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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
With Bad News, Last Journalists in a Dictatorship, Anjan 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 , 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.
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.
Kevin Kallsen has done yeoman’s work in filming the recent PEARUSA Assembly and thereby shedding light on the official narrative of just how PEARUSA decided to end it’s jurisdictional connection to Rwanda. What follows below is a summary of the timeline for how this decision was reached, followed by a transcription of some of the remarks from the bishops. As with all history, this surface-level narrative must be taken with a grain of salt, but it is the best account we have for now.
The reaction of the bishops can be accurately portrayed as shocked. They did not anticipate this development and apparently hoped to continue as part of Rwanda for many, many years to come. They repeatedly profess their love and trust for the Rwandan bishops, showing that they have no idea of the nature of the RPF, the Kagame regime, and its tentacles into the Church, or that they disbelieve these stories or that they simply do not care. Their personal relationships based on a few annual visits back and forth override actual reason and evidence. In fact, Bishop Thad Barnum again praised John Rucyahana, a close servant of Kagame’s, despite ample evidence of his alignment with actual State evil in Rwanda and the DRC. This must be the subject of another post.
Bishop Breedlove asks the leadership in Rwanda and the leadership of ACNA about the future of the relationship, given that the time for a review of the protocols is almost upon them.
PEARUSA bishops meet with Archbishop Foley Beach, Bishop John Guernsey and the PEAR bishops in Musanze, Rwanda to discuss the protocols governing PEAR/PEARUSA/ACNA relations. The ACNA bishops tell the gathering that they believe that the Missionary District should be transferred to the Anglican Church in North America. The meeting lasted two days and is characterized as “direct” with “tough” work taking place.
The bishops in Musanze
March 30, 2015
PEARUSA bishops present a proposal to the House of Bishops of Rwanda and the Archbishop of ACNA for PEARUSA networks to become diocese within the Anglican Church of North America and continue as canonical residents of Rwanda.
The Rwandan House of Bishops meets to consider the PEARUSA proposal.
Bishops Breedlove and Lawrence meet with Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Ahimana in Rwanda, where they are told of a unanimous decision that PEARUSA should move fully into ACNA, ending its formal relationship with Rwanda. 1)Note that Ahimana is a vociferous defender of tyrant Paul Kagame and his wicked actions in the DRC. See this post.
The Rwandan Provincial Synod makes a resolution on PEARUSA joining ACNA.
What follows are (1) notes from some of the talks the bishops gave, and (2) direct transcription of portions of those talks. The transcriptions are partial.
Bishop Breedlove’s Talk
By protocol, the protocols between Rwanda and the ACNA that govern and define how we operate had to be revisited, it was a requirement that we had built into the system.
We were coming up to this Assembly and we knew at that time if we were going to have a “synod” meeting an official meeting to vote on changes in our protocols, our charter, we had to be prepared for that so we began in January to ask the leadership in Rwanda and the leadership of ACNA ‘where do you think the future lies, do you see any changes coming, what do we need to sense in the work of the Spirit, here, now?’
At the same time ACNA was moving towards stability as a Province…One of the first to recognize ACNA was Rwanda.
International recognition and affirmation is a crucial part of any new Anglican entity being recognized in the Anglican Communion.
The partnership with Rwanda was crucial, how did we advance the ball together.
In March, four of the five PEARUSA bishops were able to travel to Rwanda; all five of us were there in heart, spirit and mind. We went to a place called Musanze for a face to face meeting with the House of Bishops of Rwanda along with Archbishop Foley Beach and Bishop John Guernsey. And the topic of the conversation was the protocols governing PEARUSA. The talk was loving, it was direct, it was honest. There were genuine questions posed; it was a time in the light, walking in the light, which is one of the monikers of the East African Revival that we live with, “let’s get it out guys, let’s get it out.” 2)Unless it is talk about the Rwandan state, the RPF, or bishops supporting M23.
We were already fully within the ACNA as a sub-jurisdiction, but the Anglican Church in North America believed that the Missionary District should be transferred to the Anglican Church in North America and they put that on the table. The Rwandan leaders needed time to process and so did the PEARUSA bishops.
