Rwanda’s malicious interference in the Laure Uwase’s nomination to a Belgian parliamentary commission.


On Thursday, August 6, 2020, the Belgian Parliament set up a special parliamentary commission to look into the country’s colonial past. Some posit that this initiative follows the George Floyd protests and the global Black Lives Matter movement. Laure Uwase, a young Rwandan-Belgian lawyer, affiliated to the Brussels’ Bar, features among the nominated members of the commission. Her nomination immediately led to a multitude of inflammatory attacks of defamatory and intimidation nature on her person; from the RPF propaganda machinery including the Rwandan parliament. Her attackers allege that she advocates genocidal ideology and is a negationist. These are unclear but extremely damaging accusations that the RPF regime has always used against anyone, Rwandan or foreign, critical of its policies and actions.

It is important to highlight that Laure Uwase was a toddler of only two years old in 1994. Carried by her family at the time, she didn’t for sure know what was happening around her, let alone the fact that a genocide was being perpetrated. With some divine help, she survived while millions of other Rwandans died. One would wonder if she was destined for a particular purpose. She found in Belgium a community which nurtured and helped her overcome the multitude of experienced traumas, and ultimately rose as an accomplished expert of the Great Lakes region. This piece tries to analyse the motivations behind these current attacks that target her, attacks which are, at the same time, calling the Belgian Parliament to reconsider the present set membership of the said commission.

  1. Laure Uwase is critical of the RPF regime

In the row caused by her nomination, Laure Uwase appears to be a victim of her compassion for Rwandans. She only adds her voice to that of others like her who presently educate the world about the plight of her compatriots. Judi Rever in her book ‘In praise of blood: the crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’ writes that “…the RPF has never stopped the violence. Kagame killed before the genocide. He killed during the genocide. And he killed after the genocide (for 26 years and still counting). The West’s unbridled support only fed the regime’s sense of impunity.” The advocacy work of Uwase which covers the lives of the survivors of these crimes either inside or outside Rwanda harnesses her expertise.

The above-described context is the only framework that enables to understand the RPF’s rumblings around Uwase case. Unequivocably, Uwase being a highly educated Hutu woman, and fervent critical of the RPF regime, this was expected to attract her the storms from Rwanda, once selected for the mentioned commission. The entire picture falls into what Rwandans have always known as a discriminatory policy towards Hutus but rarely perceived as such by foreigners not well versed into the Rwandan politics.

For her advocacy work, Uwase evolves in the Jambo asbl, an association consisting mainly of young Belgians of Rwandan origin. The leadership and the majority of its members arrived in Belgium at a very young age. They grew up becoming more and more concerned by the situation of serious abuses of human rights in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. They decided to take their destinies by both their hands and started expressing their views publicly. These views shed a new light to the truth deliberately buried by RPF’s sponsors. And the content shakes up the very existence of the RPF’s foundations, which are significantly built on lies.

  1. The RPF policy of making impossible the life of Hutus inside and in exile

General James Kabarebe and other prominent RPF personalities, such as Jean Leonard Dukuzumuremyi and Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana from the association IBUKA for the Tutsi survivors and the (Commission Nationale de Lutte contre le Genocide) CNLG respectively, have for years publicly warned Tutsis about preserving their gains. As a strategy to achieve that, they instructed them to harass, intimidate, chase Hutus in every possible way and make their lives difficult as much inside and even outside Rwanda where they found refuge.

Further to such criminal policies led from the top targeting Hutus everywhere, the number of unrecorded and unreported victims will be hard to know. Over the years, in different parts of the world where Hutus managed to settle as refugees, be it in countries like Malawi, Zambia, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere, cases of Hutu refugees who were killed or whose properties were destroyed, and careers irremediably interrupted by Rwandan agents are numerous.

The case of Dr Munyakazi Leopold who was a lecturer at a US university illustrates one of such stories of the harassment of Hutus living in exile. Though they had managed to overcome adversity, they end up again victims of the RPF’s regime. With the assistance of the US authorities, Munyakazi was ultimately and forcibly returned to Rwanda, tortured and imprisoned in 2016. In 2018 he was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment for revisionism. For years, the elite Hutu which survived 1994 and its aftermath has unfortunately lived in a permanent fear engineered by the RPF’s regime as a strategy to remain in power forever. Today it is Laure Uwase, yesterday it was the young Belgians of Rwandan origin candidates to local political positions, tomorrow it will be another similar case. 

