Recruiting for M23 at Sonrise in Rwanda

sonrise
A Recent Graduation at Sonrise

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.

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Rucyahana at the Recent Graduation

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.

fanette-rwagati
Fanette Rwagati in her M23 days

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.

Dead M23 terrorists, the unfortunate end of some Rucyahana recruits
Dead M23 terrorists, the unfortunate end of some Rucyahana recruits

References   [ + ]

1. See here for example.

3 thoughts on “Recruiting for M23 at Sonrise in Rwanda”

  1. please i won’t tell u my name because i still wanna go to school.
    let me tell u that i don’t have anything from the government of Rwanda more than any common Rwandan but i want to assure you that most of the things you guys say are in your favor and not the favor of Rwandans. all for your own benefits but let me remind you guys that all these hate posts you put on blogs don’t only go to haters of Rwanda but also Rwandans who love their country and everything in it. of course President Kagame is not one hundred percent correct and that’s because he is human and even your own presidents aren’t fully righteous but for God’s sake stop publishing lies on our president and try to wipe your own behinds before you wipe your neighbors. I was in Sonrise school for two years but if you cared for Rwandans i assure you you wouldn’t be publishing nonsense like this to stop education and building of a nation. remember what goes around comes around all this horrible things you say about mr. kagame could be the description of your next president. God bless you

    1. The question is, what is true? Also, being for Rwanda does not mean being for Kagame, they are two different things.
      I am not interested in what helps who, but rather, in what is true.

  2. Joel, I understand now that you have another reason to write what you write but not for the sake of revealing the truth. 1. You claim that Sonrise students who graduated end up in M23. This is a bare lie. Whoever is feeding you with all this information is just interested in seeing you lie to the public where they cannot. I would like to let you know that all the Sonrise graduates since 2010 are in Universities all over Rwanda and abroad. Saying that Bagogwes are taught to hate Hutus is also another lie. Remember Sonrise has all tribes of Rwanda. I don’t know where the teachings happen from then if not in classes or dorms.

    You claim that a group of students were invited to speak to Bishop John Rucyahana. What is wrong with that? I would like to ask if Rucyahana should never be visited. Again, it was not an invitation from Bishop John but these students organized themselves and visited him on their own, for your information. I was part of this group and I would like to let you know that this event happened way before M23 took arms. Remember, apart from you, and the clique that might be pushing you to write all this, we see a lot of wisdom, virtues, love, and courage in Bishop John Rucyahana.

    I can’t believe you said that students in Sonrise poop in other students’ beds. Mr. Joel, this is a lie because Sonrise has got at least enough restrooms. It is so interesting to read your lies about the school as someone who graduated from there and who still keeps in touch with the school students and leaders.
    Remember, you are trying to feed the Americans who support the school with false information about Sonrise, but I believe they have way accurate information about the school, so you are not using your time productively.

    PS. Bishop John Rucyahana is no longer in charge of Sonrise but Bishop Dr. Mbanda is. Time will come and you will know the truth Mr. Joel. And I believe Americans you are trying to teach are able to do their own research.

    Blessings.

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