In an initiative led by Reverend Christine Coleman, 70 faith leaders of different denominations have written to President Donald Trump about Kizito Mihigo’s murder. The letter was sent on March 3, 2020, and reads as follows:
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We the Rwandan Community of Faith in the USA, who survived the dictatorship of President Kagame write you this letter to express our deepest concern regarding the hidden yet terrible persecution of Christians going on inside Rwanda. There are non-stop massacres of the people of faith inside Rwanda. We are expressing especially our concern regarding the recent death of a young Christian by the name of Kizito Mihigo.
Mihigo was an accomplished musician, the most prominent young artist Rwanda had and the composer of Rwanda National Anthem. Mihigo was also a genocide survivor, a peace activist who often sang the national anthem at state functions.
Mihigo mysteriously died on February 17, 2020 while in police custody, with Rwandan authorities immediately attributing the death to suicide. Most observers, however, were not convinced by the official explanation. For example, your own Assistant Secretary of State, Tibor Nagy, wondered how the Rwanda government concluded that Mihigo committed suicide before an inquiry or autopsy was conducted. Secretary Nagy called for an investigation of the circumstances of Mihigo’s death. Similarly, Harriet Mathews, the Africa Director in the UK Foreign Office, called for a prompt, independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances of Mihigo’s death.
Mr. President, as Christians to a Christian, we appeal to you to raise this matter with the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, who receives significant amounts of foreign aid from your government. In making this humble request, we highlight the fact that in 2014, Kizito Mihigo was arrested for releasing a gospel song that became very influential in Rwanda. In the song, Mihigo not only prayed for the victims of the genocide against Tutsi but also for the victims of violence perpetrated by the government of Rwanda. This angered the government which does not tolerate any criticism. The song was immediately banned. The young man was then arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiracy to murder President Kagame. From then on, to the day of his death, Mihigo was severely persecuted. Mihigo was pardoned by Kagame in 2018 and on February 13, 2020, the government announced that he was arrested for attempting to escape Rwanda. Two days later, the government announced that Mihigo had killed himself in police custody.
Mr. President, sadly, the death of Mihigo under government custody is not an isolated incident. Another young man, Kalisa Mupende who was director general in Rwandan president’s office until he was imprisoned in 2009 suffered the same fate. Mupende died mysteriously in military custody on September 21, 2019. Dr Emmanuel Gasakure who was Kagame’s personal physician died on February 25, 2015, in custody at the very police station in which Mihigo lost his life. Appallingly, neither Mupende’s death nor Gasakure’s death was investigated.
In conclusion, Mr. President, we are fully aware that you are a busy person who is occupied with countless national and international concerns. But as the leader of the free world and a Christian, you are the only person who can help us to ensure that Mihigo’s death is investigated and justice rendered. For example, Secretary Nagy’s call for credible investigation into Mihigo’s death could be an official United States’ position and implemented with consequences according to American laws. The people of Rwanda would be most grateful because currently they have no voice in their own country.
Rwandan Faith Community in USA
Vice President Mike Pence
The Honorable Michael Pompeo
Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback
Assistant Secretary — Bureau of African Affairs Tibor Nagy