Africa Functions as an Orthodox Bulwark in Roman Catholic Affairs

Chiesa reports on how African Cardinals are functioning in a role very similar to that of GAFCON within the Anglican Communion:

They were five cardinals and forty-five bishops from as many African countries who met in Accra, the capital of Ghana, from June 8-11. All in the clear light of day, not almost in secret like some of their colleagues from Germany, France, and Switzerland, who had gathered a few days before at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
But while at the Gregorian the objective was changing the Church’s stance on divorce and homosexuality, in Accra the push was in the other direction.
The marching route was indicated from the very first remarks by Guinean cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the congregation for divine worship:
– “not to be afraid of reiterating the teaching of Christ on marriage”;
– “to speak at the synod with clarity and with just one voice, in filial love of the Church.”
– “to protect the family from all the ideologies that want to destroy it, and therefore also from the national and international policies that impede the promotion of positive values.”
On this marching route there has been complete consensus. In addition to Sarah, the other African cardinals present were Christian Tumi of Cameroon, John Njue of Kenya, Polycarp Pengo of Tanzania, and Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel of Ethiopia, this last created by Pope Francis at the last consistory.

The big difference I see between Anglicans and Catholics in Africa is that the Catholic churches are generally more vocal when it comes to governmental wickedness. This is my impression and is a generalization, so I’m not sure if it is true, but I have seen examples of Catholics speaking up in the DRC and Burundi while I am not aware of Anglican leaders doing the same.

A Prophetic Voice in Africa

Last week, the Church in Africa stood up boldly and did the right thing in a couple different places. I have focused a lot on the failure of the Church in Rwanda to do the right thing, so it is helpful to see what it looks like when in another part of Africa, the Church gets it right.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Protests erupted last week as the quasi Dictator of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, made moves towards allowing himself to run for President again. Protesters were shot and killed in Kinshasa. Aaron Ross reported that:

As anti-government demonstrations in the capital Kinshasa entered their third day, the leader of Congo’s Catholics, Cardinal Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya, strongly criticised any attempt to postpone a presidential election due next year.

Cardinal Pasinya continued:

“We disapprove of and condemn any revision of the electoral law that aims to … illegally postpone the holding of the elections in 2016,” Mosengwo Pasinya said, adding that some politicians and the security services were stoking the violence.

“We condemn these actions that have caused deaths and make an urgent appeal: Stop killing your people; don’t march on the ashes of your compatriots,” his statement said.

Cardinal Pasinya



Meanwhile in Uganda, Dictator Yoweri Museveni insulted opposition politicians, calling them “wolves waiting to tear Uganda apart.”

A Catholic parish priest from Kitanga parish named Fr Gaetano Batanyenda:

…has demanded that President Museveni makes a public apology for referring to Opposition politicians as wolves.
Fr Batanyenda…said such remarks were against the Constitution that recognises multiparty politics.

This is the kind of healthy warning that follows Biblical norms and the great tradition of saints such as Ambrose. Let’s hope we see more of this in Africa and in our own nation.


A Reduced Anglican Presence at Rwanda’s 2015 National Prayer Breakfast (or not)

One year ago, Rwandan dictator and atheist Paul Kagame attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Kigali, where he gloated in his assassination of former friend Patrick Karegeya. Karegeya had been murdered just a couple weeks prior to the prayer breakfast, and Kagame was riding high on his death. He shared a table with Anglican Archbishop Rwaje, and other Anglicans were in attendance.

rwaje dictator
Archbishop Rwaje and Kagame in 2014.

I spoke up about this at the time (see this post) and many news outlets around the world took notice since Kagame was boasting about murder to the applause of clergy. Characteristically, PEARUSA, the American branch of the Rwandan Anglican Church, was silent about its Anglican Archbishop staying mute in the face of a modern Idi Amin.

never silent
This book has no meaning in PEARUSA.

Three days ago, Kagame returned to the Prayer Breakfast and as far as we know, he did not boast about killing.

The Anglican presence at this year’s event was far less than at last year’s event, although Anglicans were not absent, as you will see. Why is this? Is it because:

  1. PEAR in Rwanda was stung by the criticism last year?
  2. They were not invited this year?
  3. PEARUSA was embarrassed at last year’s event, and expressed this to their Rwandan oversight?
  4. Rwandan Anglicans are silently protesting Kagame? This is highly unlikely but I add it here as a possibility.
  5. Something else?

If you have insight into the reasons for Rwaje’s absence, let me know.

UPDATE: No sooner did I click publish, then I looked closer at another picture (below) and saw Archbishop Rwaje, near the right of the picture:

Rwaje at the right.


So it seems that Anglican learned nothing from last year’s debacle.

This year, Archbishop Rwaje was replaced by Bishop Enoch Dusingizimana of the Community of Christian Churches in Africa (C.C.C.A). There was still an Anglican at the dictator’s table however, none other than the notorious Antoine Rutayisire.