  1. The continuation of the false narrative of the Rwandan contemporary history

The main features of the official narrative of the Rwandan recent history are that only Tutsis died as victims of the 1994 genocide and that Hutus who died during that period were either moderate who sympathized with the Tutsi victims or were either war’s collaterals. It is worth noting that since 2018, with the support of its external lobbies, Rwanda transformed the designation of that tragedy into only the genocide against the Tutsis, whereas it was initially called the Rwandan genocide when the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up. 

Surprisingly, in April 2020, US, UK and Japan, countries which normally aligned themselves with the official narrative at least publicly, contested the RPF’s regime intention to ignore or erase Hutu victims from the country’s most deadly tragedy in its entire history. The US Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, said that “the United States is concerned that changes made to the text – starting in 2018 and extended today – narrow the focus of the resolution to the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and fail to fully capture the magnitude of the violence that was committed against other groups.  Many Hutu and others were also killed during the genocide, including those murdered for their opposition to the atrocities that were being committed.  Failing to honour and remember these victims presents an incomplete picture of this dark part of history.

For the RPF to insist that only Tutsis died during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, this is a critical policy with serious and damaging political consequences for the majority Hutu whose victims have been ignored so far. The discriminatory practices they have been suffering from since result from that position of the Tutsi ruling elite in Rwanda. And the Uwase case falls in the line of such orientations of excluding Hutu wherever possible in the life of the country.

  1. The presumption of ignorance attributed to the Belgian parliament

In 2019, the Belgian parliament voted a law against genocide denial extending its competence internationally on all the crimes against humanity. According to Lydie Ujeneza writing on her Facebook pages, the Rwandan parliament by acting the way it proceeded and attacking Uwase as an alleged genocide denial presumes the Belgian parliament’s incompetence in assessing the character and CV of one among its members of the special commission.

If that presumption of ignorance on the part of the Belgian parliament is not in itself an alleged insult to the competence of that institution, the way forward, particularly concerning the official response to the allegation, will determine how it defends its prerogatives and public obligations towards its constituency, the Belgian nation.

  1. The importance of other national issues in comparison

Since the inception of the Covid-19 pandemic, back in early March of this year, the Rwandan parliament has been completely silent on many important national issues, to the point that people started wondering if it hadn’t been dissolved and the general public kept in the dark on its lack of activity. It was not because there was not enough critical problems that jeopardized the lives of Rwandans.

Among the issues that remained undealt with during the pandemic period are 1) demolition of the houses of poor people in Kigali, 2) police forces’ extrajudicial executions, 3) RDF soldiers’ rape of 13 women of Bannyahe and public beating of a woman of Musanze by officials, 4) imprisonment of journalists including Cyuma Hassan Niyonsenga, 5) prolonged and unsafe detention of Covid19 related offenders, 6) population’s hunger as a consequence of the confinement, 7) disappearances and imprisonment of politicians from the opposition, 8) closure of the country’s borders, and 9) ban of Kinyarwanda from the primary school curriculum. 

The unelected but RPF designated parliament found insignificant all these problems. But it judged critical to make a strong stand on the nomination of Laure Uwase instead, though apparently, reliable sources confirm that the Rwandan members of parliament weren’t called to debate and neither make a decision on the issue. This means that some other structure in Rwanda acted on its behalf. The entire saga orchestrated in the name of the Rwandan parliament shows ultimately the nature of the Kagame’s dictatorship when it wants to preserve the status quo of its power.

In conclusion, the complexity of issues about the public dissatisfaction of the RPF caused by the nomination of Laure Uwase as a member of the special Belgian parliament commission is evident. By reading under the lines, one understands the motivations that pushed all the channels of the RPF regime to become nervous and oppose such nomination. Accepting it without public outrage from Kigali would’ve appeared illogical, given the discriminatory policies Kagame has been imposing on Rwandans from the outset. Kigali’s attitude shows consistency with the official line of its policies. Any different option would’ve been a detrimental direction. 

