As part of Africa Week, an annual celebration focused on raising awareness of the history and culture of the African continent, former Rwandan King Kigeli V spoke to a audience of students, faculty and staff on campus Oct. 27.
The speech, which focused on what he described as turmoil in his country, his family legacy and the future of Rwanda, took place in the Oviatt Library Presentation Room. It was presented by the African Studies Interdisciplinary Program and the Pan-African Studies Department and sponsored by several groups, including the African Student Organization.
King Kigeli V was in power from 1959 to 1961, and his royalty goes back 1,000 years, he said through his translator at the speech, which was titled, “My Life, My People and the Future of Rwanda.”
“My people did not choose to end the monarchy in Rwanda,” Kigeli V said. “That was imposed on them by the (Belgians).”
An increasingly active Hutu population, encouraged by the Belgian military, many contend, sparked a revolt in November 1959, resulting in the eventual overthrow of King Kigeli V.
According to Kigeli V, Belgian authorities began occupying Rwanda in the late 1960s and exiled the king in order to establish their power and authority. After more than 30 years of institutional reign, Belgian authorities left Rwanda while simultaneously inciting a civil war between two major ethnic groups, Tutsis and Hutus, according to Kigeli V.
The Rwandan genocide, which peaked in 1994 with the death of 800,000 Rwandans during a single 100-day period.
“The genocide is a result of a loss of respect and culture,” he said. “The young people do not respect or listen to their elders – If I am allowed to return, I will encourage intermarriage among the groups so that we can become one people again.”
Kigeli V said now that Rwanda is no longer occupied by foreigners, he is eager to return to his homeland after more than three decades.
“I am the father of the nation and want to be with my people,” Kigeli V said. “I have a connection with them.”
Although the United Nations is now trying to develop solutions concerning peace for the people of Rwanda, Kigeli V said he believes that a resolution will not be reached until the politics within the country has returned to its original cultural status, when there was no conflict before the Belgians came.
He said the influence of Belgium control must be erased to start anew.
Current Rwandan President Paul Kagame was democratically elected in August 2003 with little opposition.
Although the desire of Kigeli V is to return to Rwanda as reigning king, he wants to be clear that he is more interested in providing a voice for his people so they can decide what form of government they would like to utilize. He said that until that happens, he will continue to speak out about the injustice he feels has taken over in his land.
“I am not fighting for the power,” he said. “I am fighting for the people.”
Alexandria Barabin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.