Bishop Enoch Dusingizimana with Kagame and Rutayisire.

Antoine Rutayisire – Kagame’s Anglican

Pastor Rutayisire has been a shill for Kagame for many years, defending him at every turn, in contradiction to all Christian theology. The Bible says, “It is an abomination to kings to do evil,” (Proverbs 16:12) and yet Christians stand inert before Kagame, dumb and deaf, saying nothing of his wickedness.

Rutayisire at the 2015 Prayer Breakfast.

Rutayisire has made outlandish statements in favor of this modern day Pharaoh. In the past, he said of Kagame:

“He is not authoritarian to the level I would wish. When you’re ruling a country that’s coming out of chaos … you don’t go for democracy, you go for autocracy.”

This year, he moved from saying that Rwanda is an autocracy to saying it is a theocracy! According to Jean Paul Ibambe on Twitter, Rutayisire said Rwanda is a theocracy, “which is better than democracy [which is] full of noise.” If Rwanda is a theocracy, is Rutayisire implying that Kagame is God’s anointed? What does this say to those whom he has tortured and murdered?


Is Rutayisire a renegade Anglican, outside the normal circles of the Church? Far from it. Here are some pictures of him just recently with Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Muvunyi, and again, teaching in Musanze to Bishop Mbanda’s clergy:

rut rwaje muv
Bishop Muvunyi, Pastor Rutayisire, Archbishop Rwaje
rut rwaje
Rutayisire teaching Anglicans in Musanze

What does it say of the Anglican Church of Rwanda that a man at its heart is attached at the hip to a dictator? It is consistent with the actions of Rucyahana, Kolini, Rwaje, Mbanda, Gasatura, Ahimana and others. It is the action of a compromised man within a compromised church, embracing a dictator instead of rebuking him.

Not only does Rutayisire have an audience in Rwanda, he has one in the United States. Last summer, he spoke at Washington D.C Anglican parishes The Church of the Resurrection and the Church of the Advent. He is the President of the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative, where he shares leadership with many Americans. This is shameful.

Rutayisire with the First Lady.

In the excerpts of Kagame’s speech available to us this year, he refers to Rutayisire, and says:

Even though I said that I am not a pastor like Rutayisire, I actually love many teachings from the Bible. The teachings of life. History; how it happened, its consequences, its goodness, we find it all in the Bible.

If Kagame is reading his Bible, that is a good thing. He can perhaps open to Psalm 52, and read:

Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
Your tongue plots destruction,
like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
You love evil more than good,
and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
You love all words that devour,
O deceitful tongue.
But God will break you down forever;
he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
The righteous shall see and fear,
and shall laugh at him, saying,
“See the man who would not make
God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!”

First Things: Alignments of Interest with Evil Powers


The current (August / September) issue of First Things magazine contains a letter to the editor that I wrote related to Ephraim Radner’s article “Anglicanism on its Knees.” 1)I mentioned this article in an earlier post. It also includes a couple letters from fellow Anglicans who defend GAFCON and cannot imagine what Radner is on about.

Radner eloquently replies to the letters, pointing out that (1) moral relativism related to Africa is wrong, (2) Anglicans are all about some moral concerns {sexual ethics} while totally ignoring others {murder, tyranny, torture} and (3) Anglicans, “…have been and remain prone to alignments of interest with, frankly, evil powers.” One prime example of this is the silence and complicity of Rwandan Anglicans with their evil regime. Fortunately, despite the attempts of PEAR USA to whitewash and ignore these concerns, the truth is still on the march. Radner’s response follows:

The purpose of my essay was to highlight some of the moral pressures and dilemmas that Anglicans around the world now face. These have arisen in the wake of the tremendous turmoil brought on by especially Western cultural transformations over how to understand and enact our sexual lives. This turmoil has, in turn, drawn in churches and cultures from outside the West. Anglicans are no different from other Christians in having to make serious choices in the face of these dynamics. My argument was that a failure to take these choices seriously will lead-and has already led-otherwise faithful people into moral commitments and alliances that are simply wrong. My remarks about Anglicanism today, then, represented both a case study for all Christians, as well as a particular plea for prayer on all our behalf.

I am disappointed and surprised that some readers chose to avoid the issues I raised, and thereby gave testimony to my argument about a growing moral obtuseness in our midst. There is absolutely nothing that can justify what happened in Rwanda in 1994-neither events before that time nor events subsequent to them. But there is nothing, morally or theologically, to justify what has happened in the Eastern Congo in the past twenty years, either. Lilice Wickman seems to confuse these matters. The Rwandan army, whatever its virtues past or present, has been and is involved in unconscionable activities, even atrocities. There is no “rock and a hard place” set of choices here for Christians, nor is there any in Nigeria and Uganda on the front of basic human rights that Christians themselves helped define and defend: We are called to speak the truth in love, to oppose what is wrong, and to do so whether or not it is culturally comfortable or politically secure. Period. To start calculating the relative moral weights of political partners and worrying about misperceived moral equivalencies, while inevitable, cannot form the basis of evangelical witness and ecclesial policy.