Instead of seeing Laure Uwase as the best thing that could come out of a human tragedy of the scale of the Rwandan genocide, the Rwandan parliament opted to go along with the extremists of the RPF regime and tarnish the brilliance of one of the Rwandan daughters, who, because of her competence and experience, was selected to be part of the special Belgian parliament on the colonial past of that country.

The ball is presently in the Belgian parliament’s camp. Will it reconsider the nomination of Laure Uwase to its special commission, that the Speaker Patrick Dewael considers as a variation of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission following South Africa’s fall of apartheid? Doing that and responding positively to the Rwandan parliament’s request will only question and jeopardize its independence of judgement and its sovereign character.

Ambrose Nzeyimana

PRESS RELEASE 16/06/2020 – The request for an immediate end to the harassment of the Rwandan opposition leaders, Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda

On Saturday 13th June 2020, without a warrant, Rwandan security forces entered the homes of opposition leaders, Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda.

The opposition leaders were falsely accused of conspiracy to liaise with terrorist organisations aiming to destabilise Rwanda. Their homes were forcibly searched, every communication device, i.e. laptops, USB drives, mobile phones and physical documents were seized and transported to the Rwandan Investigation Bureau.

Before Bernard Ntaganda’s home was invaded, he managed to send out a recording describing the situation. The security forces were said to be dressed in civilian clothes, jumping over his property fences, like trespassers. Some were carrying guns. The whole experience, he narrated, was extremely traumatic.

The two political leaders were terrorised; their homes were ransacked, their personal belongings, sentimental and valuable, were forcibly removed away by the security agents. Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda remained out of reach for several hours, unable to communicate with any friends, families or colleagues. When they did manage, they informed their contacts that they had yet to be imprisoned.

This troubling incident is the latest in a long history of assassinations, disappearances and imprisonment of dissident voices within Rwanda and beyond, in the diaspora. The murder of Kizito Mihigo on February 17 this year in police custody was the most significant in recent memory as it demonstrated a willingness to silence celebrity dissident voices; Mihigo was an adored Gospel musician and a national cultural icon.

As recently as April, 10 journalists were arrested. Among them was Cyuma Niyonsenga Dieudonne, who broke the story of Kizito Mihigo’s assassination; reporting that he had seen physical signs of torture on his body before the burial in late February. During the same period, he also reported the case of the soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Front who went on a raping spree of 13 women in the suburb of Bannyahe, where the Rwandan authorities have been accused of ransacking homes and making local populations homeless as a consequence.

On Saturday, June 6, Venant Abayisenga, a member of the political party DALFA-Umurinzi was kidnapped by unknown attackers who took him away whilst he was running errands. Since his disappearance, a week later, the president of his party, Victoire Ingabire, has been harassed, searched and left extremely anxious.

Despite the relentless harassment and false imprisonment of political opponents, Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, continues to receive financial support from the UK, the USA, Canada, Belgium, Japan, The Netherlands, and Germany. International institutions like the International Monetary Fund – IMF are also complicit in their support of this unlawfulness.

The intensity of the harassment of the Rwandan politicians, journalists and human right activists has reached the sixth step on the pathway to a genocide that Professor Gregory H Stanton, Founding President of Genocide Watch calls polarisation, during which:

  • Leaders in targeted groups are the next to be arrested and murdered. 
  • The dominant group passes emergency laws or decrees that grants them total power over the targeted group.  
  • The laws erode fundamental civil rights and liberties. 
  • Targeted groups are disarmed to make them incapable of self-defence, and to ensure that the dominant group has total control. 

To the Rwandan president Paul Kagame and his supporters, be it international organisations or sovereign states, I strongly request the end of the harassment of Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda, leaders of the political parties DALFA-Umurinzi and PS-Imberakuri respectively, and all other Rwandans seeking peaceful, democratic change in their country. We ought to recognise that we cannot afford for history to repeat itself. And we have it within our power to ensure that it does not.

