Queen Rosalie Gicanda, Last Queen of Rwanda

Queen Rosalie Gicanda is a heroine of Rwanda. Her humble life story is so intriguing that she is celebrated on 20th April of every year in Rwanda.

Photos :Mirindi Lebone

Queen Rosalie Gicanda was the Queen consort or Mwamikazi of King (Mwami) Mutara III Rudahigwa of Rwanda who reigned from 1930 to 1959 when he died mysteriously in Bujumbura. She was married by the King at the age of 14 after the king had divorced his first wife Princess Nyiramakomali.

Photo : Paul almasy/Getty images

She and the King travelled alot especially in Europe where the height of the tall giant King astonished the crowds. After her husbands death in 1959, his brother King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa inherited the throne.

King Mutara III Rudahigwa and Queen Rosalie Gicanda of Rwanda in Rome to have an audience with the Pope Pius XIII

Unfortunately in 1961 the monarchy of Rwanda was abolished and the Queen was chased out of the Nyanza royal palace. Her brother in law left for exile but the much loved Queen continued to live quietly in Rwanda at Huyeor Butare district. She occupied a small modest stone house which was recently acquired by the Rwanda institute of national museums properties with the aim of making it a museum in her honour.

Her last residence at Huye or Butare

Queen Rosalie Gicanda of Rwanda lived here until her death in 1994 during the genocide at the age of 66. She, a tutsi by ethnicity and her maids were the first people to be killed in Butare district. They were kidnapped by the hutu rebels and shot behind the national museum. Her old mother was also killed days later. A young girl survived to tell the story. Later a priest recovered her body and buried her next to her house. The man behind her killing is serving life in prison.

Photos :Mirindi Lebone

Despite her tragic death, the Queen was loved by the people and was always described as welcoming and humble to everyone before and after the abolition of the monarchy. She particularly served visitors milk, a popular tradition in rwandese culture.

Queen Gicanda was an aunt to president Paul Kagame of Rwanda of the tutsi patriotic front who helped in ending the genocide. She is buried at the Royal mausoleum at Mwima hill near Nyanza Royal palace beside her husband King Mutara III Rudahigwa and brother in law, King Kigeli Vof Rwanda.

Mwima royal Mausoleum
photo by Hyejin Cho

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