Surely the Church has learned this clearly over the past centuries, whatever the temptations. It is hard to believe that Christians are willing to claim some great moral victory in having tepidly expressed discomfort with executing homosexuals (Uganda), while doing nothing to publicly oppose their long-term incarceration. However, it is not a matter of tabulating comparative shame: There is more than enough to go around in a world where Christians-in this specific case, Anglicans-have made some moral concerns the basis for ignoring others of comparable evangelical urgency.

Emery Gerhardt imagines, furthermore, that conservative American Anglicans who have left the Episcopal Church have some­ how progressed beyond having to debate these moral subtleties, and are now happily engaged in the real business of the Church. I suggest he look at the fine work of Joel Wilhelm, who has been chronicling some troubling immoral complicities that deeply compromise Gerhardt’s version of Anglicanism come of age. Wilhelm’s letter rightly emphasizes how mutual accountability is one of the great casualties of our politicized Church. And this is a loss that injures both conservatives and liberals.

But just because of this, what is at stake also goes beyond Anglicanism, as I tried to suggest. Fr. John Hodgins has nothing to apologize for in joining the Roman Catholic Church, and I for one certainly do not dismiss such a decision on the part of some Anglicans. I will leave aside whether or not this is a particularly helpful Anglican option-personally, I think it has little to do with “preserving what is best” in Anglicanism, nor should it. More important, the choice to be a part of the Roman Catholic Church does nothing to solve the underlying dilemma of corrupting partnerships into which the pressures of, say, secularization often push Christians. I hope I made that clear.

On this score, Christopher Wells is more attuned to my concerns, when he notes that the U.S. Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation’s recent statement on “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment” properly called on each Church to “share” in the moral struggles of the other, rather than to use them as clubs with which to beat the other. One reason for such an exhortation is that Catholics and Anglicans both, each in their own way, have been and remain prone to alignments of interest with, frankly, evil powers. At this time, at least, I believe that we strengthen our resistance in part through common accountabilities to which we can and must hold each other in our imperfect unity and witness. This may prove a better pedagogy for our growth in unity than other paths.

In any case, I am sorry that some have taken my request for prayer on behalf of Anglicans-and indirectly, thus, for all of us-as a recruitment tool, a strategy that a few apologists for the Anglican Ordinariate seem to have adopted on the web. As Wells indicates, this strategy may well miss a divine opportunity.

References   [ + ]

1. I mentioned this article in an earlier post.

New Cantrell Paper on PEAR

Professor Phillip Cantrell has just published a new paper that traces the East Africa Revival and its impact on the Anglican Church of Rwanda (PEAR) after the genocide. It’s called “We Were a Chosen People”: The East African Revival and Its Return To Post-Genocide Rwanda, published in Church History 83:2 (June 2014), 422–445.

Cantrell points out that the current Anglican Church of Rwanda is complicit with the RPF’s sanitized version of Rwandan history:

Although many contemporary clergy and parishioners in Rwanda are either unaware of it or deny it, the Anglican Church contributed to ethnic division in the past. And, it is doing so again in the post-genocide state. The leadership of the Anglican Church is largely comprised of Tutsi returnees. Its leaders accept and endorse a misleading portrayal of Rwanda’s history, a history endorsed by the ruling party which serves to mask ethnic divisions in the past and social tensions in the present. The church, at times, even builds upon some of the traditions of the Tutsi monarchy.

The RPF version of history (which I have seen parroted in books like Bishop Laurent Mbanda’s) has been debunked by recent historians:

But the remembrance of the Revival as a time of unity between Hutus and Tutsis is problematic in several respects. The official version of Rwanda’s history, endorsed by the RPF regime in Kigali, asserts Rwanda had always been a harmonious country with no conflict or differences between Hutus and Tutsis prior to the racialization of the country under Belgian rule in the 1920s. This author, though, is in agreement with numerous Rwanda scholars, such as Catherine Newbury, Alison Des Forges, and Jan Vansina, who claim the distinction between Hutus and Tutsis was firmly established by the end of the nineteenth century during the reign of Mwami Rwabugiri. Following their arguments, Johan Pottier argues the RPF’s version of the past is used by the Tutsi-dominated regime to mask past oppression of the Hutus and blame the genocide on Europeans.