Ambrose Nzeyimana
Human Right Activist

Email: nzeyimanaambrose@gmail.com

(Note: if you are Rwandan or not, reading this press release, but strongly compassionate to the suffering of the millions of individuals that Kagame and his clique oppress for more than 25 years, you are allowed to use the present text and make it yours to advocate on their behalf in your network of contacts, including media outlets and parliamentarians.)

TRIBUTE TO MY BELOVED SISTER BARBARA ALLIMADI—FIGHTER FOR JUSTICE IN UGANDA

MILTON G. ALLIMADI

Barbara Allimadi. 

Many people who know my sister Barbara Allimadi who passed away on Monday night in Uganda will remember her as a tireless and fearless fighter for justice, human rights, and democracy. She’s being referred to as a “lioness” by many of her colleagues in the struggle on social media postings.  

Many will recall the many marches and protests she led in Kampala against militarism and police brutality and how, at her own expense, she often purchased food and delivered them to those who’d been wrongfully incarcerated by the regime. My sister gained wide notice when she led a protest against police brutality after Ingrid Turinawe, a prominent leader in the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) opposition party was violently assaulted in broad daylight. Policemen arresting her, grabbed her by her breast while she was seated in her car behind the wheels, and tried to pull her out. 

Barbara and a group of young women held a protest outside police headquarters. They opened their shirts, exposing their bras, symbolically denouncing the desecration of womanhood. They demanded action by Gen. Kale Kayihura, the notorious former police commander. Barbara later became an activist with the FDC party. When Mugisha Muntu, formerly of the FDC, launched the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), Barbara joined. She became the party’s spokesperson for International and Diaspora affairs. 

Barbara was totally committed to the total liberation of Uganda and Africa from authoritarianism,  neocolonialism, and all their attendant crimes. She envisioned a Uganda whose resources would be used to create products, jobs, wealth and prosperity, for Ugandans, not foreign powers.   

Barbara studied engineering in the U.K., and operated businesses for a few years. Recently, she’d become more interested in history and economics, earning a Masters degree in human rights at Makerere University. I had encouraged her to pursue a doctoral degree. 

We often bounced ideas off each other. She insisted that I share with her materials I assigned to my students at John Jay College here in New York City. As a result, she’d started reading more deeply the works of Kwame Nkrumah, Anta Diop, John Henrik Clarke, Thomas Sankara, Steve Biko, Walter Rodney, and Samir Amin. Last week, Barbara told me that she’d just read, once again, the introduction to Nkrumah’s “Neocolonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism,” where Nkrumah lays out his thesis that so long as Africa remains divided the outside powers will continue to exploit the continent’s resources. “Our people need to know more of our history,” she said. 

Many people know Barbara the public figure. I, of course, being 10 years her senior, had the advantage of placing her on my laps and teaching her how to read. She was  brilliant; here’s one story that offers some insight. It was during the 1970s, when Barbara was around three years old, and my family was living in exile from Gen. Idi Amin’s regime in Tanzania. We were reading one of her favorite books when something puzzling happened. When I opened a certain page, the words she uttered didn’t match the words on the page. Then I noticed that two pages had stuck together; we’d skipped the page Barbara was meant to be reading. Could it be that she’d memorized that page? When I flipped randomly to another page without following the sequence, she struggled. I realized that the child had memorized the material contained in the entire book—and all the other books—based on the sequence of the pages. So, we went back to the basics and studied our alphabets; soon, she could read any book. 

Due to Uganda’s turbulent politics, our family was scattered around the world. The last time I actually saw my sister in the flesh was in October, 2007, in London, when our beloved mother, Alice Lamunu Allimadi lost her battle with cancer. Our father, Erifasi Otema Allimadi, former prime minister, had joined the ancestors earlier, in 2001. 

After our parents were deceased, Barbara returned to Uganda. She was in business for a few years. But beyond just making profit she wanted a higher calling and so she followed in our father’s footsteps and entered politics. Like him, Barbara too was a Pan-African and a nationalist. She loved Ugandans, regardless of what part of the country they came from, what God they prayed to, or the political party they followed. She had magnetic charisma, beauty, intelligence, and a great sense of humor. She could engage with all. 

