Kizito Mihigo a popular Rwandan gospel musician who in 2015 was found guilty of conspiracy to murder or harm President Paul Kagame and inciting hatred against the government was found dead in a police cell in the capital, Kigali on February 17th 2020. He was then sentenced to 10 years after conviction.
The 38-year old peace activist who is an ethnic Tutsi survivor of the 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them, is reported to have killed himself according to a police statement issued by Police spokesman John Bosco Kabera.
Mihigo is still in the international global news making headlines as the BBC this week published yet another report claiming he tried to escape to Europe after seeking asylum.
Clément Boursin from Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) confirmed this to the BBC. Boursin revealed that Mihigo contacted ACAT in September 2019 in his desperate attempts to escape Rwanda and asked for asylum in Europe.
The problem was that Mihigo did not have a passport. Boursin added that “On our side, we enquired with our contacts in Rwanda who told us that it was too dangerous for Kizito Mihigo to undertake this move as he was under strong surveillance of the Rwandan authorities. We told him to wait.”
Mihigo lost his life on February 17th, 2020 three days after he was arrested near the border with Burundi. Like many voices, ACAT called for an independent investigation commission into his death. Police accused him of attempting to flee the country and join rebel groups fighting against Rwanda. He was banned from leaving Rwanda due to a previous conviction.
Mihigo was best known for the songs Inuma (pigeon) and Igisobanuri cy’urupfu (the meaning of death).
A statement shared on social media by police spokesman JB Kabeera said Mihigo’s body was found during a routine check by officers at Remera police station on Monday morning. The spokesman gave no further details.
Mihigo had been charged with corruption and illegal border crossing, according to local reports.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau accused the singer of attempting to bribe people who had seen him.
Described by many as Rwanda‘s biggest cultural icon and a devout Roman Catholic known for songs promoting healing and forgiveness Mihigo was pardoned by the president in 2018 on condition that he only leave the country with judicial permission.
But government critics think he was targeted because of his music.
In one song he suggested everyone killed during the 1994 genocide should be remembered whether they were ethnic Hutus or Tutsis. The authorities saw this as openly challenging the official narrative that it was genocide of the Tutsis.
The Police spokesman John Bosco Kabera added that he was visited by family members and his lawyer during his detention and “Investigations have begun to ascertain why he committed suicide,”