And the PEARUSA bishops were given the question, “What do you believe you should do?” Not what do you believe you should do by way of emotionally visceral reaction to this question, but what do you believe is the will of God for the work of God in North America in your jurisdiction? What is God’s will? Because what you do emotionally may be satisfying to you, but it does not satisfy the generations to come. Beyond your own emotional sensibilities and reactions, what is the will of God for you? And our brothers in Rwanda kept pushing us to go back in prayer until we were united with one another in what the will of God was for us in the future.
We worked for two days in Rwanda, let me just tell you, it was some of the toughest good work I have ever done in my life. We were hammering it! Weren’t we?
On March…and we came back and prayed through and wrestled with the question here for a few more weeks..on March 30 we presented a proposal to the House of Bishops of Rwanda, the Archbishop of the ACNA for a renewed and strengthening and deepening of our place within the Anglican Church of North America and a continuing canonical residence with Rwanda, we would stay dual citizens, and even go deeper structurally into the ACNA but remain, our connection with Rwanda jurisdictionally.
And it was out of our hands, and we waited and we prayed, and we waited and we prayed, and one of the things about our dear brothers and sisters in Rwanda is they can wait and pray for as long as it needs to be. This sense of urgency…
So we prayed and we waited and uh, we knew that the House of Bishops had met in May to consider our proposal but we heard nothing, we just continued to wait. Finally, it was time, we had the opportunity to have a conversation in July. I had a window of time to go over to Rwanda, Bishop Quigg was there, we knew we had to at least have a couple of us there to meet with Archbishop Rwaje and the representatives of the House of Bishops and it all came together and I met with Quigg and we showed up and we met with Archbishop Rwaje and Bishop Ahimana and they came to report to us the leadership of the House of Bishops of Rwanda concerning our proposal. It was a precious time.
My entire experience and I think I can…I speak on behalf of all of us who have been involved in Episcopal ministry, our entire experience has been walking together in unity. And often that unity, it’s a challenge […] Through it all, the Lord has allowed us to walk together in unity, with one another, with Rwanda, with the Anglican Church in North America. The next logical step in our journey together with Rwanda, which we heard in July, is they had taken a step ahead of us. And were gonna wait until we caught up. And it was surprising for us, unexpected for us, but it, according to the verse we’ve been given, as we have sifted it through we have concluded that the Apostles and the Elders and the Church have gotten together and it seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Lawrence’s Talk
We love Rwanda, we trust them so much. […]
So, the PEARUSA bishops had met, and really it was not a control thing, we were trying to say, “Lord, what is it you are doing?” … and so we prayed, and we all have our own different temperaments and opinions and we’re wrestling, not in a bad way, but a good way, trying to discern God’s will and we all have such a heart for Rwanda, it really flows through us. And so I think on March 30th, did we send, what seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us. And we decided, “You know, we’re Anglicans, and in the Anglican world you have diocese, not networks.” […] And so, it seemed very logical to us that we should stop being networks and become diocese. And oh by the way, guess who started ACNA, guess who one of the main partners was that started ACNA? Rwanda.
Anyway, the bishops in PEARUSA prayed and we thought and we didn’t argue but we had discussions…and so at the end it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us that we would become diocese in ACNA and remain canonically resident in Rwanda under Archbishop Rwaje, that’s where we landed.
And so, we decided to go to Rwanda…and Steve flew over…so we went over there and we were going to have a nice little meeting and Archbishop Rwaje was there and Bishop Augustin Ahimana was there and Francis the Provincial Secretary was there and some other bishops could not be there but these men were going to relate to us what the Holy Spirit had been speaking to them. And so, Steve and I went in there and we just kinda figured it was just going to be what the Holy Spirit seemed to be saying to us that they were going to go, “Yeah, that is what the Holy Spirit has been saying to us.”