The struggle against authoritarianism can be lonely. It can take its toll on everyone, physically, and emotionally. Barbara remained hopeful because she could not bear living in a Uganda that she knew could be a much better country. She inspired the youth, and was inspired by them. 

She also knew that there were very many more comrades in the struggle. She once told me that when she was arrested multiple times for leading protests against the regime, sometimes the officers bundling her into police vehicles would say “Sister, we are with you, we are just doing our job.” She had frank conversations with some ministers, one of whom told her, he supported the struggle. Then he asked, “But who will take care of my family if something happened to me?” 

This is not the correct question; such individuals must ask: “What will become of Uganda if we do nothing?” These silent Ugandans must make their voices heard. 

Barbara was dedicated to creating a Uganda where political disagreements did not mean that the party in power had to drive opponents into exile, jail them, or eliminate them. In recent months, as a member of the ANT, she’d been reaching out to Ugandans of all political affiliations in diaspora. Political differences pale in comparison to the common desire to create a Uganda where the constitution is supreme. 

My sister was a unique and beautiful asset to Uganda. She had contributed much to making ours a better country. She still had much to offer. 

You can imagine the shock and pain our family felt when we were informed that Barbara was found, lying on the living room floor of her house outside Kampala, dead on Monday night. I had just communicated with her at 10:40 AM on Sunday. Her last earthly message to me read, “I hope you’re having a blessed Sunday. Mine is fine…”  How can it be that a few hours later she was gone? 

To all of Barbara’s friends, people who loved her, people who were inspired by her, people who worked with her in the trenches to create a better Uganda—the best tribute would be to ensure that all her sacrifice for the struggle was not in vain. 

We must march those extra miles and create a new Uganda. Barbara did not live to see that day. We owe it to her to make sure that day arrives. We might close by paraphrasing Dr. King who famously said: “…I’ve seen the promised land…I may not get there with you…we as a people will get to the promised land.” 

Barbara, Rest In Peace with our beloved parents and other ancestors. Until we meet again, dear sister, we love you. 

Aluta continua!

SOURCE: BLACK STAR NEWS

COVID19: A GAME-CHANGER IN THE COMMEMORATIONS OF THE 1994 RWANDAN GENOCIDE

This article on the 26th #Rwanda #Commemoration of #Genocide in #1994 was sent to DAVID HIMBARA by an anonymous #Rwandan Compatriot. It was copied from his Facebook pages.

THE 2020 GENOCIDE COMMEMORATION HELD INDOORS DUE TO COVID19 IS A BLESSING IN DISGUISE

By Anonymous

Every cloud has a silver lining. For the people of Rwanda, the Coronavirus, disastrous as it is, has some positive aspects. Instead of being forced to listen to political rhetoric by General Paul Kagame, Rwandans – Twa, Hutu, Tutsi – should reflect in their homes how to jump his poisonous ship.

The infamous date of April 6 has once again arrived. That is when in 1994 a power vacuum created by the killing of the Rwandan military ruler, General Juvénal Habyarimana unleashed the genocide against Tutsi in which over one million people perished. Side by side of this loss, the new would-be liberators led by General Paul Kagame massacred still unknown numbers of Hutu. Since 1994, a genocide commemoration takes place which revolves around the killings of Tutsi but is silent on other Rwandan killings.

The 2020 Genocide Commemoration is different because of the Coronavirus

The 2020 genocide commemoration in Rwanda will be different, however. The commemoration will be done indoors and by families locked inside their homes hiding from a new and different killer – Coronavirus and the disease it creates, Covid19. There will be no invitation of high dignitaries, celebrities and VIPs to watch genocide replays in stadiums. Tutsi families won’t visit the museums’ shelves to be with the bones of their relatives. There will be no accusing fingers pointing to members of the Hutu community that as a group, they had a direct or indirect role in the genocide 26 years ago. In other words, this year all Rwandans – Twa, Hutu, and Tutsi will be at the same level, locked up in their homes.