Along with a revisionist history of the nation, PEAR has embraced a revisionist history of the East African Revival itself, one which claims that the Holy Spirit was virtually absent from Rwanda from 1959 to 1994:

More important than the recounting the Revival’s history through the colonial and post-colonial periods is the contention of this article that the Revival has become the focus of much attention as the Anglican Church has regained its status in post-genocide Rwanda. And along with the ascendency of the post-genocide Anglican Church and the Revival has come a renewed and often revisionist interpretation of the Revival’s history, meaning, and implications for the country.

This is explicitly stated in the following paragraph:

Central to the theology of the current Balokole Revival Movement is the belief that only the Holy Spirit can move people’s hearts to repentance, reform and ultimately revival. Thus, for the Balokole, the revival movement comes and goes with the Holy Spirit, which, as they explain it, left Rwanda in 1959 with the Tutsi refugees but returned with them, their descendants, after the genocide. A retired headmaster of a school in Shyogwe during the 1950s, who left for Uganda after the 1959 Revolution but who now lives in Gahini, claimed there was “no Holy Spirit in Rwanda during the 1960s but [the Spirit] was in Uganda,” presumably with the Tutsi Diaspora. This belief, that the troubles which beset Rwanda during the years from 1959 and until the genocide was over occurred because of the parting of the revival spirit with the Tutsi Balokole, is widespread and endorsed from the highest levels of PEAR.

Cantrell relates a story that retired Archbishop Kolini 1)Currently one of the AMiA’s “College of Consultors.” told him: “Former Archbishop Kolini explained to this author that when the Tutsis, of which he is one, left Rwanda for the refugee camps in Uganda in 1959, the Spirit left as well.” But contrary to Kolini’s theory, Hutus that were part of the Revival legacy stood up against the single party state and the genocide it inspired:

In 1986, three hundred members of the Abarokore and several other Christian sects were brought to trial for refusing to pay the state-required membership dues in the ruling MRND party and for failing to venerate the Rwandan state and its symbols of sovereignty. When the genocide began, a disproportionate number of the Abarokore, including soldiers and policemen, refused to participate. A number of witnesses reported to Longman how people sometimes saved Tutsis from the genocide because they were “umurokore,” a member of the Abarokore. So despite Kolini’s claims, elements of the Revival survived in pre-genocide Rwanda, questioning the policies of Habyarimana’s regime and their church leaders’ collusion with its policies. Interestingly, several interviewees admitted that some Hutus affected by the Revival spirit did not participate in the genocidal killings, and indeed the Anglican hierarchy today includes a small number of Hutu bishops, most prominently Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, formally Bishop of Byumba Diocese.

Cantrell says that despite public protestations that there are no more ethnic divisions, privately all Rwandans know this is not the case (something that the current ndi Umunyarwanda campaign proves even the government knows good and well). The current Archbishop of PEAR is forced to disown his own ethnic background in totalitarian Rwanda:

In a perhaps unexpected way, the contention by many Anglican Church figures of the Revival bringing unity between Hutus and Tutsis serves to undermine the official version of Rwanda’s history, a version that PEAR does not challenge otherwise. Church figures publicly contend there are no more Hutus and Tutsis, only Rwandans. Privately, they know otherwise, although it’s technically illegal in Rwanda to even ask. At a dinner conversation in Byumba Diocese with Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, this author was corrected and gently chastised on this point when he used the terms “Hutu” and “Tutsi.” Later, and privately, Rwaje admitted he “used to be a Hutu,” the only bishop in Rwanda, incidentally, of whom this is true.

Archbishop Rwaje says, “I used to be a Hutu”

Much of PEAR’s political quietism can be traced to the influence of the Keswick Revival in the U.K. Cantrell has some interesting points about this, which are not directly germane to politics in Rwanda, but are of interest to Anglicans in the West. For example, he says that Rwandan Anglicans are unsure if Pentecostal “sign gifts” were evident in the East African Revival in Rwanda:

Another prominent theme in the church’s recounting of the Revival’s history was the alleged harmony between Hutus and Tutsis. Nearly always, when asked what the Revival means for Rwanda, the first point made was the unity it brought between the two groups and the same revival spirit would unite Rwanda again. In actuality, the supposed unity brought about by the Revival was remembered far more than the specific practices of it. For example, several interviewees were unclear and in disagreement about whether the so-called “sign gifts” of the Holy Spirit were practiced by the Balokole at the start of the Revival.

He says that Keswick’s legalistic codes were imported into PEAR:

The Revival’s new-found impact on the post-genocide Anglicans is evident outside of church gatherings as well. The use of alcohol and tobacco products and gambling is strictly prohibited and formal Western dress-codes are adhered to closely, especially by men.

He shows how Simeon Nsibambi, a pioneer of the Revival in Rwanda, came under the dreadful influence of Charles Finney’s theology:

Nsibambi, born in 1897, was an officer in the public health department of the Ugandan civil service. Educated at CMS schools in Kampala and at King’s College in Budo, he served as a sergeant in the African Native Medical Corps during World War I, which interrupted his career. Nsibambi, in a 1952 interview, claimed his first conversion to Christ was on a ship bound for Zanzibar during the war. Nsibambi further claimed to have a “second conversion” by the Holy Spirit in 1922, a direct reflection of the Keswick teachings and the Higher Life Movement.
Throughout the 1920s, Nsibambi was involved in church matters and teaching, often leading Bible study groups in the evenings. In 1929, he resigned from his post in the Ugandan health department and devoted himself to full time evangelism. According to Richard MacMaster, based upon interviews he conducted among the participants, Nsibambi was impressed with American evangelist Charles Finney’s 1835 book Lectures on Revival. Finney’s ideas influenced the Keswick holiness movement and the Anglican revivalists of Uganda and Rwanda.

This is yet another article that should be required reading for PEAR USA clergy and ACNA bishops.


References   [ + ]

1. Currently one of the AMiA’s “College of Consultors.”

Common Objections Regarding Collaboration with Evil in Rwanda

Bishop Rucyahana, friend of Bishop Lawrence and Paul Kagame
Bishop Rucyahana, friend of Bishop Lawrence and Paul Kagame


There are some common objections to the facts that I run into when talking to other Anglicans about Rwanda. Other arguments could be added to this list, but I will mention a few commonly deployed arguments here.

The first argument is a form of relativism, which uses abortion as its example. 1)I’ve also heard the situation at Guantanamo Bay used as an example of evil on our part. It goes something like, “Sure things in Rwanda might be bad, but the US government condones abortion and the church here is silent about it, not wanting to offend congregants.” The point seems to be, “how can we criticize the Rwandan government for evil when our own government is also evil?” It is a quotidian example of ethical relativism, and you would hope Christians would be better thinkers than to use it. The refutation of this weak argument can be made as follows:

  1. One key difference between Rwanda and the United States is that in the USA, the Church of all stripes *does* speak up about abortion (perhaps not enough for these individuals liking) whereas the Rwandan bishops are publicly silent about State evil in their nation.
  2. When Christians in the USA speak up about abortion, they do not have to worry about imprisonment, torture, death and “disappearing”, whereas, if you speak about evil in Rwanda, you do need to fear this.
  3. American bishops can go to Rwanda and talk about the evil of abortion in the United States. I have yet to hear of a Rwandan bishop in America mentioning one negative thing about the Kagame dictatorship.
  4. A moral evil in our nation does not mean we cannot point out moral evils in other nations. Two wrongs do not make a right.
  5. God’s moral law applies uniformly to all nations, moral standards are not different for nations because they happen to be on the African continent.
  6. American bishops do not go to Rwanda and say things like, “Due to the visionary nature of American leaders, our nation is united and moving forward, our government’s reproductive laws are an example for you to follow.” Whereas, Rwandan bishops praise a tyrant’s leadership as “visionary” and promote the false narrative of Rwanda as some sort of shining city on a hill.
  7. American bishops typically do not appear on stage with abortion-supporting politicians, lending them their support. Rwandan bishops and clergy regularly appear often with the dictator, who sheds innocent blood like Manasseh of Judah.

In sum: the evil of abortion in America does not disqualify us from criticizing the State-led evil in Rwanda. An addendum to these points is that if someone objects that clergy in America are afraid to speak about abortion, then maybe the clergy voicing the argument should himself speak up about abortion more!

The second argument I hear has something to do with Westerners applying democratic standards to Rwanda, as if this is wrong. This is an essentially racist and colonialist argument rearing its head. It runs something like, “You can’t judge Rwanda by Western standards of democracy.” Why? Because it’s Africa? Because it’s okay for those folks to live in fear every day whereas we would never endure such conditions?

We have rightly rejected the State as god in the West (or had until recently). We rejected the “boot grinding the face of man forever” that 1984 so vividly displays. Are our concepts of the dignity of the human body, the freedom from unjust arrest and trial, the illegality of torture and murder simply relativistic concepts unique to the West, or do they apply to all humankind? The answer for a Christian must be obvious, we cannot endorse State sanctioned evil, and this is not some Western fancy that Rwandans just can’t grasp or that is unfair to judge them with. If ACNA / PEAR bishops had to live in a nation where they could not discuss politics without the fear of ending up in jail, they would certainly not like it, but they are silent about this in their partner nations in GAFCON.

Finally, and perhaps most weakly, is the “it’s complicated” argument. It was once put this way: “There are webs of complexity that entangle politics, history, church, and personal relationships.” Well, yes and also emphatically no. Almost any subject is complex once you start peeling back the layers and going beyond a surface-level understanding. But no, because evil is evil and it is not hard to say that killing, kidnapping, and ethnic demonization are evil. You don’t have to know who all the players are to make a call on these issues.

Some of this is simple lack of time on the part of PEAR USA clergy who are canonically Rwandan clergy. They do not want to spend the time reading histories, studies and reports about Rwanda, they would rather read other things. This is understandable, and one of my primary arguments about any jurisdiction under African leadership is that it is of necessity too complex. Joe Pastor in Altoona, PA should not have to understand the complexities of Rwandan history (or Nigerian history) in order to do his job, yet because of being enmeshed with quiescent leaders in Rwanda, he is now forced to do just that. But because PEAR USA has made its bed with Rwanda, it must now lie in it.

These arguments are usually accompanied by comments traducing blogs, which is ironic given how Bishops and other ACNA leaders embraced blogs when they were exposing problems with TEC, or in the case of PEAR USA, when PEAR clergy were happily fighting Chuck Murphy via the internet. Once you question “the brand” however, these same folks will talk down about “the internet” in a very Episcopalian manner.

At bottom, I suspect that Anglican clergy do not want to rock the boat on Rwanda, they have a good thing going and want to maintain it. They won’t look too deeply into matters that will only cause them grief and would require them to walk back a decade plus story about being “Rwandan missionaries.” The failure to speak about evil in Rwanda means that the Nairobi Communique is not worth the paper it was written on. It said:

We repudiate all such violence against women and children and call on the church to demonstrate respect for women, care for marginalized women and children around the world, and uphold the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.

Each member nation could apply these words to itself, but I doubt that the courage to do so exists.




References   [ + ]

1. I’ve also heard the situation at Guantanamo Bay used as an example of evil on our part.

Could Rwanda See More State Led Violence?

Executed by M23
Executed by M23

There is a new and informative article about the possibility of mass killings in Rwanda’s future. It is called “Rwanda: could state-led mass killings ever happen again?”, written by  Bert Ingelaere and Marijke Verpoorten and located here. It is a bit biased towards the Kagame dictatorship 1)i.e. “a strong and appealing vision focused on the reconstruction of the country.” but still comes to some alarming conclusions.

Their thesis is:

We will argue that the international community – heavily involved in contemporary Rwanda – is currently confusing the consequences and origins of mass violence. This could result in renewed mass violence and consequently there needs to be a drastic change of policy.

The authors point out how democrats in Rwanda have been eliminated by the State:

The top-down implementation of economic policies points to the Achilles’ heel of the post-genocide reconstruction: the authoritarian character of the current regime. State control, a key ingredient of the genocidal efficiency in 1994, remains strong. The working of (state) power within Rwandan society also portrays remarkable continuity with the pre-genocide era with a deep penetration of authority in Rwandan society and chains of accountability which mainly go upwards, not downwards as in democratic political systems.

They point out the obvious, that dissent is not allowed in Rwanda:

There is, furthermore, little space or tolerance for expressing discontent or alternative projects for society. Such a project lies with the ‘democrats’, a political current that emerged in the beginning of the nineties. The ‘democrats’ were however gradually side-lined, exiled or killed after the RPF took over power in 1994, just like political opponents today.  As a result, countervailing civic powers, a culture of multi-ethnic political dialogue and strong independent institutions – which could function as barriers to violence in times of crisis – remain absent.

They discuss how a small spark could lead to another disaster in Rwanda:

In the Rwandan case: a minority is in power that wants to defend its existential security as well as its visionary project, of which the main features were highlighted above; and Rwandan politics and mentalities are influenced by layers of historical episodes of mass violence. One only needs a spark to initiate a political crisis, even a war. As history has shown in the Rwandan case, and as comparative research on genocide and politically motivated mass murder suggests; it is under these circumstances that mass violence against civilians become thinkable, justifiable and executable. Recent attempts to forecast state-led mass killings continue to situate Rwanda in the risk zone.

Based on this overview of the drivers of mass violence in Rwanda, it becomes clear that policy-makers within and outside of contemporary Rwanda tend to confuse the consequences of past violence with its origins. The current regime – heavily supported by the donor community – primarily focuses on policy initiatives that seek the unity of Rwandans as well as economic reconstruction and development of the country. Most visible in the first domain is the attempt to ‘re-educate’ the population and ‘erase’ ethnic awareness. This happens through a plethora of initiatives, ranging from history education in schools to the organization of so-called ‘solidarity’ camps for all Rwandan adults. The autocratic nature of these undertakings justifies and entrenches RPF rule while not initiating values of mutual understanding or a culture of multi-ethnic political dialogue.

Perhaps the most chilling, but also accurate, statement that they make, is:

Since the primary driver of mass violence lies in the political domain, it means that the aid industry and international community will need to radically reconsider its involvement in Rwanda. Waiting to intervene until mass violence erupts is a dangerous bet.

This is the point that I have been making for a couple years now in the Anglican context, see here for example. Roger Bowen, who served in Rwanda prior to the genocide, castigated the silence of Western mission partners prior to 1994:

Partnership in mission is the dominant theme in Anglican relationships. But one may ask in the context of Rwanda, as perhaps elsewhere in Africa, whether the mission agencies at least have so leaned over backwards to avoid the charge of colonialism that they have failed to challenge their partner Churches? Within both Rwanda and the Rwandan Church, we were aware of many of these issues and yet, as their partners, we largely failed to challenge them as equal partners and to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). In Ezekiel 33 the prophet is challenged to be a watchman for the House of Israel to warn the people of God of impending danger. Both the national Church of Rwanda and its partners overseas have largely failed in this role of watchmen.

Bowen’s concerns are being replayed by the silence of GAFCON and PEAR USA to the evil in Rwanda today.

The authors go on to make some solid recommendations for how things could change peacefully. The unfortunate downside to their recommendations is that these wishes for change probably have zero chance of implementation in the current oppressive environment.

References   [ + ]

1. i.e. “a strong and appealing vision focused on the reconstruction of the country.”

A Bishop Rebukes a President

Bishop Niringiye
Bishop Niringiye

Standing in contrast to the cozy relationship that the Anglican bishops of Rwanda have with the RPF and Paul Kagame, Bishop Zac Niringiye of Uganda is standing up to Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni. Realize that in comparison to Rwanda, Uganda is a heaven of free speech (I’m not saying it is, just in comparison). This story provides some details about the Bishop’s work:

Opposition activist, Bishop Zac Niringiye, who is without a political party, but has placed himself on the frontline of the movement’s activism, tells me bluntly that “you can’t have free and fair elections [in Uganda] with Museveni on the ballot paper.” ‘Bishop Zac’, as he is known, retired from his position as Assistant Bishop of Kampala in 2012 (7 years early) with the intention of spending more time on his ‘good governance’ campaigns, including the ‘Black Monday’ anti-corruption drive. He has a PhD from Edinburgh University, but when I meet him in his book-lined office at ‘Aclaim Africa’ on leafy Nakasero hill, not far from the President’s own Kampala residence, his critique is anything but academic.

It begins with a description of his recent attempts to hold a meeting on electoral reform in Mbale in eastern Uganda. Whilst the group had informed the local authorities that they would be holding a meeting, and apparently been given the go-ahead, when they arrived they were obstructed in every way possible. After attempting to move the location of the meeting from a hotel (which they were not allowed to enter) the police used tear gas to break up the crowd and the bishop was manhandled by a police officer and repeatedly called “stupid Bishop!” Besigye, a veteran of clashes with the Ugandan police, was forced to find refuge in his car and then driven out of town. Later when they attempted to return to their hotel they were not permitted to enter due to a supposed security alert involving Al Shabaab.

Bishop Zac tells me that this heavy-handed reaction from the police was undoubtedly a consequence of orders “from above”, because “Museveni hates it when it looks like people could be organised.”

I also think there’s something particular about people becoming ‘organised’ outside of Kampala. The Ugandan capital doesn’t feel like a place locked into a dictatorship. People talk politics pretty freely, the press – particularly The Monitor (until it crosses a line, as with the Sejusa letter in 2013) remains fairly free to publish what it wants. One can only speculate as to what it does not publish – stories on the First Family are widely thought to be out-of-bounds. A large array of NGOs (and many which work on issues of governance) operate in the city and do so apparently with care but without too much trouble. Proposed strengthening of the powers of the NGO Board (the sector’s regulator), coming out of the office of the Minister of Internal Affairs, General Aronda, (the military are big in Ugandan politics) will be worth watching though.

NRM, however, seems relatively unconcerned with what goes on in Kampala amongst the city’s small middle class. Kampala is a city with a historically low electoral turn-out and strong support for the opposition. But I hear from several sources that talking about transparency and accountability in Kampala-based meetings is one thing, but defending the rights of people ‘on the ground’, such as those recently displaced and inadequately compensated by plans to build the country’s first oil refinery in Hoima district, is quite another. The principle seems to be ‘don’t organise where our vote is’. And ‘don’t mess up the projects we care about.’

During our conversation, the activist Bishop Zac breaks off on several occasions to field phone calls about the logistics of an upcoming trip to Kasese in the west of the country, once again to talk about electoral reform. He’s clearly not giving up easily, so watch this space. I ask him whether, given his rising profile, he has any of his own political ambitions – perhaps as a compromise opposition presidential candidate. He tells me that this is “the wrong question” because, as previously stated, there’s no point talking politics until the President steps down. “Can I lead this country? – Of course, it’s not rocket science. But that’s not what I’m thinking about.”

Whilst the opposition may be brave and committed I am told that what is likely to happen is what always happens – they empower people to take to the streets, Museveni deploys the police to beat them up, they get tired of being beaten up and go home again. If he wants to change the constitution so that elections can be delayed beyond 2016, a suggestion that was recently raised in parliament by an NRM MP, then he could present it as allowing time for electoral reform to take place and would probably have the votes to force it through. Uganda’s MPs, who are removed from office by the electorate in extremely high numbers, have a vested interest in delaying the polls for as long as possible.

Bishop Niringiye is doing the right thing. Perhaps someday a Rwandan bishop will do the same.

Archbishop Carey Praises Kagame

While the opportunity is there, I preach the Gospel with all my might, and my conscience is clear before God that I have not sided with the present government which is utterly self-seeking. I have been threatened many times. Whenever I have the opportunity I have told the president the things the churches disapprove of. God is my witness. – Janani Luwum

Adding his voice to the parade of clergy who praise a murderous tyrant, retired Archbishop George Carey visited Rwanda yesterday, lauding Paul Kagame. He met with Kagame and Archbishop Rwaje.

Musoni, Rwaje, Kagame, Carey, et al
Musoni, Rwaje, Kagame, Carey, et al

Speaking to the press after meeting President Kagame, Lord George Carey said Rwanda has responded magnificently and was a strong, vibrant, buoyant country that was going in the right direction…Lord George Carey, who is remembered as the first Anglican Archbishop to ordain women priests, commended Rwanda’s policy on gender equality: “The reason why I am passion about this is because women represent 50% of the human family, have the same brain capacity as the male and have many wonderful gifts and why wouldn’t they be allowed to use those gifts? Rwanda’s emphasis on gender equality is very good and a modern thing too. I would like to encourage President Kagame to maintain his enthusiasm because he is doing a great thing” 1)Press release. 14123633654_18390d4277_o Carey lauded government’s “pro-people approach to governance” and encouraged the Head of State to stay the course. “A president is a servant of the people. It’s the people who matter and that should be up most in his mind and I’m sure it is,” he said. 2)Story.

14120009001_c740db7026_o Where are voices like Bishop Festo Kivengere in Rwanda?

God entrusts governments with authority. But authority has been misused in our country by force.

References   [ + ]

1. Press release.
2. Story.

Bishop Mbanda on Hutu Politicians

Bishop Laurent Mbanda
Bishop Laurent Mbanda

Writing in 1997, current Anglican Bishop Laurent Mbanda derided Hutus who left the RPF government of Rwanda:

Some of the Hutus who were invited by the RPF to participate in the broad-based government forsook their responsibilities and decided to leave the country, to be involved in activities whose purpose is to disturb and sabotage the reconstruction of the country. 1)Page 105 of Mbanda’s book Committed to Conflict.

Mbanda is referring to the resignations of Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu, Seth Sendashonga, Immaculée Kayumba, Alphonse-Marie Nkubito and Jean-Baptiste Nkuriyingoma. All of these ministers left the government due to the developing Tutsi domination at all levels of the government and over RPF revenge pogroms carried out on Hutus. Mbanda’s characterization of these brave souls as traitors is utterly untrue. Stephen W. Smith tells us about this same incident through the eyes of Seth Sendashonga, later assassinated in Kenya:

Nairobi, February 1996, two years into the new RPF dispensation in Rwanda. As I speak to Seth Sendashonga, his vivid eyes are glazed with sadness. I have just spent several weeks in Rwanda, and have returned bearing notepads full of crimes. It isn’t as if he doesn’t know what happened: on the contrary, I’d leaned heavily on Sendashonga’s contacts in Rwanda. In 1991, when he joined the RPF, Sendashonga was the only eminent Hutu-turned-rebel who was not a defector from the Habyarimana regime. He undertook to rewrite the rebels’ political platform, to explain to the children of exile what the land of their fathers was like and, more important, to build bridges with opposition parties in Rwanda. ‘Our agenda is not revenge but true democracy,’ he assured them. Under the new regime, Sendashonga became Kagame’s minister of the interior. But he could not accept the RPF’s reprisals for the genocide, including planned massacres and systematic killings. Kagame failed to respond to any of the 700 letters documenting abuses which Sendashonga sent him. Eventually, Sendashonga had to face the fact that he was only another front man. Six months before we met in Nairobi, he resigned and went into exile. 2)Smith, Rwanda in Six Scenes.

Bishop Mbanda may not have been aware of all the facts when he wrote in 1997. In light of the many accounts of these events that we have now, I hope that Mbanda would retract this criticism of the brave souls who left the government in 1996. However, as late as 2009 he was praising the current authoritarian leadership in this interview:

The country enjoys peace, security throughout and visionary leadership. It is a story of success and model of good governance in the region.

Given this rosy view of a leader who rules with an iron fist, Bishop Mbanda’s judgement on all these matters is called into question.

References   [ + ]

1. Page 105 of Mbanda’s book Committed to Conflict.
2. Smith, Rwanda in Six Scenes.