Singer Kizito Mihigo’s style of music is powerful. It combines forgiving those who have wronged you with love in a bid to take reconciliation to another level.
Kizito Mihigo’s kind of music that promotes forgiving those who have wronged you is a deeply moving testimony to the power of reconciliation in Rwanda.
The artist, himself a genocide survivor, personally believes that forgiving is a brave and noble thing to do as Rwanda embarks on sustainable development.
“Since the year 2003, I have been working tirelessly to promote unity and reconciliation amongst Rwandan nationals in Europe and back home. Like so many Rwandans, who have been deeply affected by events surrounding the genocide, I have, as well, a story to tell the world,” the artist told this writer in an interview at The New Times offices last week.
Mihigo, 29, survived the genocide in Rwanda and escaped to Burundi only to find that Burundi was engulfed in another conflict. However, during his refuge in Burundi, despite all odds, he managed to reunite with the rest of his family members apart from his father who was killed by the people who were close neighbors and friends. After the genocide he met people believed to have killed his father.
Among the people who were believed to have killed his father was a man called Dr. Mutazihana. “The twist in my story is that Dr. Mutazihana had a daughter who was a close friend of mine during my primary school days at Kibeho primary school”, he narrates adding that, “Seeing Dr. Mutazihana in Burundi naturally pushed me to try the revenge of my father’s death”.
He tried to enroll into the RPA in order to kill two birds with one stone –to participate in the liberation of his country and to avenge, silently the death of his father. However, his plans of revenge never came to pass as he was not allowed to join RPA since he was a child -- only 12 then.
“I didn’t trust people anymore. The event surrounding genocide had changed my personality radically, ”he recalls.
After July 1994, Mihigo came back home. A few months after, schools reopened and he enrolled back to school for the purpose of completing his sixth year of high school. However, hatred was still deeply entrenched in his heart against his father’s killers.
Embracing forgiveness and love
The love for music enabled Mihigo to change his attitude against his father’s killers. “I discovered that when someone cannot forgive he or she suffers the most and that there is some new experience of the freedom that comes as a result of forgiving those who wronged us”.
“I encourage people who went through terrible experience like mine to learn to forgive, since God sets free the hearts of those who forgive from the anger, bitterness, and resentment and other feelings that previously imprisoned some one like me”.
With time his love for music helped him rebuild his life that was once shattered. “Music helps me to gradually transform into my old self of being a lovable person”
How did he experience the transformation from being a young man full of hatred to one embracing love for those who have wronged him? After high school, Mihigo joined a seminary as he wanted to be a priest. His second year in the seminary offered a life changing experience. He joined the seminary choir which had in its membership the sons of local leaders who wanted to kill his entire family during the genocide.
“Just being able to rehearse with such a group of people offered me this transformation that I needed badly. While I naturally thought about those boys every single day; however with time, just being with them changed my thinking and I had to accept a number of things in my life”.
That experience of rehearsing with his former tormentors or atleast their relatives, helped him to eradicate the bitter feeling that had occupied his heart. “Those two boys didn’t know that I was habouring hatred against them, but with time, I learnt to forgive, I forgave and I feel happier, calmer, freer and above all closer to God. For me, forgiving is grace which comes only from God, grace for which everyone can embrace and ask and receive”.
How about the daughter to the alleged killer of his father? “ I had always wanted to know the fate of Dr.Mutazihana who had led the group that killed my father”, was his reply to my question.
In 2003, news reached Mihigo that Dr.Mutazihana and his wife were serving time in Gikongoro prison.
While visiting Rwanda in 2004, with a lot of effort he managed to find Dr.Mutazihana’s daughter, Fifi. “We shared a meal and I told her that I knew that her parents were involved in the death of my father and that is why they are serving time in prison. However, I told her not to be afraid as I had moved on by forgiving her parents. Instead I asked her to recall the sweet memories we shared before the genocide”.
It was difficult for both of them to rewind the memories they had before the genocide. But Mihigo maintains he has indeed forgiven Fifi’s family for whatever role they played in his father’s death.
“By God’s grace, Fifi accepted to start re-building a relationship with me and she is currently one of my best friend”.
Kizito Mihigo is convinced, given his own experience, that reconciliation and unity of Rwandans is absolutely possible after the genocide.
“My testimony is just to say that, in Jesus Christ, life always has the last word over death”, was his final remark.