Bishop Mbanda wishes dictator Kagame a Happy Birthday

If there is any doubt about the relationship of the Anglican Church in Rwanda to the odious dictator, Paul Kagame, look no further than the sycophantic tweet sent by Bishop Laurent Mbanda this week on the occasion of Kagame’s birthday:

The only thing about Kagame that is “amazing” is his ability to hoodwink the West while killing, imprisoning and torturing his own people. GAFCON ought to discipline men like Mbanda who praise evil tyrants.

Rwanda’s fake economy

Most articles about Rwanda tout its economy even if they identify the repressive nature of the State. Increasingly, this economic “miracle” looks more like a sham as this new article describes. It says:

The conclusion of this brief analysis is that if there ever was a Rwandan economic miracle it has probably fizzled out some time ago and is likely to come crashing down very soon. At the very least, the data shows that the development strategy adopted by the Rwandan government is risky in the extreme, bordering on reckless. The closest example we can find in recent history of similar policies is Mobutu’s Zaire that squandered the country’s resources on space projects, nuclear power plants and a Concord airplane. As outlandish as they seem today, these projects also helped to give Mobutu an image of success up until the 1970s (remember the Rumble in the Jungle?) But Rwanda’s PR machine has even surpassed Mobutu’s, having managed to keep the narrative of success going for all these years even as evidence to the contrary has been in plain sight, or just below the surface waiting to be scratched. Even today, there is not a single article in the press (even the critical ones) that does not mention Rwanda’s alleged economic success, and its low levels of corruption – forgetting to mention that close associates of Kagame appeared in the Panama Papers last year and a transparency international coordinator was assassinated.

Mbanda interview

On November 1, 2015 Bishop Laurent Mbanda spoke to the Dean’s Class of the Cathedral Church of the Advent Birmingham Alabama. He provides some background on how he became a bishop (according to him):

(In) 2010 the church called me up and said, “can we put your name up for a possible candidate as bishop.” And we said, “Nobody know us, and uh, if God can close a door he will still have room to close the door, so, we let them take the name after prayer and getting God’s peace, and was traveling in the country of Ghana and while there I got a call to say, “yes you have been elected bishop of Shyria” and we were consecrated in 2010, March.”

Bishop Mbanda goes on to praise Rwandan dictator, Paul Kagame. Curiously, he does not use his name but refers to him simply as the President:

The country of Rwanda was reduced to ashes in 1994…and no one gave it a chance…but I believe because of good leadership, I believe because of a President who was then a Major in the army, actually he was the head of the army, who stopped the genocide. I think he made two choices that were crucial; one, he made a choice to, not to revenge. He could have led his army to revenge for the number of people who had been killed, over a million people. But he said “we won’t revenge we will instead forgive.” Number two, he was willing to be inclusive in bringing people who were actually fighting him into his government, and so a government of unity. And number three, the churches in Rwanda started talking about evangelism…

Bishop Mbanda does not appeal for help against a dictatorship that disappears people in the night, instead he peddles the false narrative of reconciliation:

And I think those initial decisions then started bringing people together. The reconciliation has taken place, the President, I believe in the leadership that he has, are people who are trying to fight corruption and umm, there are people also who have the country and the people at heart.

Christians in the West should be careful about who they are embracing when they do not realize the historical facts.

Developments in Rwanda: 2016-17

 

Archbishop Rwaje at the 2017 ACNA Provincial Assembly

Despite years of evidence that Rwanda is a repressive dictatorship, the message has not sunk in to cheerfully naive Anglicans. For example, Lisa Puckett writing on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Christ Our Hope (ACNA) says:

We are grateful for this rich heritage. If you would like to learn more about the story of Rwandan leadership, Bishop Thad Barnum’s book “Never Silent” is a great resource. If you would like to share the story of radical reconciliation, the movie “As We Forgive” is a great place to start. Additionally, Rwanda Ministry Partners and Walk with Rwanda are ministries of ACNA established to encourage continued journeys along this fruitful path. The best stories are found in your own congregation; ask one another, “How are you influenced by our Rwandan heritage?” “Where do you see an ongoing story filled with miracle, mystery, connection, and blessing?”

