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Last king of Rwanda lives in Virginia on welfare!

He is known as “The King of Africa” in this cluster of section 8 townhouses.


“They call me the King of Africa,” Kigeli told me when we first met, delight breaking across his face. “Ah, it’s good. It’s good.”

In English, a language that normally eludes him, His Majesty said that the children of the Oak Creek Apartments had a particular fondness for their real-life colossus of a neighbor. They turn up at his doorstep, claiming a birthday and reaching across the threshold for a treat. “I give them sweets,” Kigeli said, his long limbs shaking with laughter. “I give them chocolates.”

“ ‘No, no, it’s a liar!’ ” he went on, mimicking his exchanges with the children, some of whom seem, oddly, to have more than one birthday a year. “ ‘No, no, it’s a birthday!’ ”

The task of distinguishing the truth tellers from the cheats also confronted Kigeli during his short time on the throne. But the stakes back then—a half century ago—were considerably higher.

Back then, the fate of an entire country and the future of a centuries-old dynasty hung in the balance. Now, only the passing happiness of a few Virginia children.

I had driven through the housing complex and wanted to see the inside of Kigeli’s home, but his longtime assistant and translator, Boniface Benzinge, warned that it wasn’t suitable for official audiences. “He is living very humbly,” said Benzinge, who is 78. “It is not a king’s place.”