people might be interested in the event because of the 1994 genocide, which has seen national attention in recent months because of the release of “Hotel Rwanda,” a film starring Don Cheadle that detailed the genocide.

“It was my goal for the past three years to get an ambassador to visit our campus,” Appiah said.

According to Appiah, having Kigeli V visit CSUN is a special event because he is normally required to be within five miles of a major airport for security reasons.

Kigeli V came to the United States during the Clinton administration and currently resides in Washington, D.C., Spencer-Walters said. He added that the former king makes frequent visits to cities in the United States, and he recently traveled to Beverly Hills.

The people of Rwanda, who still recognize him as their ruling king, await his return, Appiah said. The current president, Paul Kagame, was appointed by Belgium.

In his speech Thursday, Kigeli V is expected to briefly discuss the Rwandan genocide that occurred in 1994, when an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were killed, Spencer-Walters said.

The two dominant inhabitants of Rwanda are the Tutsis and the Hutus, who currently have a ruling president appointed by the Belgium government, Appiah said. In November 1959, Kigeli V fled into exile after the Belgium military encouraged a Hutus and Tutsis revolt.

Lako Tomgun from Claremont College will also speak on Thursday, and will focus specifically on cases of genocide in Africa.

Spencer-Walters said Kigeli V’s speech will likely give those in attendance better insight into the continent’s conflicts, including the Rwandan genocide.

The arrival of Kigeli V at CSUN is credited to Spencer-Walters, who was alerted of Kigeli V’s availability through a friend at the United Nations.

The Africa Week events are sponsored by the Provost’s Office, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the College of Humanities, Student Affairs, the Educational Opportunity Program, Graduate Studies, Research and International Programs, the Black Student Union, Associated Students, the Matador Involvement Center, the University Student Union, the Union Program Council and the FZA fraternity.

Richard Barkinskiy can be reached at city@sundial.csun.edu.