Kizito Mihigo, the Rwandan gospel singer who died in police custody last month had wanted to seek asylum in Europe, the organisation Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (Acat) has told the BBC.
“He contacted us in September 2019 as he was trying to find a way of leaving Rwanda to come to Europe and ask for asylum. The problem is that he did not have a passport; it seems that the authorities did not want to give it to him,” Acat’s Clément Boursin said.
“On our side, we enquired with our contacts in Rwanda who told us that it was too dangerous for Kizito Mihigo to undertake this move as he was under strong surveillance of the Rwandan authorities. We told him to wait.”
Mr. Boursin said the musician had wanted to leave as he could no longer work.
“His songs were banned from the public and pro-government media, and no-one wanted him to work for fear of reprisals.”
The singer, popularly known by his first name Kizito, died three days after he was arrested near the border with Burundi.
He had been accused of attempting to flee the country and join rebel groups fighting against the Rwandan government.
Last week, the authorities said he had taken his own life after his arrest.
But Acat says given the threats Kizito faced, a further inquiry was needed.
“We want an independent investigation commission set up because in the past he was subject to kidnaps, secret detention and torture and was sentenced and jailed,” Mr. Boursin said.
“He himself told us he was threatened, so this death is suspicious to say the least.”
Five years ago, the singer was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of planning to kill President Paul Kagame and inciting hatred against the government. He was pardoned in 2018.
Government critics believe he was targeted because of his music. (Source: BBC)