This gauzy vision of miracles and blessing bumps into the harsh reality that the Anglican Church of Rwanda is utterly silent in the face of evil and in fact has been part of it (Bishops Kolini and Rucyahana in particular). And yet, Archbishop Rwaje is a key part of GAFCON and was recently at the ACNA Provincial Assembly. Is ACNA interested in the truth, or do we accept pleasant stories about Rwanda at face value?

In order to see behind the curtain a bit, those interested in the truth might look at the following reports from Rwanda from the past couple years:

July 13, 2017

State security forces in Rwanda have summarily killed at least 37 suspected petty offenders and forcibly disappeared four others since April 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

Some victims were first arrested by civilian authorities who then took them to nearby military stations. Soldiers then executed the victims at or near the military base, sometimes after ill-treating them in detention. Witnesses who saw the bodies soon after the executions said they saw bullet wounds and injuries that seemed to have been caused by beatings or stabbings. One victim had been stabbed in the heart; another had a cord around his neck.

Source: Human Rights Watch

July 11, 2017

I left Rwanda in 2012 when I could no longer justify offering any sort of political cover to the Kagame regime. No matter how many lives I saved in the hospital, an order of magnitude more would be killed or imprisoned that very day. Perhaps as the US turns inward and pulls back from funding activities outside the borders, the conflict of interest will resolve of its own volition. Or perhaps the repression of the strongmen in places such as Rwanda and Burundi will boil over, resulting in yet another series of bloody conflicts. The preservation of poisonous people like Kagame certainly portends the possibility of conflict, but the examples across West Africa provide hope for a democratic and peaceful future.

Source: Why US universities should cut links with Rwanda

July 7, 2017

Rwandans go to the polls on 4 August 2017 to elect their next president, in a climate of fear created by years of repression against opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders. They have been jailed, physically attacked – even killed – and forced into exile or silence. Prior human rights violations and unresolved cases of murders and disappearances continue to have a chilling effect on the current political and human rights context.

Source: Amnesty International

June 10, 2017

“People disappear, others get killed in unexplained circumstances and nobody speaks about this because of fear,” she said. “We must end this silence.”

The U.S.-educated, soft-spoken businesswoman recognizes the dangers of speaking out from inside the country, instead of from exile like others, but she said: “I trust in god.”

Source: Associated Press

March 26, 2017

One year after her sudden and suspicious disappearance, the Rwandan authorities must reveal the fate of nurse and opposition activist Illuminée Iragena, Amnesty International said today.

Illuminée Iragena, a member of the unregistered opposition political party United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), went missing on 26 March 2016 on her way to work as a nurse at the King Faisal Hospital in the country’s capital Kigali.

“Sources close to the case believe that Illuminée was tortured and died in custody, but have no official information on her fate,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region.

Source: Amnesty International

March 2, 2017

Unity in Rwanda is part of a rehearsed consensus. The government has established a monopoly over the country’s history, to the extent that alternative histories cannot be articulated. Debate about the past is actively policed. The regime’s authoritarian approach has prevented the emergence of potentially more complex identities from below that could form the basis for more inclusive forms of citizenship.

Source: Pambazuka News

March 10, 2017

Kagame has grossly exaggerated his social and economic accomplishments of the past 23 years. He says he has built an African economic lion – the Singapore of Africa. In reality Rwanda remains the poorest country in East Africa, except for Burundi. Its per capita income stands at $697.3 versus Kenya’s of $1,376.7; Uganda, $705; and Tanzania at $879. Burundi is poorer than Rwanda with per capita of $277. Rwanda receives $1 billion a year in foreign aid, which is half of its annual budget of $2 billion. This is hardly a spectacular success.

Source: San Francisco Bay View

March 3, 2017

The most important human rights problems were government harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; and restrictions on media freedom and civil liberties. Due to restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties, citizens did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.

Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; government restrictions on and harassment of some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights and media freedoms; some reports of trafficking in persons; and government restrictions on labor rights; and child labor.

Source: U.S. State Department

March 2, 2017

But the dominant political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), does more than help business: it runs its very own conglomerate.

