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Where Is Bahati, The Missing Rwandan Poet?

10 Min Read
Rwandan Poet

Taarifa Investigative Desk has exclusively learnt that the Rwandan poet, Innocent Bahati, who The Guardian Newspaper claimed last week that he had “disappeared one year ago,”, is not in the country.

Verified information indicates that Bahati crossed over to neighboring Uganda before being reported missing by his friend.

Taarifa is reliably told that Bahati was a clandestine collaborator of hostile elements against Rwanda, especially those operating from Uganda, USA and Belgium.

According to the Spokesperson of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), Dr. Thierry Murangira, in an exclusive interview with Taarifa this morning, there is evidence that Bahati had been receiving financial support to coordinate activities with “anti-Rwanda” elements in Uganda.

Investigation from various sources established that Bahati had contacts in Uganda and “on several occasions secretly crossed over to that country through ungazetted border crossing points, where he would meet members of Uganda security organs and anti-Rwanda elements operating in Uganda.”

RIB Spokesperson confirmed to Taarifa that it was also established that Bahati was working with hostile elements based in Belgium and USA “from whom he was receiving financial support.”

Bahati’s family and friends were contacted after the findings, contrary to what The Guadian Newspaper reported.

Apparently, anti-Rwanda groups, including more than 100 writers from around the world, in an orchestrated operation, have been pestering the government and calling on President Paul Kagame to intervene.

The newspaper quoted a human rights organization, PEN International, and claimed that “Bahati was last seen at a hotel in Nyanza district, in the Southern Province of Rwanda, on 7 February 2021.”

It also claimed that the poet, who is well-known in Rwanda and had published poetry on YouTube and Facebook, as well as regularly performing at live events, failed to return to Kigali, and his phones have been switched off since.

“I don’t see how criticizing the government would be a problem. Many people in Rwanda publish content that criticizes the government on various platforms. It is their constitutional right to express their opinions on what the government does,” Dr. Murangira told Taarifa earlier today.

Below is a full interview:

Earlier today, RIB’s Spokesperson, Dr. Thierry Murangira, in an exclusive interview with Taarifa.

Taarifa: ​You promised that RIB would have concluded Bahati’s case in a week’s time what is the update?

Dr. Murangira: The investigation was partially concluded and ready to be shared with his family members.

Taarifa: Can you share some information from your Investigation?

Dr. Murangira: Starting from the background of the case. On 9 February 2021, Hakizimana Joseph, alias Rumaga Junior, reported to the Busasamana Rwanda Investigation Bureau Station in Nyanza district that his friend, Bahati Innocent, was missing since 7 February 2021 when he had gone to visit friends and record his poetic work in Nyanza-Busasamana.

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau initiated investigations into the reported missing person, including searching in all detention cells and health facilities to find out whether the subject was in any of these facilities. During investigations, Bahati Innocent’s family members, friends and those who last shared a beer with him at Nyanza Heritage Hotel, were interviewed and stated that they had no idea as to his whereabouts.

Investigation from various sources established that Bahati Innocent had contacts in Uganda and on several occasions secretly crossed over to that country through ungazetted border crossing points, where he would meet members of Uganda security organs and anti-Rwanda elements operating in Uganda. It was also established that he was working with anti-Government of Rwanda individuals and groups based in Belgium and USA from whom he was receiving financial support.

Available evidence so far indicates that Bahati Innocent crossed over to Uganda. This case follows the pattern of many other cases where people recruited by anti-GoR elements have used porous borders to cross over to Uganda in order to join those elements. They would then be declared missing before resurfacing either in safe houses of Uganda’s security organs, or identified in combat operations against anti-Rwanda armed groups, or found living in other countries.

Taarifa: You mentioned that Bahati’s case is similar to many others who were declared missing and resurfaced later. Could do you share with us some examples?

Dr. Murangira: There are many examples including the most recent of:

Shyaka Gilbert that you know. He was declared missing on 22 August 2021 with a lot of pressure on the Government of Rwanda that he was kidnapped only to resurface on 13 January 2022. He confessed that during the days he went missing, he was in Uganda in the hands of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), that had recruited him.

Other cases include:

Uwihoreye Eric (the brother to Shyaka Gilbert): He was declared missing in October, 2021, and later this year, it was established that he had joined the Anti-Government of Rwanda group based in Uganda operating on an online TV called Twibohore TV.

Ngendahimana David: He was declared missing in 2021 and later, it was established that he is in Uganda operating on an online TV called David TV and Ukuri Ganza.

Mutarambirwa Theobald was declared missing in 2010, and in 2019, he was arrested in DRC by FARDC where he had joined Mouvement Rwandais pour la Changement Démocratique/ National Liberation Front (MRCD-FLN) terrorism organization; now under trial in Rwanda.

Nsengimana Herman: He was declared missing 22/04/2014 and he was arrested in Democratic Republic of the Congo by FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo) where he had joined Mouvement Rwandais pour la Changement Démocratique/ National Liberation Front (MRCD-FLN) terrorism organization, now also under trial in Rwanda.

Those are just few examples among many others.

Taarifa: So what is next after evidence you have, indicates that Bahati Innocent crossed over to Uganda?

Dr. Murangira: Investigations continue to establish the exact whereabouts of Bahati Innocent. However, we cannot confirm whether Bahati is still in Uganda or he left to another country, but at least he is not in Rwanda. RIB calls upon anyone with information on his whereabouts or activities to share it for further investigation.

Taarifa: It has been a year since Bahati was reported missing, why did you wait to release the findings?

Dr. Murangira: Investigations on missing persons do not have a timeframe, some can be concluded in one day, another in one year or more depending on the complexity of the case. Someone can be declared missing and found in a hospital the next day when another one can be declared missing after exiting the country and decide to remain under ground depending on the activities he is involved in.

We get many reports on disappearance every day and once investigation is concluded we share findings with the family member who reported the case. Legally, Criminal Investigations are carried out secretly, and the findings are submitted to the Prosecution.

Taarifa: Critics have linked the missing of Bahati to his poetic work in which he talks about problems in government. Was this established in your investigations?

Dr. Murangira: I don’t see how criticizing the government would be a problem. Many people in Rwanda publish content that criticizes the government on various platforms. It is their constitutional right to express their opinions on what the government does.

Taarifa: Does he have any criminal background?

Dr. Murangira: ​It was discovered in the course of the investigation after he was reported missing. Before that, we had no criminal case against him and had he never been summoned by RIB for whatever reasons.

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