Rwanda: Poet critical of the government disappeared

12 March 2021
Image: Poet Umusizi Innocent Bahati/ Umusizi Bahati on Instagram


7 February 2021: Rwandan poet Innocent Bahati disappeared after he left his home in Kigali to attend a dinner with an associate at a hotel in Nyanza District, in Rwanda’s Southern Province, as Medium reports.

Bahati’s friend, poet Junior Rumaga travelled to the hotel on 9 February and notified the Rwandan Bureau of Investigation (RIB) about Bahati’s missing. A spokesperson for the RIB said: “The investigation is ongoing. As of now, we cannot reveal any information.”

Enforced disappearances are, regrettably, a norm in Rwanda, where people are abducted and targeted for expressing their opinions. 

Innocent Bahati might have been targeted for criticising autocratic rule, repression, poverty, the refugee crisis, and human rights abuses. 

He was known for speaking out about the reality in Rwanda through his poems. 

According to Medium, a friend of the poet anonymously wrote: “He was the only poet from Rwanda who dared to address societal issues fearlessly and publicly in his poems, something which made us fearful but at the level that we did not think that his poems can lead to his disappearance.”

This video is one of Bahati’s poems, published on his YouTube channel:

During The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva on 25 January 2021, several countries called the Rwandan government to end human rights violations towards its citizens. 

Freemue has also joint a call for an independent investigation into Rwandan singer Kizito Mihigo’s death. On 17 February 2020, Rwanda National Police announced that Mihigo had been found dead in his police cell in Kigali at 5 am that morning, in an alleged suicide.

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