Within confinement, Rwandans are either alone or with the roof mates, staying at home, and waiting for the epidemic deadly curve to be softened by frontline health fighters. Make no mistake, the Coronavirus has changed everything in Rwanda and globally. The world’s population of 7.8 billion people are confined in houses, wearing masks, gloves and eyeglasses. We watch or read the news without knowing what is true or false, distanced from beloved, not attending or burying relatives, friends and siblings. Religious ceremonies including baptisms, communion, weddings are cancelled until further notice. Economies are on hold as worldwide commerce shutters. Sports tournaments have been postponed, planes have been grounded, executive presidential jets garaged and while country borders are sealed.

Apocalypse? No. On the contrary, like often used expression “every cloud has a silver lining”, Coronavirus is provoking the human zeal to overcome the worst and nature the positive, including human survival. Researchers from all corners of the world are coming together to experiment diagnostic tools, analyse data and find the best treatment to COVID19. Russia, China and Cuba brought some of their expertise to Europe even USA as part of global solidarity. Former enemies are putting aside their differences in the quest for the bigger purpose of saving lives.

What of Rwanda? Does Coronavirus have a silver lining there too? Could it be that in this year genocide remembrance period, Rwandans could think deeper about the future? As they stay locked up in their homes, could see clearly identify the real disease infecting the whole Rwandan society, the region and even the entire African continent?

In fact, we Rwandans already knew the answer to these questions long before the Coronavirus struck in December 2019.

The time has come for distancing from Paul Kagame and his satanic regime and set on the new course towards a unified nation rich in the diversities of Twa, Hutu and Tutsi traditions. Even the diehard Kagame supporters deep down know that it is game-over. The only question that remains is when the diehards will jump the Kagame sinking ship. The Covid19 lockdown is a silver line – it gives the people of Rwanda to reflect on how to distance themselves from the Kagame virus-infected ship.

Kizito Mihigo talks about his torturers (Part 1)

The Rwandan and internationally renowned singer, Kizito Mihigo, died on February 17th, 2020 in police custody in Kigali – Rwanda. He had been kidnapped then imprisoned back in 2014. Released in September 2018 further to a presidential pardon, he had however remained under restricted freedom until his death. He couldn’t travel outside the country; periodically, he had also to report to the authorities.

Igisobanuro cy’urupfu” or (translation: the explanation of death), a song he produced before the remembrance’s month of April 2014, had been the cause of his serious enmity with the Kagame’s regime. The song contradicts the official narrative denying any involvement of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the political party and past rebel forces, of the present Rwandan president. It implicitly points to the RPF’s killing of the hutu population before during and after the 94 genocide against the tutsis.

Kizito Mihigo was rearrested on February 13th, because of an alleged attempt to flee the country. Four days later, the Rwandan Investigation Bureau (RIB) announced that he had committed suicide and died. But the general public and many international NGOs advocating for human rights are seeking an independent investigation into the causes of his death. They all suspect and still think that he has been victim of a political assassination orchestrated by RPF’s leadership, the motive being that he unwearyingly preached, wherever he went, a true reconciliation among Rwandans.

During his first time in prison, this was from April 2014 to September 2018, he managed to reach out to individuals and organisations that were advocating for his release. Among them was Rene Mugenzi, coordinator of the Global Campaign for Rwandans’ Human Rights (GCRHR). He got in touch with him, and they started exchanging information about his life in prison and all the details of how he got there. They agreed that it would be important to record his testimony and safeguard it for future use in the case something unpredictable happened to him. The following text is an initial transcript of parts of the recordings he sent out to his contact at the time. 

This note was recorded on October, 6th, 2016. I am Kizito Mihigo. I am detained in the central prison of Kigali, officially called Nyarugenge prison, and alternatively called 1930, in reference to the year when it was built. In April 2014, after having composed and produced a christian song, I was kidnapped, detained and accused of plotting and conspiring against the regime and its president.

In fact, on March 5th, 2014 I had made public a new song titled “igisobanuro cy’urupfu”, (translation: explanation of death). And I published it on my youtube channel, on my personal website, and the official pages of my foundation. During the following days, I received insults, menaces and warning messages telling me that something bad was going to happen to me. I was also contacted several times by government officials, including the minister of culture, the chief of the criminal investigation department (CID), the responsible of culture in the ministry of defense, the executive director of the National Commission Against the Genocide (CNLG) and the office of the president. 

