Gianluca Costantini
Political Comics

Innocent Bahati, Reported Missing

Poet Innocent Bahati remains missing since his disappearance on 7 February 2021 after he reportedly went for a dinner meeting with an unnamed person at a hotel in Nyanza district in the Southern Province of Rwanda. He did not return to Kigali as expected. His associates tried to reach him on phone that evening but found Bahati’s phone was off. After two days of trying to establish his whereabouts, his disappearance was reported to the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB). The RIB spokesperson denied that the agency was holding him; that investigations were ongoing, and that no information would be revealed at the time. PEN International believes that his disappearance is in relation to his critical poetry.

In 2017, Bahati had similarly disappeared for several days after he posted a critical comment on Facebook, only to reappear in police custody. Although he was not charged with any offence, he was detained without trial and freed after three months.

Whenever PEN International has spotlighted the case of Bahati through statements and campaigns, Rwandan authorities responded with unsubstantiated remarks, mostly reported by government affiliated news outlets. These include claims of an ongoing investigation and promises to publish a full report ‘soon’ and claims attributed to the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) that Bahati had left Rwanda to join an armed group in Uganda. PEN International believes that these responses are typical of Rwanda’s frequent use of disinformation, denial, and silence to avoid accountability.

Innocent Bahati (age 31 years) published his poetry on YouTube and Facebook and regularly performed at poetry events in Rwanda. His poems include ‘Mfungurira’ (Open) ‘Rubebe’, which Bahati described as a satire about the church in a newspaper article; and ‘Uwenda Ngomba u Rwanda’ (The Debt I Need for Rwanda) among others.

Pen International Case List 2023/2024: Unveiling the Persecution and Censorship of Writers Amid War

Pen International / Rwanda

Political Comics


saving your data…