Crystal Ventures, the RPF’s holding company, has investments in everything from furniture to finance. It owns the country’s biggest milk processor, its finest coffee shops and some of its priciest real estate. Its contractors are building Kigali’s roads. There are several firms offering security services in Rwanda but the guards from ISCO, part of Crystal Ventures, are the only ones who tote guns. The company is reckoned to have some $500m of assets.

Source: The Economist

February 24, 2017

In a new twist to the unsolved mystery of the assassination that triggered the Rwandan genocide, United Nations peacekeepers have found a missile launcher with remarkable similarities to the weapon that killed Rwanda’s president in 1994.

More than two decades after the assassination, new clues are beginning to surface, while a French investigation remains active. The latest discovery could bring the world closer to the truth by shedding light on the murder weapon itself.

A confidential report by the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, obtained by The Globe and Mail, documents a Soviet-made surface-to-air missile launcher that was seized by Congolese forces from a Rwandan rebel group last August.

Last October, The Globe obtained a document written by one of Mr. Kagame’s former close aides, alleging that the Rwandan President had been directly involved in organizing the 1994 missile attack.

Source: The Globe and Mail

February, 2017

Opposition figures residing outside of Rwanda have also been threatened, attacked, forcibly disappeared, or killed. Former members of the Rwandan security forces living in exile have gone missing, while others have been targeted for assassination.

Although the constitution calls on the president to ensure “representation of historically marginalized communities” in the Senate through his appointees, asserting one’s ethnic identity in politics is banned, meaning the level of representation is unclear.

In January 2016, writer and editor John Williams Ntwali, whose reporting had been critical of the government, was arrested, accused of rape (later reduced to indecent exposure), and illegally detained for 13 days. In February, the offices of the East African newspaper were raided by police, who seized materials and arrested a journalist, Yvan Mushiga. In August, radio journalist John Ndabarasa—a relative of a former bodyguard of President Kagame who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for treason in 2014—went missing.

Many Rwandan journalists have fled the country and work in exile. Due in part to this phenomenon, the government has increasingly blocked access to news websites based abroad. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Kinyarwanda-language service has been suspended in the country since 2014.

Source: Freedom House

December 10, 2016

There is credible evidence of massacres by Kagame’s forces of tens or hundreds of thousands of people after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, and his political opponents are almost all in exile, in prison or dead.

Yet Kagame heads several prestigious UN development initiatives. Harvard and Yale invite him to speak about democracy and human rights. It is even fashionable to celebrate Kagame’s leadership of Rwanda. The extent of this hypocrisy is an indication not of Kagame’s dictatorial achievements or crimes, but rather of the world’s hunger for postcolonial leaders and narratives. Kagame is held up as a counter to western hegemony.

Kagame is expert in crafting postcolonial myths that resonate powerfully in a world still grappling with colonial legacies. He claims he ended Rwanda’s genocide, which killed nearly a million people in just 100 days, while a morally bankrupt west stood idle. There is merit in his argument that the world should be held accountable for not deploying peacekeepers during the genocide. However, genocide survivors are afraid to mention that Kagame had himself opposed the deployment of those UN peacekeepers. He was concerned they would interfere with his military takeover of the country.

Source: The Guardian

October 4, 2016

Eventually African Rights ended up on the RPF payroll, working closely with intelligence operatives and even moving to a building that housed the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Reydams reveals. By that time, de Waal had left the organization. Yet even before de Waal and Omaar parted ways, African Rights had become enormously prescriptive and influential; it scolded the international community about who was morally right during the war, who should be arrested and why. It staunchly defended the RPF against reports that its troops had engaged in violence and shamed other human rights investigators and journalists for calling attention to RPF abuses: “Allegations that the RPF was massacring civilians were ‘hysteria’ and journalists who ran such ‘stories’ were not doing their work properly.” Reydams aptly points out that “human rights reports usually do not defend a warring party. Yet, Death, Despair and Defiancedoes exactly that. The RPF’s resumption of the war is presented as humanitarian intervention and, therefore, a ceasefire was out of the question.”

Not surprisingly, African Rights’ work, which provided a one-sided, sanitized version of the Rwandan genocide, did not stand the test of time.

