Sonrise School in Rwanda is an almost obligatory stop on the itinerary of Westerners who take trips to Rwanda and process through the country. An article on the PEAR USA website recently called it “A Light on a Hill.” The school has undoubtedly done good over the years, but a disturbing case of alleged ethnic hatred and recruitment for M23 has recently been brought to my attention.
The school is presented to American Christians, particularly Anglicans, as being for impoverished orphans, whereas a Rwandan told me that it is among the most expensive in Rwanda. This fact is confirmed in this review of Stepehn Kinzer’s book, A Thousand Hills Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It, which says, “Originally built for orphans, like ASYV, Sonrise now caters to children of many wealthy Rwandans.” A 2012 story in the propaganda organ The New Times said, “Sonrise High School is an Anglican church-founded school and at least 290 of the students out of its total population of over 500 are sponsored.” This means that in 2012, at least 210 students were paying tuition on their own, confiming the fact that Sonrise caters to wealthy Rwandans, but includes a mix of some sponsored children. 1)See here for example. This anonymous post, translated from Kinyarwanda, says that Sonrise “which was constructed to help the orphans, especially genocide survivors. It became a home and a school for sons and daughter of the government ministers and other senior government officials.”
A Rwandan tells me that Sonrise is used as a figurative nursery to young Tutsis—particularly the Bagogwe—to brainwash them with ideology. The source says, “Those youngsters are then used in the creation of militia groups like M23.”
In June 2012, when the M23 terrorist group was in full swing in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), I am told that a group of Sonrise students were invited to speak with retired Anglican Bishop and Kagame associate John Rucyahana. Rucyahana allegedly told the students that they should be ready to join the fight in the DRC. Rucyahana also asked them to join the social media propaganda campaign for M23.
The assumption was that all the students Rucyahana was talking to were Tutsi, however, one individual was Hutu. Consequently, it is alleged that the management of Sonrise demanded that the Tutsi students undertake a hate campaign against this Hutu individual. Students started to tear apart his clothes and throw his notebooks in the trash can. The Tutsi students even defecated in the bed of this individual. The Hutu student asked the management of Sonrise to take action to investigate the matter, but his claims were ignored.
I am told that one day, the individual caught a Tutsi student who was defecating on his bed and asked the management of Sonrise to take action since a culprit was caught. Instead, the management accused the individual of causing trouble at Sonrise and they expelled the individual from the school.
I was further told that one of the chief instigators of the ethnic animosities was Rukaka Rwagati, the brother of Fanette Rwagati, a female who was a major in M23 and who worked as an M23 propagandist on social media. This alone shows a vital tie between relatives at Sonrise and the M23 terrorists.
This story ties in quite well with other existing facts about M23 and John Rucyahana. For example, in 2012, United Nations investigators report that Rucyahana was the President of the Bagogwe community. M23 warlord Bosco Ntaganda is a Bagogwe from Masisi, and Bosco was able to escape to the US embassy in Kigali with the help of a relative of his, a relative who I am told was John Rucyahan’s driver (see my story here).
Second, the United Nations reported on M23 child recruits coming from Musanze (Ruhengeri) where Sonrise is located, see this post.
Third, the U.S. State Department reported on young men from orphanages being pressured into joining M23:
Staff members at a few orphanages reported the RDF pressured some of their young men to join the military during mandatory “ingando” civic and military training camps held after secondary school graduation. (See this post.)
Unfortunately, Americans are clueless about these things taking place. And they will probably choose to believe that they could not or are not happening. But if you are an American supporter of Sonrise, ask yourself, if John Rucyahana and others were doing these things, would you have any way of knowing, or would you be totally ignorant? Do you speak the language enough to ask questions on your tourist visits to Rwanda? Even if you do, would any Rwandans be willing to break silence on something like this, when it could cost them their lives? For these reasons, I don’t expect to see any change in support for Sonrise from Americans.
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|1.||↑||See here for example.|