And so, we said what we thought God was doing and we turned to our brothers and said, “Well, what has the Holy Spirit been speaking to you? What do you guys think?” Because unlike in our previous affiliation, we really…believe in being subject to authority. We don’t believe that you’re under an Archbishop wink wink…
And so, Steve and I go and we’re meeting and we’re really eager. We think we know what they’re going to say, but we’re eager to hear what the Lord has been speaking to them. And so, Bishop Ahimana was kind of the main speaker, and he’s very articulate, super bright, and he’s just kind of taking us point by point, and he basically says, “We believe you should become diocese in ACNA and furthermore we think that there’s going to be a change. We believe that you guys should go fully…” we’re already in ACNA, it’s not like we’re kind of circling around ACNA, we’re really in ACNA, Amen? We go to a lot of meetings in ACNA, wow, we go to meetings there!
They just unpacked and they said, “You know what, we believe that you guys are going to go fully into ACNA and you’re no longer going to be a missionary district.” Archbishop Rwaje will tell you more, he has some really good reasons…it involves ecclesiology, it involves what God is doing in America, the thing that they prayed for, that God would birth here: an orthodox Province. That was their heart back then and they’re waiting for our sake, and for the kingdom’s sake to have eyes to see if that happened and when that happened that the plan always was that Rwanda wouldn’t be in two places but that God would raise up an orthodox Anglican Province. And so they basically said, “We see that, we see what God’s done and based on our view of scripture and ecclesiology, we don’t intend to have the Rwandan Church in two places, we think God has done an amazing thing there.”
It wasn’t a bad thing, it was a shocking thing, we didn’t expect that. But, in the context of relationship and trust we were there with open hands. “Lord we just wanna hear what you’re doing.”
Even though it was very shocking to think that they’re a step ahead of us, like, we trusted them and our brain was trying to process it but underneath it was this incredible trust. We love these men, we are under Archbishop’s authority and collegially we are walking alongside the Rwandan bishops, but kind of like as a little brother.
And so when Bishop Ahimana said what the House of Bishops had come up with, what God had been speaking to them, I remember asking the question, I said, “Bishop Ahimana is this the view of every bishop in PEAR, all eleven bishops, is that your view or the view of all eleven bishops?” And without batting an eye he said, “We are all of one accord, we have all heard from the Lord, we are crystal clear on this point.” And maybe like a lawyer myself, I turned and I had another question, and I said, “Archbishop Rwaje, your grace,” I said, “I need to know, is this what you believe the Lord has said?” I’m looking to my spiritual father and without blinking an eye he says, “Yes” with nothing added. “Yes, I believe this is what the Lord is doing.”
And so, while there was great surprise, I will have to tell you there wasn’t really angst. There was surprise…We believe God has spoken to us, he prepared us, but he spoke more fully through our brothers in Rwanda. We are of one accord that we fully submit to our older brothers and also to our Archbishop. And now, in hindsight, once the shock kind of wore off, we can say “Yea and Amen.”
Archbishop Rwaje’s Talk
Looking ahead. Together, walking together, even if it is marching together, let us march together for the Lord. As Quigg mentioned, we are a church with a clear ecclesiology in the matters of leadership. Normally, you have your own Province, you don’t cross the boundary of that Province. A Province is a geographical entity, you don’t cross the boundaries of that geographical entity. That’s the Anglican ecclesiology. After defining the boundaries of that Province you don’t cross, but in the time of crisis, you cross, and we crossed the boundaries in the time of a crisis of faith. Having created, or being involved in the creation of the Anglican Church of North America, we have always been in partnership with ACNA.
We have prayed over and over for now three years and since March this year, working together with the Council of Bishops here, let us create a process, let us take this to the synod to make a decision. So after July, we proposed, we made (an) agenda and proposed to the Provincial Synod to make a resolution on PEARUSA joining ACNA to be (an) integral part of the Anglican Church of North America and continue to walk with us, not in another form but continue to walk with us. So personally, I have been insisting on this ecclesiology, we have a Province in North America and a Province which is our partner in the Anglican Communion….we are praying together for the mission of the church to hear what God is telling us, both from Rwanda, from Global South, from USA, a partner Province.
