By Jennifer Fierberg
Rwandan gospel singer sentenced to ten years in prison
Injustice inside Rwanda is not a new topic for journalists who cover the region. It is a subject matter that is written about so frequently that it becomes part of the narrative when broaching the subject of the legal system in Rwanda.
Sadly, today is not different.
The popular Rwandan gospel singer, Mihigo Kizito, was sentenced to 10 years in prison today. His co-defendant, journalist Cassian Ntamuhanga was sentenced to 25 years and former military personnel Dukuzumuremyi John Paul was sentenced to 30 years. A female defendant charged in the case, Agnes Ntiyibizi, was cleared of all charges as the prosecution failed to provide evidence to support the charges against her.
All four defendants were accused of “aiding and abetting terrorists” as well as “offense against the established power” in collaboration with the exiled opposition party RNC (Rwandan National Congress), allied with the rebels of the FDLR.
After the verdict was read, Cassian Ntamuhanga exclaimed, “it’s a shame, it is not justice!”
Since Kizito Mihigo pleaded guilty and even apologized, especially for the alleged conspiracy to murder the President, he received a lesser sentence than the other two accused. For Dukuzumuremyi JP, they courts stated it wasn’t the first time that he was involved in criminal activities on top of being a member of the security and defense forces (RDF). Mihigo had admitted exchanging text messages with a South Africa-based opposition group, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC).
In the end, Singer Kizito Mihigo was convicted of conspiracy to establish an enemy group to overthrow the Kigali government. On offences regarding treason against the state and the President, Kizito Mihigo was convicted after pleading guilty to conspiracy to kill the President.
Ntamuhanga Casien is also convicted of forming an enemy group to overthrow government as well as being convicted of treason against the state. Further, the courts stated Ntamuhanga was paid cash to throw grenades in order to avenge the murder of Col Patrick Karegyeya. His final sentence is 25 years in Prison for treason charges.
The root of the charges
The convictions of these men go much deeper than what the press is reporting. The undercurrent in all of the sentences is that these men allegedly had contact with an opposition group based outside of Rwanda called the Rwanda National Congress (RNC). The RNC is comprised of former RPF members under President Paul Kagame who fled the regime when they discovered they were serving a brutal dictator and their fate of certain death would be imminent if they remained under his command.
Ironically, the top for leaders of the RNC were tried in Rwandan courts and convicted, in absentia, of crimes based on politically based and falsified charges. All four men face upwards of 30 years in prison in Rwanda.
The Rwanda National Congress responded to the sentencing today in the following press statement:
Rwanda National Congress (RNC) strongly condemns the sentences handed to Kizito Mihigo, Ntamuhanga Cassien and their co-accused. While Rwandan court found Mr. Kizito guilty on the crimes of formation of a criminal gang, conspiracy against the established government or the President of the Republic and conspiracy to murder, everyone knows that his only crime was a song he authored “The meaning of Death” that called for a true reconciliation for the people of Rwanda (Hutus and Tutsis).
It should also be noted that the court convicted Kizito and his co-accused without witnesses and/or evidences. The government relied on social media messages that could not be independently authenticated, but still convicted the accused on charges of collaborating with FDLR and RNC through text, Whattsapp, and Skype messages.
The RNC would like to remind the people of Rwanda and the International Community that, the most recent report by the UN Group of Experts (GoE), found no connection between the RNC and FDLR.
The RNC takes this opportunity to remind the people of Rwanda and the International Community that it remains committed to advocating for Rwanda People’s rights and fight against injustice until everyone in Rwanda is free from oppression imposed upon them by the current RPF government.
Turayishimye Jean Paul
President Paul Kagame has a long history of questionable activities in regards to the deaths of many prominent Rwandans as well as war crimes committed under his command during the period of 1990-1994 and beyond when the war in Rwanda began. The international community can no longer ignore the mass atrocities that are being committed in the Great Lakes Region under the direct order of President Paul Kagame. No amount of honorary doctorate degrees, international awards or praise from paid public relations firms across the world will change the fact that Paul Kagame is one of the world’s worst dictators. His constant claim of the development in Kigali will never hide the atrocities committed under his rule.
President Kagame should remember that when you look too long into an abyss, the abyss looks back into you.