Popular Rwandan singer Kizito Mihigo kills self in police cell

Monday February 17 2020

Kizito Mihigo performing at the National Stadium after the Walk to Remember on April 7, 2013. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG


Once popular Rwandan Gospel singer, who shocked the country when he was arrested in 2014 and charged with plotting to kill the president and top government leaders, has died at the age of 38.

Kizito Mihigi is suspected to have committed suicide while in detention, the police said on Monday, three days after he was rearrested attempting to flee the country.

The musician was being held in solitary confinement at the Rwanda Investigative Bureau (RIB) Station in Remera in the capital Kigali, where he was found hanging in a cell.

“He was found hanging by an officer in the morning on Monday. He used the bedsheets that he was sleeping on to hang himself. Preliminary investigations show that he hanged himself on the window of his cell, but more investigations are being conducted,” Ms Marie Michelle Umuhoza, RIB spokesperson  told The EastAfrican.

Police confirmed his arrest on Friday last week, a day after media reports said he had been intercepted on his way to Burundi through a porous border.

Police said that Mihigo was being investigated for bribery and for attempting to join rebel groups.


Kizito Mihigo (left) with his co-accused at the Kigali High Court. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG

In February 2015, Mihigo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to murder or harm President Paul Kagame and other top leaders of the country.

His arrest had sent shockwaves among the public due to his close links to the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front party and activism in unity and reconciliation programmes.

Prior to his arrest, Mihigo – a genocide survivor – was a darling of the government, which often hired him to perform the national anthem at major official events.

He received a presidential pardon in September 2018, alongside 2,000 prisoners including the top government critic figure Victoire Ingabire.


Kizito Mihigo leaves the Nyarugenge Prison on his release on September 24, 2018. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG

His music was popular among Rwandans but slowly faded after his arrest in 2014 that the government banned the broadcast of his songs and music videos on local radios and televisions.