Source: Foreign Policy Journal

July 21, 2016

Rwandan authorities are rounding up poor people and arbitrarily detaining them in “transit centers” across the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The conditions in these centers are harsh and inhuman, and beatings are commonplace. New research indicates that the authorities have made few changes in a center in Gikondo, in the capital, Kigali, despite an earlier Human Rights Watch report on abuses there, and that similar degrading treatment prevails in other transit centers.

Contrary to the designations for these centers, none of the people interviewed had “transited” to other facilities after their most recent arrest and most had not been through any “rehabilitation,” such as professional training or education, at the centers.

“They correct us by beating us with sticks,” one man told Human Rights Watch.

Source: Human Rights Watch

July 14, 2016

It becomes clear quickly that people are not cleaning because it’s good for the country or for the official line of together and taking personal responsibility for beautification of this land of a thousand hills.

This is a programme that works because it’s enforced by law and penalties.

We need special permission to be on the road during Umuganda and our vehicle is indeed stopped twice and police officers check the paperwork.

Failure to clean up comes with a fine, the equivalent of about $10.

Most unnerving is that it’s neighbours who rat on you to a local cell block leader who issues a fine. Communities who have slacked on cleaning make headlines in a press that is anything but free.

This adherence to a social structure of cells and cell leaders emanates from a time when working the hilly terrain successfully relied on mutualism and reciprocity. Now this structure of cohesion can be leant on to enforce ideals of unity, collectivism and co-operation. But it was also this social structure that allowed the genocide that started on April 7, 1994, to ignite and spread, and for the command to kill from Hutu cell leaders to be obeyed.

Source: IOL

June 3, 2016

Taken together, Guichaoua’s historical analysis and Sundaram’s contemporary analysis raise significant questions about Rwanda today, and whether the facade erected by the RPF in the post-genocide period is sustainable. The parallels between what Guichaoua describes and the current situation are alarming: A small minority of one ethnic group controls almost all of political, economic and social life; there are virtually no avenues for meaningful, peaceful dissent about the country’s direction or its leaders; and, as Sundaram shows, information flows are controlled and manipulated by elites.

Source: The Washington Post

May 10, 2016

“The consistent harassment of journalists has had a chilling effect in Rwanda, where there is no space for dissenting narrative at all, today,” he explains. “A colleague of mine was shot dead on the same day he criticised Paul Kagame. Another was beaten into a coma after bringing up the harassment of journalists at a press conference with the president. Others joined the presidential propaganda team out of fear. In my book I document over 60 cases of journalists who have been killed, disappeared, arrested, imprisoned, tortured or forced to flee the country, fearing for their lives after criticising the Rwandan government.”

Source: Huck

Anjan Sundaram’s book “Bad News”

With Bad News, Last Journalists in a DictatorshipAnjan Sundaram has written a book that everyone involved with Rwanda should read. While there are other works of recent history that are very valuable, many of them are quite technical and I am afraid they lose your average American reader. Sundaram’s book is very well-written and avoids technical details. For example, he calls the RPF, “the President’s party.”

The book is chilling, horrifying and depressing, as well as accurate. Sundaram worked in Kigali for a few years, trying to train journalists on how to report effectively. Unfortunately, because Rwanda is a police state that functions like a cult, it has become an open-air prison and so his students either gave in and became lap-dogs for the government, or they were tortured, detained, killed and harassed into submission. The book reminded me of 1984 if it was played out in the real world. Everywhere that Sundaram goes, plainclothes spies are watching. Their presence ensures that anyone who talks to him only repeats the script that he or she knows they are to recite. Everything is under surveillance and the government controls society down to the household level, there is no escape from its watchful eye. 1)From an interview: “There’s a very granular level of government control in Rwanda. If someone comes and stays at your house your neighbors will inform the local chief who lives just two streets down, and that chief will have a direct connection to a line of authority that reaches all the way to the center in Kigali.
This structure was the reason why the genocide began so quickly and proceeded so efficiently in 1994 after the government gave the order to kill.”

The Rwanda that Sundaram reveals is one where one genocide survivor tells him, “…the government mocks the genocide, uses it to get pity from the world, to get money, and at the same time to keep us in a state of fear” (23). It is a nation where unquestioning obedience is required, which is exactly what enabled the genocide in 1994. If Paul Kagame says to do something, you do it or you suffer terrible consequences. One day, Sundaram travels south and visits villages where huts have been destroyed. It looks like an act of war, but the people are lethargic and quiet. All of the grass roofs have been removed from the huts, and so Sundaram’s friend asks what has happened? Who did this?

“We did” is the reply they receive. “The man said the local authorities had come to the village and told the people to destroy their roofs. It was an order. “And you obeyed?” I said. “At once.” He was grim, as though this should not be questioned. Had the authorities explained their order? “They said the president had felt the grass roofs were too primitive.” And what did this man think? “They are too primitive,” he said. “Our country is modern now.”

The people in these huts now shiver in the rain. Their elderly were sick and some died. Many lived in the forest for some shelter. They destroyed their own homes without any protest because of a Presidential whim. This is the kind of blind following that goes on in Rwanda in every sector, in every field, all the time. As Sundaram says in an interview:

It was a world in which they could trust almost no one, where people performed a kind of theater in order to please the government. They would disown friends, disown family, isolate themselves. And the power of the system was that people did these things to themselves.

As an Anglican, reading this book brought home to me the utter futility of what I have been doing. The Anglican Church in Rwanda will never speak up about the wickedness happening there. In fact, it helps further this wickedness. Expecting it to speak up is expecting it to want to die, and while this is what should happen for Christians, given that we are commanded to go to the cross with Christ, to suffer and die and to speak out against evil states like this, I don’t see it happening in Rwanda. The culture of obedience is absolute there. People betray their own families in Rwanda to curry favor with the State. Someone there might hate Kagame in his heart, and yet he will outwardly sing his praises in order to stay alive and stay in the good graces of the Party. Bishops praise this wicked man openly. Our American bishops are fooled by the phony show that is played out in this prison, and don’t talk to those who could open their eyes, namely the Rwandans who have fled for their lives and can speak freely. It would upset the apple cart and the politics of the Anglican Communion to actually look into things beyond a surface level.

And so this tragedy will play itself out. In the same way that the church prior to the genocide said nothing and followed blindly in obedience, the church of today repeats the pattern. This sick nation will stay sick, telling lies to the West to keep its budget going, bragging about development while the West is happy to ignore the mountains of evidence that show how deeply evil this regime is. The Anglican Church has utterly failed to be a witness, and is content with projects that ignore the real sources of pain in the nation. You might even be a missionary in Rwanda and have your security guard go missing, “disappeared” like so many others, but will it wake you up? Unfortunately no.

While there desperately needs to be a change and a realization of what we are dealing with in the Anglican Church of Rwanda, I see no signs of that happening.

 

References   [ + ]

1. From an interview: “There’s a very granular level of government control in Rwanda. If someone comes and stays at your house your neighbors will inform the local chief who lives just two streets down, and that chief will have a direct connection to a line of authority that reaches all the way to the center in Kigali.
This structure was the reason why the genocide began so quickly and proceeded so efficiently in 1994 after the government gave the order to kill.”

Bishop Nathan Gasatura: “Kagame honors the Lord”

On February 23, 2011 Rwandan Anglican Bishop Nathan Gasatura spoke during the chapel message at Wheaton College. During his message, he mentioned that he went to high school with Rwanda’s dictator, Paul Kagame:

I have been in the presence of the Presidents, about four, in our region, and every time I ask the Lord, “Lord give me the strength to just raise your flag, just in a small humble way.” And recently when, you know, we met, the President Kagame with many delegates we talked business and after were done we were to go and in my heart I said, “Oh Lord, I’m failing you help me!” And I put up my hand and asked, I said, “Your excellency, would you allow me to kindly pray in this place?” He said, “Of course Nathan” because we bumped into each other in some high school, so we knew each other a little bit.

And he was right there, it’s a big, big, you know, Presidential hall. And I just felt I need to move and pray with him there, something crazy, some of these things happen. So, I, I said, “if I move the security will think I’m in, you know, I’m up to something.” But I said anyway, “don’t worry” so I walked right across and as I stood behind him, near him, we were almost the same height, so I said, “yeah, I think it’s fitting to put my hand on him.” I prayed, and we all got out so I said, “who knows when I will ever have the opportunity like this?” Praise be to God.

Bishop Gasatura discusses the much-touted reconciliation process in Rwanda between the Hutu and the Tutsi. He goes on to make the astounding claim that “Kagame honors the Lord”:

In Rwanda the story of forgiveness, healing, peacebuilding and reconciliation has been a very painful journey, has been a heartbreaking journey, has been a painful, excruciating journey, has been a very, very, hostile journey, but it has been a worthwhile journey. We thank God for the leadership whom we believe God has used in some way because Kagame honors the Lord. He doesn’t proclaim Christianity openly, many of his ministers, members of Parliament and Senators they honor the Lord. When you come in the Presidential Prayer Breakfast that’s when you see it, it’s, it’s just moving. And we have no doubt that God has used that government to be used as his instrument like he used King Darius. And, Rwanda is changing partly because of the work of the church and government and other forces.

Bishop Gasatura then claims that Kagame was used by God to stop revenge after the genocide of 1994:

When the genocide was beaten and stopped, the very first policy that was put in place was a policy of no revenge, Kagame, somehow was used by God to say, “If we never stop this bloodletting and revenge this vicious cycle will never stop.” So he put in place like a general an order, which had not gone into policy and law, that nobody was allowed whatsoever to shed blood of someone who had killed even 200 of your family members, the government will handle that, nobody (should) take the law in his hands. And today that policy has gone into practice, into law, and a Commission of Unity and Reconciliation has been put in place to re-educate and help the Rwandans unlearn the wrong and poisonous history that they were taught. And if that was not supported by the Church, praying and interceding and teaching, and you know, repenting, it would never go far.

Fact checking the Bishop

Does Kagame honor the Lord?

One of his former cabinet ministers told me, “Like all of us, he grew up Catholic. He has never seriously practiced any faith.Before those he trusts, he ridicules faith in God, and those who believe.”

Furthermore, Kagame is a murderer who crushes all dissent in the open prison that is Rwanda, not quite the qualities of a leader who honors the Lord.

Did Kagame stop the bloodletting?

To the contrary, the entire reign of Kagame is covered in blood. Look at just a couple of the thousands of examples; first, former Kagame bodyguard Aloys Ruyezni wrote:

The Murder of Religious Leaders in Rwanda

The 157th Battalion, led by (then) Col. Fred Ibingira, killed many innocent people in Mutara, Kibungo, Bugesera, Gitarama and elsewhere during the final attack to take control of the country. This includes the bishops who were murdered in Kabgayi. The 157th Battalion’s I.O., Wilson Gumisiriza, organized a section of his staff to kill the bishops. It was led by (then) Sgt. Kwitegetse (alias Burakari), who was briefed on the mission by Gumisiriza. Gen. Kagame gave the final order to kill the bishops to Col. Ibingira. He gave him the order in these words: “Remove those rubbishes,” or “Fagia,” in Swahili.

Ruyenzi again:

Maj. Silas Udahemuka was appointed by President Kagame to supervise the killing of civilians during 1994 and afterwards. He would complete his assigned operation and then report back directly to Gen. Kagame.

The example of Festo Kivengere

Bishop Gasatura rightly praises the example of Ugandan Bishop Festo Kivengere, and says he wants to be like him. However, Kivengere spoke up against his dictator, Idi Amin, and had to flee Uganda because of it. Bishop Festo wrote:

A suffering Church can bless a nation and provide a refuge to which the suffering society may turn for healing, for liberation and hope. This was proved in Uganda as the Church came under more systematic attack, and hundreds of martyrs’ deaths were added to that of the archbishop’s.

Bishop Gasatura is knowingly or unknowingly spreading falsehoods about Rwanda and the nature of Paul Kagame.

http://alivingtext.com/blog/2013/05/06/rwandan-bishop-nathan-gasatura-hosted-awards-event-for-kagame/

 

Bishop Rucyahana calls Kagame’s dictatorship a source of joy

ruc 2015 jan

Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame recently shredded the Constitution and can now be President of Rwanda for the rest of his life. Kagame has blood on his hands and rules over a Police State, which is a highly documented fact.

Retired Anglican bishop John Rucyahana thinks that this move to formalize his dictatorship is a source of joy for Rwanda. According to Rwandan propaganda organ The New Times:

Bishop Rucyahana also added President Paul Kagame’s acceptance to stand again for presidency after his second term ends in 2017 was yet another source of joy as people celebrate the New Year.

“It’s a joy for President Kagame to be able to respond to the request of the nation,” Rucyahana said.

ACNA is attaching itself at the hip to Rwanda. If you are part of ACNA, specifically the future Rwanda Ministry Partners, you should start asking your clergy why praising a dictator is just fine in 2016.

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Political Governance in Post-Genocide Rwanda

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Filip Reyntjens is a first-class historian and writer who pays attention to Rwanda. His works are invaluable for coming to grips with the present state of the nation as well as its recent past. Political Governance in Post-Genocide Rwanda is his latest work and I just finished reading it.

Reyntjens does an admirable job of outlining the nature of the dictatorial Paul Kagame regime. While the central event of Rwandan history that most Westerners are familiar with is the 1994 genocide, its subsequent history of repression is equally horrifying. As Reyntjens puts it, “After failing Rwanda in 1994, the international community did so again in 2003 by allowing a dictatorship to take hold.”

Reyntjens shows that any semblance of democracy in Rwanda is a facade, “Rwanda is a strong case of hegemonic authoritarianism, where under the guise of seemingly regular elections in a multiparty context the polls do not perform any meaningful function other than consolidating a dictatorship.” He cites Jens Meierhenrich, who “…noted that “[ i]nstead of inaugurating constitutional democracy, the 2003 presidential and parliamentary elections paved the way for constitutional dictatorship” (J. Meierhenrich, “Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Rwanda, 2003”, Electoral Studies, 25: 3 [2006], p.   633).”

One glaring example of this facade is the former Vice President of the Democratic Green Party in Rwanda. As Reyntjens recounts, “The vice-president of the DGP André Rwisereka was assassinated on July 13, 2010; his nearly beheaded body was found near Butare. Although the police suggested that he was the victim of armed robbery, the president of his party stated that he, along with Rwisereka, had received death threats.” This looks even darker when you consider the ruling RPF party’s oath of allegiance:

Rwisereka was a former RPF member, who had become a “traitor.” The way in which he was killed could have been a macabre reminder of the RPF’s oath of allegiance: “I solemnly swear before the men that I will work for the RPF family [“ umuryango wa FPR”], that I will always defend its interests, and that, if I divulge its secrets, I will be decapitated like any other traitor” (A.   J. Ruzibiza, Rwanda. L’histoire secrète, Paris, Editions du Panama, 2005, p.   65). This formula was confirmed to this author by several other (former) members of the RPF.

There is no space outside the purview of the ruling party, including that of churches:

Churches were also forced to select leaders that were acceptable to the regime. On the way in which the regime established its dominance over religious groups, see T. Longman, “Limitations to Political Reform. The Undemocratic Nature of Transition in Rwanda”, in S. Straus, L. Waldorf (Eds.), Remaking Rwanda. State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence, Madison, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2011, p.  28.

This regime controls the nation down to the household level. For example:

In a sector where he conducted field research, Sommers noted that officials kept files on every household. These forms were very detailed and contained what an official called “everything that people are supposed to be doing.” “Obligations” are enforced by local-level fines. According to a local observer, the annual cost of these “obligations” amounted to more than US $ 200, more than the annual revenue of an average Rwandan. The centralized nature of “decentralization” was made clear by the fact that the performance contracts (imihigo) to be implemented at umudugudu (village) level came from the Ministry of Local Government supposedly in charge of decentralization.

Internal spying is rampant on both Rwandan citizens and foreigners:

Forced into being the “eyes and ears” of the regime, everyone spies on everyone: people suggested that there is an official, trained spy per organization and perhaps per office and that all newcomers are assigned someone to watch them.

The observant visitor to Rwanda notices this spying:

“Was the same Rwandan man reading a thin Rwandan newspaper in three consecutive restaurants where I held meetings one afternoon in Kigali spying on me (when I asked the waitress in the third restaurant to offer him a beer for me, the man abruptly left)?” (M. Sommers, Stuck. Rwandan Youth and the Struggle for Adulthood, Athens, GA, and London, University of Georgia Press, 2012, p. 51).

Rwandan Hutus have defense mechanisms to deal with this spying, as you might expect in any Police State:

“You go into a cabaret (local bar) and you hear someone ask ‘do you have a piece of paper?’ Asking for paper is a signal that a Tutsi has just come in and that they should change the topic of conversation” (E. Zorbas, “What Does Reconciliation”, p. 130).

However, many foreign observers are clueless as to the true nature of the regime, “A former police officer who was asked to assess the effectiveness of reforms in the justice system told Human Rights Watch, “You can’t understand. You see what’s on paper but you don’t know the truth. (.  .  .) You foreigners are easily tricked” (Human Rights Watch, Law and Reality, p. 44).”

Reyntjens says, “Despite its civilian appearance, Rwanda is an army with a state rather than a state with an army, and it is effectively run by a military regime.” In fact, “The central place taken by the military and intelligence services allowed one analyst to call Rwanda a “securocracy.” There is an external system and a shadow system:“[t]he administrative chain of authority – from the office of the President, to the hills – is under control of an omnipresent security apparatus, which shadows the official system.”

Paul Kagame is a killer both in his role as President and in a very literal sense:

“Investigations by the Spanish Audiencia Nacional offer other examples, as well as finding that, on or around May 12, 1994, Kagame personally killed between thirty and forty unarmed civilians using a 12.70 millimeter gun (Audiencia Nacional, Juzgado central de instrucción numero cuarto, 6 February 2008, p. 136).”

Kagame’s regime not only kills Rwandans and neighboring Congolese, but the occasional foreigner as well:

Not just Rwandans, but foreigners who witnessed killings and were suspected of informing international opinion, were targeted: among the victims of RPA killings were Canadian priest Claude Simard on October 17, 1994; three Spanish volunteers of the NGO Médicos del mundo on January 19, 1997; Canadian priest Guy Pinard on February 2, 1997; Spanish priest Joaquim Vallmajó on April 26, 1997; Belgian school director Griet Bosmans on April 27, 1997; Croatian priest Curic Vjecko on October 31, 1998; and Spanish priest Isidro Uzcudun Pouso on June 10, 2000.

Given the nature of the regime and its crimes, why is the West such a willing accomplice? Reyntjens says that this silence implicates the West in Paul Kagame’s crimes:

However, these crimes are well documented and were known at the time they were committed, which means that the international community in general, and the regime’s main sponsors in particular (the United States, the United Kingdom, and the EU), carry a heavy responsibility in their repeated occurrence.

He quotes S. Brown as saying, “Western donors (.  .  .) are complicit to the institutionalization of authoritarian rule and help undermine the same long-term goals that they profess to support.”

Real pressure from the West might actually accomplish something because Rwanda is very dependent on Western aid:

Rwanda is a small, landlocked, and extremely dependent country without much of a real economy. On average during the post-1994 period, it relied on international aid for about 25 percent of its GDP and for more than 50 percent of its budget.

When the reckoning finally does come, the West will have blood on its hands:

If and when he is prosecuted (or overthrown), this will be a major embarrassment to those – in politics, academia, the press or the business community ‒ who have given him a red-carpet treatment for so many years.[…]
“to the extent that donors fund and legitimize the government, they can be considered in part responsible for serious problems that will probably result from the government policies that they support.”

This book is a great place to begin if you want to understand modern Rwanda and its politics. Books like this should be required reading for NGO workers and other Western do-gooders who know very little about Rwanda.

Looking at female pastors in the Anglican Church of Rwanda

Rwanda’s propaganda organ The New Times recently featured a profile of a female Anglican pastor at this link. It provides a look at the unique theological profile of that Province. For example:

I didn’t get married because reverends aren’t supposed to; they are actually allowed, but I didn’t get that calling from God.

Where does this idea come from?

According to Rev. Mukandoli, the number of female pastors in the Anglican Church of Rwanda is increasing:

What do you think about the number of women clergy in Rwanda?

Women are indeed increasing in number, which is good because it is an indication that women are involving themselves in various fields. For example, with in the Anglican Church, we have many female pastors.