Kizito Mihigo, a politically minded Rwandan singer/songwriter, has allegedly committed suicide in a jail cell, according to Rwandan English-language newspaper, The New Times. Mihigo had been arrested three days prior. According to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Mihigo was caught attempting to illegally cross the border to Burundi by bribing local residents. They say the singer was attempting to join “anti-Rwanda terror groups” in the neighboring country
As covered in a 2017 Afropop Closeup, Mihigo released a song criticizing the wartime actions of Rwanda’s governing political party in 2014. The song went viral, sparking a nationwide dialogue around the genocide, and weeks later, Mihigo was arrested on charges of conspiracy to assassinate Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda. He plead guilty to all charges and was initially sentenced to 10 years in jail, but Kagame pardoned and released the singer with 2,000 other prisoners in September 2018.
Mihigo was 38, a devout Catholic and a survivor of the 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsi. His music was often centered on themes of unity, healing and forgiveness.
On Twitter, many are expressing skepticism towards the idea that Mihigo committed suicide. President Kagame has been described as “unapologetically authoritarian.” According to the BBC, “the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders identifies him as a 'predator' who attacks press freedom, citing the fact that in the last two decades, eight journalists have been killed or have gone missing, 11 have been given long jail terms, and 33 forced to flee Rwanda.” A former intelligence official fled the country after a falling out with Kagame, and was found murdered in a South African hotel in 2014, after which Kagame said, “You can't betray Rwanda and not get punished for it...Anyone, even those still alive, will reap the consequences. Anyone. It is a matter of time."