During his speech at the occasion of delivering new ranks to police officers on March 17th, 2014, the president had declared this: “I am not a singer to please the country’s enemies.” In the evening of April 1st, 2014 I was invited by the Chief of staff in the president office. The meeting took place in the office of the president of the senate. The current senate president at the time was vice president of the same institution. Both told me that the president had not liked my song. Therefore I had to apologise in writing to him. I had also to apologise to the population, which allegedly had been shocked by my song. At that meeting I tried to explain unsuccessfully that my song hadn’t been composed with the intention of harming anyone. It was rather a christian message which preached compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation to its audience.

The president’s chief of staff and the senate’s vice president told me that if I didn’t comply with what they were asking me to do, I was a dead man. Therefore I did what they had asked me, meaning apologizing to the president through a letter and the population through the media. The president’s chief of staff had reassured me that if I did what was asked from me, I wouldn’t have any more problems or face any other (translator emphasis – punitive) measures. 

But on April 06, 2014, between 10:00am and 11:00am, when, with my driver I arrived in front of the traffic lights located on the road between the Parliament building and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) headquarters, a  person entered spontaneously into my car through an unlocked door. It was a policeman I knew. He ordered me to get out of my car and enter his. I went into his car. It was driven by another policeman that I also knew. They confiscated my phone, they told me that we were going to meet one of their superiors who wanted to talk to me. We didn’t go where they had mentioned, but instead we drove around the city of Kigali for tens of minutes. At the end I was taken to the police centre of Gikondo, generally known as Chez Gacinya.

I stayed there for nearly 30 minutes, in a conference room without anyone asking me anything. And when I tried to ask questions, nobody replied to me. I was thereafter put back into the car, then we drove towards Kicukiro. Before arriving at the destination, two individuals in civil uniforms joined us. They sat one on my left and the other on my right. The vehicle continued towards the Nyanza forest. The area is located in the city suburb in the direction leading to Bugesera.

I remained in the car parked in that forest, and surrounded by people I didn’t know and who were not talking to me. From midday until late evening around 8:00pm. Around 6:00pm, a thought came to my mind telling me that these people were going to kill me in that forest. My body was going to be discovered the following day, on April 07, the day of comemorating the 94 genocide. Then I said (to my kidnappers) that if the problem was my song, I had discussed the issue with the president’s chief of staff and the senate’s vice president. Within a few minutes, the car left the forest and I was again driven to the office of the senate’s vice president. I met with the same officials as before, but there was a third one this time, the deputy police commissioner.

They told me that, on top of the song, for which I was accused, they had found in my phone a whatsapp discussion where I exchanged views with someone from the opposition. And it was true. I had a conversation with someone from the opposition, and in our exchange we were very critical of the government. I knew that the Rwandan government didn’t like to be criticised. And for me it’s not a crime to criticise a government.

During that second meeting in the office of the senate’s vice president, I was seriously insulted by the three present personalities, and threatened of being killed. I said sorry. I was then told that I needed to continue asking for forgiveness, but that this time they were not sure if I was going to be forgiven. I was then taken to the car. Once inside, I had my head and face covered with a black balaclava. The vehicle was running but I couldn’t know where we were going. Within minutes, I found myself in a room with a bed, in a residential house, and I stayed there for nine days. 

I was handcuffed 24/7. I ate once every two days. On this very day while I am saying this, I can’t tell where that house/ prison is located. Because each time I was taken out or coming in, my head and face were always covered. I got seriously questioned in that house, and on several occasions. On April 10th for example, meaning four days after the kidnapping, I was taken to the office of the deputy police commissioner, Dan Munyuza, I was beaten up by policemen who were there, I was lying on the ground and getting hit on my back. Thereafter I was taken to a room at the offices of the prime minister. I found there many VIPs from the government. They asked me as well many questions about my song and my whatsapp conversation with a member of the opposition.

