'He's not the real king': Rwandan royals argue over succession

KIGALI (Reuters) - Relatives of Rwanda’s late king, gathered in Kigali for his funeral on Sunday, have rejected a move by his chief courtier to hand his crown to a father-of-two living in a terraced house in England.

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Clan elder courtier Boniface Benzinge posted a message on Facebook this week saying the title would pass to the monarch’s nephew, Emmanuel Bushayija, described as a naturalised Briton from Sale in Manchester in media reports.

But other members the royal family did not recognise the pretender, pastor Ezra Mpyisi told reporters, speaking for several relatives who also attended the press conference.

“We heard of surprising news that they have crowned a new king. This is a wrong ... He is the so-called king but he is not a real king. Only the Rwandans can choose a new king,” Mpyisi said this week.

The pastor’s outrage was not matched on the streets of the capital, where media have largely shrugged off the tussle.

Few people outside his ancestral home of Nyanza province know much about the last king Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, whose body was flown back to Rwanda this week after his death in October.

He was deposed in 1961 after just two years on the throne, then left Rwanda, which became a republic when it won independence from Belgium in 1962.

The king had spent more than six decades in the United States, living in relative obscurity and running a charity for refugees from Rwanda, a nation plagued by decades of ethnic killings until genocide tore it apart in 1994.

President Paul Kagame’s government had said the king could return but only as an ordinary citizen, which he rejected.

In a video posted on Facebook on Monday, the old king’s courtier Benzinge named the new king as Yuhi VI Bushayija, and said he was speaking on behalf of another faction in the family, opposed to the burial in Rwanda. Bushayija has not commented.

It was not immediately clear how many members of the family Benzinge, or Pastor Ezra Mpyis, speak for.

The chief courtier is head of a group of clan elders, called the Abiru, who traditionally have the role of declaring the new king.

The king will be buried in Nyanza district, near the grave of his predecessor and brother, King Rudahigwa.

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens