A former Pepsi employee living in Cheshire has been named pretender to the Rwandan throne-in-exile, becoming the first Briton to be declared king since the death of George VI in 1952.
Prince Emmanuel Bushayija, a naturalised Briton living in Sale who has lived in Britain since 2000 , will assume the throne — officially defunct — as Yuhi VI, according to an edict issued by court elders.
Since coming to Britain in 2000, the prince has lived a quiet, almost reclusive life. Settling in Manchester, where he became a naturalised British citizen, he moved to Sale in 2011, setting up a security firm, according to company records.
It is far from clear whether he will welcome having kingship thrust upon him, particularly as his succession to Kigeli V, who died in October, has already been challenged by other members of the Rwandan royal family.
The Rwandan throne does not follow the rule of primogeniture and a new monarch, known as the mwami, is traditionally named by “the Royal Council of Abiru”, a coterie of court elders privy to the old king’s secret wishes.
Kigeli, who abided by a royal custom dictating that an exiled king must not have children, named Bushayija, his nephew, as his successor, according to Boniface Benzinge, chairman of the Abiru council.
Mr Benzinge, who was also the late king’s chancellor, declared Bushayija king in a video message set to solemn piano music. “The ceremonies of the new mwami are in process and will be revealed shortly,” he added.
According to reports from The Telegraph, Bushayija, who is 56, has not indicated whether he will accept an appointment with little to recommend it. After being forced to flee following an uprising backed by the Belgian colonial administration, Kigeli lived a life of humiliating exile for 55 years, having spent just two on the throne.
With his cattle and land declared forfeit, he spent the seventies and eighties in Kenya, holding court every Sunday outside a cinema in Nairobi. He eventually moved to the United States where he lived in subsidised accommodation, subsisting on food stamps and the sale of Rwandan knighthoods.
King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa has ruled the monarchy of Rwanda from 25 Jul 1959 until 28 Jan 1961 before he exiled out of the country.
Bushayija had to flee too, though only a toddler. Schooled in Uganda, where he worked for Pepsi as a salesman, he eventually returned to Rwanda in 1994 for six years — something his uncle never did.
On Wednesday, other members of the royal family, thought to be acting at the behest of Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, said they would not recognise Bushayija as king.
Experts on African monarchy, however, said it would be hard to challenge the legitimacy of the Abiru Council’s decision.
“It is in the king’s right to select his heir from among his family members,” said Mark Lindley-Highfield of the Centre for the Study of the Kingdoms and Chiefdoms of Africa.
“Some parties would rather that the selection was one closer to the government. However it is His Majesty King Kigeli V’s wish that prevails, according to custom and tradition, and His Royal Highness Prince Emmanuel Bushayija was clearly named.”