“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” Mum to Rwandan Gospel Singer at His Burial

The late Rwandan Gospel Singer, 38-year-old Kizito Mihigo who was found dead at Kigali's Remera police station on February 17, 2020. He was laid to rest at Rusororo cemetery in Kigali on February 22, 2020.

The mother of the popular Rwandan Gospel singer who was found dead in a police cell just over a week ago entrusted her son to God during his funeral Mass in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, Saturday, February 22, finding solace in the words of Job in the Holy Scriptures, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.”

Mama Placidie Ilibagiza was among hundreds of mourners who braved the rain in Kigali for the funeral rites of the 38-year-old former seminarian, Kizito Mihigo, who inspired many through his outstanding talent in gospel music that gave him the label of an icon of "peace and reconciliation."

“You know well, if you have raised a cow for someone else, and at a certain time the owner comes to ask you to give it back, you tell him, ‘Take it my Lord,’” the mother of the accomplished gospel musician told mourners and drawing inspiration from Job 1:21 added, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away … As the Lord gave me, I give him back to God.”

“However, we have to know that here we are (world), is not ours even if we like it too much,” She told mourners who gathered at St Nicolas Parish in Ndera and emphasized, “This world is not ours.”

She recalled the underlying message in the well over 400 songs her son composed saying, “I want to tell you that Kizito Mihigo mobilized all of us in the culture of forgiveness and to ask for pardon. He encouraged us the love of God in the family.”


In memory of her son, Mama Ilibagiza encouraged “the people of God, Christians, baptized” to try and “step up in the journey of this love” and reaching out to each other for forgiveness.

“I myself would like to ask, if there is someone I have offended, to forgive me. Today I start this journey and I beg you to journey together this pilgrim of Love,” the mother of Kizito Mihigo told mourners, thanking them all for spiritual and moral support through the difficult moment.

“It is a lot; I am not able to explain it, but what is important and ultimate, I want to express to you: God bless all of you,” she concluded, speaking in Kinyarwanda during the funeral Mass that was presided over by Fr. Jean Bosco Ntagungira, the Parish Priest of Regina Pacis in Remera.  

Mons. André Havugimana presided over the funeral rites at Rusororo cemetery in Kigali.

Kizito Mihigo was found dead at Remera police station in the country’s capital, Kigali Monday, February 17.

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He had been detained Thursday, February 13, accused by the Rwandan police of attempting to leave the country illegally, to join rebel groups in neighboring Burundi that are fighting against Rwanda, and for corruption.

Police explained that his attempt to leave the country without judicial permission had nullified the Presidential pardon he had received in 2018. 

He had been arrested in 2014 after he had just released “The meaning of death”, which was interpreted as challenging the official narrative of the genocide.

In 2015, Mihigo was convicted of complicity to overthrow the Rwandan government of President Paul Kagame and handed a10-year prison sentence. Three years later, President Kagame pardoned him on condition that he needed judicial permission to leave the country.

"The government of Rwanda should ensure a thorough, independent, and transparent investigation into the death in police custody of Kizito Mihigo," Human Rights Watch (HRW) official said. 


HRW further called on "Rwanda’s international partners" to call for "accountability for Mihigo’s death before and during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled to take place in Kigali in June 2020." 

Claiming that Mihigo had reported to them he was scared for his life, HRW added, "He had recently told Human Rights Watch that he was being threatened to provide false testimony against political opponents and wanted to flee the country because he feared for his safety."

For Harriet Matthew, a Twitter user, she was "concerned and saddened by the death in custody of Kizito Mihigo." 

"We await prompt, independent and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death by the Rwandan authorities,” added Harriet Matthews. 

Audrey Kawire Wabwire Tweeted, "The government of Rwanda should ensure a thorough, independent and transparent investigation into the death in police custody of Kizito Mihigo a well-known singer and activist." 

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"How can he kill himself while in jail?" Scottie John asked on YouTube. 

Following his death, glowing tributes and tearful eulogies have been expressed from people across the globe.

Mourning the musician, the Twitter page JusticeForKizito said, “If love, peace and reconciliation were a person, it would be #KizitoMihigo."

"The greatest tribute I will pay to yours is to be courageous, forgive more, be prudent and love a little more every day, those were your values!" added JusticeForKizito. 

“Let’s remember #KizitoMihigo a great gospel singer from Rwanda who died in prison. May his soul rest in peace,” Honesttalk Tweeted and added in reference to the late Kizito, “He has served the Lord with all his heart. Let us learn to serve the Lord like him. He was killed in #Rwanda-while in police custody. Such a handsome spirit filled man.”

According to David Himbara, “Rwandans will remember Mihigo every day, thanks to the Rwandan Anthem. Farewell Son.”

"We lost a great man of vision and sense of Humanity," Muganzi Derrick posted on Facebook. 

“Rest in Peace brother. Our hearts will always remember you!! and the great love you had for the nation,” Muganzi added. 

Describing the late musician as a role model who inspired him to study music,

For the Tanzanian FB user Elautely Wilbroad, Mihigo’s death has caused him pain beyond Rwanda's borders. 

“I am Tanzanian but also I am in pain," Wilbroad said adding that Mihigo "inspired me to study real music."

"Because of you I’m now a trainer of a certain big choir in Dar es salaam, Tanzania," he said and added "May God rest your soul in peace forever in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen." 

"I am a Congolese but I am very upset of your death. My heart is broken down," mourned Kass Anita via YouTube.

In one of his latest productions, Kizito Mihigo sang in honor of Pope Francis, describing the Pontiff as "our model of humility, leading us on the path of holiness."

"Rest well dear kizito! May the merciful father grant you peace that you yearn for in this life. Prayers to your family and friends during this time," Luiise Shiinda from Namibia posted on Kizito's YouTube song in honor of Pope Francis.

"Rest in Peace brother Kizito! Thank you for teaching us peace, love, humanity.. a true man of God. You'll be forever in our hearts," Patrick Mugiso posted.

Magdalene Kahiu of ACI Africa and Jean Bosco Biziyaremye, a Salesian of Don Bosco scholastic, contributed to this story

Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla is ACI Africa’s founding Editor-in-Chief. He was formed in the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), and later incardinated in Rumbek Diocese, South Sudan. He has a PhD in Media Studies from Daystar University in Kenya, and a Master’s degree in Organizational Communication from Marist College, New York, USA.