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Court Hears Fight Over King’s Body Between Closest Family and Distant Relatives

by KT Press Staff Writer
12:18 pm

Boniface Benzinge above was spokesman for King Kigeli Ndahindurwa

A strange court case opened Tuesday in the U.S state of Virginia in which a Judge is being asked to decide where the deceased former Rwanda monarch King Kigeli Ndahindurwa should be buried.

The body of the monarch remains in a hospital morgue since his death on October 16 last year. A row erupted among family members as to whether the 80 year old should be buried in Rwanda or elsewhere.

Two factions emerged. One side is led by Boniface Benzinge, one of two men who have been with Kigeli right from his brief time on the throne more than 50years ago. The other side is made up of the closest family members of the King.

Various meetings took place in Rwanda and the U.S. to try to find common ground – but instead each side dug more extreme poles. Neither wanted to compromise. They decided to seek court intervention.

On Tuesday, the pro-Rwanda burial side filed its arguments through an American attorney. In written affidavit, Speciosa Mukabayojo the sister and only surviving closest sibling, says her brother’s place of rest is Mwima, in Nyanza district, southern Rwanda.

The elderly Mukabayojo, herself unable to attend the court session says the fact that King Kigeli never sought any other nationality is because the only place he wanted to live was Rwanda. She is not alone.

What is clear from the warring sides is that the fight is between group which has closest blood links to the King against people who are distant relatives and those who were associated with the monarch.

Another of those in the block which wants the body brought to Rwanda is Christine Mukabayojo, the niece of the King. Rukeba Claude Francois, who the King’s defacto secretary for decades and keeper of his official memorabilia, also wants him brought to Rwanda.

Evidence filed by Rukeba suggests that King Kigeli was no longer on speaking terms with his spokesman Benzinge for sometime before his death. The King had pushed aside Benzinge and was no long confiding with him, says Rukeba.

There have even been indications that the King has a heir to the throne and Rukeba knows the name. He has said the person will be made public at some point. It had been thought Kigeli had no children, as per tradition, a position advanced repeatedly by Benzinge is various media interviews over the years.

Written arguments filed by the opposing side to the Rwanda burial is not buying notion of sending his body home. Led by Benzinge, the group through their American legal team, say Kigeli could only return to Rwanda alive. They say, even in his stolen will, Kigeli had preferred not to be in Rwanda.

They argue that there were even talks between the King and Government of Rwanda to have the King return several years ago, but no progress was recorded.

The presiding judge admitted on Tuesday that it is first such complicated case a U.S court is handling, according to Voice of America radio.

The court appearance continues on Wednesday.