Officials and media reported that Jay Polly, a famous Rwandan rapper, died in custody early on Thursday. This is the second mysterious death of a musician detained in less than two years.
Polly, whose real name is Joshua Tuyishime, was imprisoned on drug charges and just learned that he will be tried in December.
Its director Pascal Ncubito told AFP that the 33-year-old man was taken to Muhima Hospital in the capital Kigali at around 3 am (0100 GMT).
“He was in poor health and unresponsive. The doctor tried to resurrect him, but unfortunately he died soon after,” he said.
“The cause of death is not what I want to speculate. We will know after the autopsy.”
The musician was arrested at home in April for organizing a party in violation of Covid regulations, and later marched in front of the media with other suspects.
The police said Tuyi Shimei and the other defendants were found to be drinking alcohol and possessing marijuana and false Covid negative certificates. He denied the charges, but the bail request was denied.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, gatherings are strictly prohibited in Rwanda, and thousands have been detained for violating restrictions designed to curb the spread of the disease.
Some were forced to spend the night in an open-air stadium and listen to Covid-19 guidelines on speakers, while others were held in detention facilities for several weeks.
Rwandans paid tribute to Tuyishime on Twitter, and some people described him as “a cultural icon who has made a huge contribution to our music.”
Kizito Mihigo, whose music was banned by President Paul Kagame’s regime, was found dead in his cell in February last year, just a few days after he tried to escape the country.
The police said that the gospel song of Mishigo, a Rwandan genocide survivor, angered the Kagame government. He used a bed sheet to hang himself from a cell window.
Mihigo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring against the government in 2015, but was later pardoned and he was arrested while trying to cross the southern border of Rwanda.
After composing songs that questioned the government’s strict control over the 1994 tragic legacy, he clashed with the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front in 2013.
His music was once popular among the ruling elite, but it was quickly banned.
Two years later, he was charged with terrorism and supporting opposition political movements, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
His lawyer said that the prosecutor had little evidence to imprison him. He was pardoned by the President in September 2018.
Mihigo and Polly are not the first people to mysteriously die during police custody in Rwanda.
Last year, a former director-general of Kagame’s office was found dead in a military prison after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption.
In 2015, Kagame’s personal doctor Emmanuel Gasakure was shot dead while in police custody.
Kagame, who has been in power since 1994, has been accused of ruling with an iron fist, suppressing various forms of dissent and imprisoning or exiling opposition politicians.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other groups accused the Kagame regime of summary executions, illegal arrests, and torture during detention.