Up until April 15th, I stayed locked up in the same secret safe house. It was the same day that I was brought in front of the media. The deputy police commissioner came to me and said that if I continued asking for forgiveness publicly and pleading guilty for all the accusations against me, for the period of investigation and hearing in front of the court, things would be easier for me. On the other hand, if I pleaded not guilty and started denouncing all the injustices I had been victim of, I was going to be sentenced for life imprisonment. And I was certainly going to die in prison. He continued insisting on me pleading guilty on that day, before I appeared in front of the journalists. He explained that pleading guilty and asking for forgiveness, that’s how things will get easier for you, but if you start challenging the authority, pleading not guilty or denouncing your kidnapping or torture and other illegal practices inflicted unto you, you will get a life imprisonment.

I agreed on the terms of the arrangement. To the media and the judge I said that I was sorry for my deeds, but I couldn’t help saying that I only discussed with someone my song. During my hearing, nothing related to the song was mentioned, but I know well deep down that it is central to the whole saga. It was farther to its launch that I had been arrested, even if they hadn’t traced that conversation (with someone in the opposition), they would’ve caused me problems. That had already occurred uniquely because of that song.

On April 15th, after addressing the press, I was taken to the public attorney without a lawyer. The public attorney gave me one day to find myself a lawyer. During my hearing, I always pleaded guilty as I had promised. And on February, 27th 2015 I was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. I was told that I was guilty of all the accusations against me, except being complicit in acts of terrorism. Within 30 days after the sentencing, I introduced an appeal to the High Court and I am still waiting (on October 6th, 2016) to hear from them.

This note is recorded on February 8th, 2017 at the Central prison of Kigali, called 1930. I am Kizito Mihigo, detained since April 2014. Recently, exactly on January 21st 2017, I received the visit of the General Police Commissioner, Emmanuel Gasana, who came alone and I chatted with him in the office of the prison’s director. He explained to me that the motive of his visit was to ask me if I didn’t have any message to transmit to the highest authority of the country. I told him that the only message for him was to ask for forgiveness and be allowed to get back into society and become active again, pursue my musical activities. He asked me a few questions about my case. He asked me among other things why I had dared discussing with a member of the opposition, which is the main official offence for my imprisonment. I replied that I was frustrated. I disagreed with some government policies and actions. And that on a personal level I had also had opposing views with some political personalities. He asked me if there wasn’t any other way of solving issues which didn’t involve discussing with the opposition. I replied that I hadn’t anymore trust in the government, and that I needed someone who could understand me. He asked me if I wanted the president to forgive me or a presidential pardon. I said yes. I wanted to be forgiven, but that I wanted to be allowed to pursue my artistic and christian work, which promotes peace and reconciliation. I explained to him that by advocating for peace and reconciliation as an artist, I would be contributing to the work of the government for national reconciliation. After around ten minutes of conversation, the police commissioner left without saying goodbye. The same way as he had come in and didn’t greet me. I didn’t know exactly the motive of his visit, neither who had sent him. 

In conclusion, in my view, my case is political, with fabricated evidence. For example, I didn’t know the individuals who were brought to testify against me. I only knew Cassien Ntamuhanga who was a journalist. I find that there wasn’t any connection between our cases. But the prosecution needed those false witnesses to prove that I was guilty. And the evidence of such manipulation is that the witness called Jean Paul indicated to the judge in the courtroom that the police had tortured him telling him that he had to plead guilty to make Kizito become guilty. It was a political case, without any respect for proper legal procedures. It was characterised by many illegal practices, including torture, kidnapping, unauthorised detention. The arrest procedure was also illegal. Normally, when someone is arrested, they are told the motive of the arrest and shown a legal document authorising it. This wasn’t the case in my situation.”

The list of the people in high positions of authority in Rwanda, from government officials, to security forces and civilians, who tortured Kizito Mihigo directly and or indirectly by giving orders, includes the following names. The list is not comprehensive. 

Paul Kagame, Protais Mitali, Gerard Nyilimanzi, Ines Mpambara, Bernard Makuza, Athanase Ruganintwali, Aphrodis Mutangana, Dan Munyuza, Jean de Dieu Mucyo, James Kabarebe, Karenzi Karake, Jack Nziza, Fred Ibingira, Rurayi Gasana, Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, and Egide Gatera.