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Last Updated: Friday, 17 August 2007, 23:22 GMT 00:22 UK
Rwanda's former king eyes return
By David Bamford
BBC Africa editor

King Kigeli Ndahindurwa V
King Kigeli says he wants to hear the Rwandan people's opinion
The man who ruled Rwanda until his overthrow in 1959, King Kigeli Ndahindurwa V, says he wants to return home for the first time in 48 years.

But in an interview with the BBC, he says he can only return if the Rwandan people are prepared to accept him as their constitutional monarch.

Speaking in the US, and now aged 72, he said he had discussed his idea with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame.

The president told him he was willing to consult his government on the issue.

Kigeli Ndahindurwa was the last of a line of absolutist monarchs who unified and ruled the kingdom of Rwanda until self-rule from Belgium loomed in the late 1950s.

The royal family was from the Tutsi minority - but the Belgians favoured the Hutu majority and in 1959, while King Kigeli was abroad, they organised a coup.

Tens of thousands of King Kigeli's supporters, including the entire royal family, fled the country.

Rwanda was declared a republic under a Hutu president, and thousands of Tutsis were massacred.

Three more decades of instability culminated in civil war and the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The war was won by a Tutsi rebel group, whose leader Paul Kagame is now president.

Forced out

Now living in Washington DC, King Kigeli says he has recently met Mr Kagame - he does not say how recently - who, he says, told him that he and the royal family were welcome to return home.

But King Kigeli told him that a question must first be answered.

"The Rwandese people may or may not want me. But in order to return home, I need to know if they still want me to be their king."

Kigeli Ndahindurwa says he still regards himself as king because he was forced from his throne illegally.

He wants to return as constitutional monarch but only if the government and the people agree.

He says President Kagame did not reject the idea - he listened and said he would think about it, consult his government, and get back to him.

King Kigeli says he is still waiting for that response.

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