Kizito Mihigo: The Rwandan gospel singer who died in a police cell

Kizito Mihigo: The Rwandan gospel singer who died in a police cell

Rwandan gospel singer Kizito Mihigo was at one time hailed as a great national talent but then he was accused of being a traitor. He was recently found dead, at the age of 38, in a police cell. The BBC’s Great Lakes Service looks back at his life.

With his signature crucifix dangling around his neck and his patient demeanour, Kizito, as he was popularly known, resembled a priest rather than one of the most popular performers in the country.

Like a priest, he felt he had a mission to promote peace in a country scarred by slaughter, but it was this mission that is widely seen as having eventually landed him in trouble with the authorities.

He was initially embraced by the government. His concerts drew tens of thousands of fans, from all walks of life, who appreciated his message offering hope for the future.

But his journey from superstar to pariah was swift.

Influenced by his father, who composed liturgical music, his songs echoed the sounds heard in Catholic worship.

But in 1994, at the age of 12, he lost his father, as well as other relatives, in the Rwandan genocide, in which about 800,000 people, ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were murdered by Hutu extremists.

Profoundly affected by what had happened, Kizito, an ethnic Tutsi, made reconciliation a central message of his work once he became a performer.

Born in 1981, Mihigo was the third child in a family of six. He grew up in Kibeho, southern Rwanda, an area that became a pilgrimage site after several schoolchildren there saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the 1980s.

It was in this religious context that the future gospel star grew up.

He fled to neighboring Burundi in the wake of the genocide and was reunited with surviving members of his family.

They returned home once the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the mainly Tutsi rebel movement led by the current President Paul Kagame, had taken power.

Born in 1981, Mihigo was the third child in a family of six. He grew up in Kibeho, southern Rwanda, an area that became a pilgrimage site after several schoolchildren there saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the 1980s.

It was in this religious context that the future gospel star grew up.

He fled to neighbouring Burundi in the wake of the genocide and was reunited with surviving members of his family.

They returned home once the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the mainly Tutsi rebel movement led by the current President Paul Kagame, had taken power.

‘Trailblazer’

An initial plan to join the army and take vengeance for the death of his father did not work out as he was turned away. But then, at 14, he enrolled in the Karubanda Minor Seminary, where his musicianship was nurtured.

“I will remember him as a very talented musician who gave people joy, who was a trailblazer in composing and singing,” school friend Jean de Dieu Sibomana told the BBC.

In his second year at the seminary, Kizito became the school’s chief organist ahead of some more senior students and led an elite choir, which entered competitions across the country.

Eventually, his talent was recognised by President Kagame who awarded him a scholarship to study at the prestigious Conservatoire de Paris.

 

Copyright © 2014-2020 Afrinity Productions.
Powered By SML Media

| KABBO Theme by: D5 Creation | Powered by: WordPress