Bishop Ken Ross’ Talk
I was on sabbatical in July when the meetings happened…and all of the sudden I started getting messages from everybody, “Quigg is trying to get ahold of you”…I learned of this and I’ll be honest my first response was heartbreak…I really did not want to lose this prophetic voice of Americans who think we know all and have all being under and led by Rwanda, I was afraid of losing them. And, we’re under authority, and the truth is, I deeply love and trust Archbishop Rwaje and the Rwandan House of Bishops and their synod. So I could say, this is not what I would have chosen.
Three and a half years ago PEARUSA came into existence and held its first “Sacred Assembly” called “Moving Forward Together.” I was there as part of the delegation from my parish in Virginia. There was a sense of excitement and also an air of confusion given the explosion that ended AMiA and the uncertainty of what would happen next. 1)I posted from that Assembly: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
I attended a breakout session with Bishop Laurent Mbanda, a central figure in the back and forth with Chuck Murphy, and someone who was very close with our D.C. clergy. The man seemed like a gentle giant, and of course my opinion of Rwandans was based on eight years of imbibing stories about the amazing reconciliation of these folks who were compared to the first-century Church. We had books like Thad Barnum’s Never Silent and movies like Laura Waters’ As We Forgive, both of whichare narratives that completely ignore the velvet-fisted tyranny of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame.
Although I had heard some rumblings that all was not well in Rwanda, I believed that these men were close to God and we were on the right path. There were high hopes of revising Rwanda’s canons to undo Kevin Donlon’s damage, establishing a college ministry, and making PEARUSA into a beachhead of Reformed theology.
I left Raleigh with lots of optimism for the future of PEARUSA and the ACNA, but the dam was about to burst. On July 23, 2012, Anglican journalist George Conger published an article about the involvement of two of the most famous Rwandan bishops 2)Kolini and Rucyahana. in supporting M23, a Rwandan insurgency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Archbishop Rwaje responded to the report by denying all knowledge of the events and saying that PEAR in Rwanda eschewed politics. The story would have died right there had I not pursued it, and I’m not saying that to be arrogant. There was simply no interest or follow up on the part of the Anglican world outside of little old me.
I started writing about the Rwandan/M23/Anglican nexus and was quickly asked by my pastor to remove posts. I was told that bishops in PEARUSA wanted to pursue these questions with the Rwandan House of Bishops without the pressure of an internet firestorm. I complied with this (a mistake). I was told by my pastor that, “Obviously, no one is excited about torture or ruthless dictatorships. It will be good for Mbanda to provide answers. I will put this back on Steve’s (Breedlove) radar” (email 10/8/12).
Bishop Breedlove wanted me to assemble a report for him on the subjects I was learning about. I did just that as I have recounted in this post. Bishop Breedlove’s response to all the heinous information on Rwanda was sanguine and lacking understanding of the facts. He essentially parroted what Bishop Mbanda had told him, even when it was patently absurd.
Later that year, I was stunned to see ACNA bishops Minns and Duncan at the installation of Archbishop Stanley Ntagali standing next to Rwandan Bishop John Rucyahana, named by the United Nations as a minion of Paul Kagame and supporter of M23! When I wrote a post about this (see here), all hell broke loose for me. Bishop Breedlove wanted this post taken down too, in concert with other unnamed ACNA bishops (see this post). This lead to an attempt at church discipline from my pastor at the behest of Bishop Breedlove. The particularly offensive thing about the post to Steve Breedlove and my pastor was that I “issued a prescription to the leadership of ACNA.” Heavens!
This situation was resolved and the rest of what happened would require a long-form piece of epic proportions to recall the half of it. Suffice it to say that I learned by lots of study and interviews that the Rwandan Anglican Church isn’t the shining city on a hill that our American press release narrative makes it out to be. Most of the clergy I knew were so heavily invested in this Rwandan fairy tale that they could not afford to walk it back and probably didn’t believe me anyway. They asked questions of Bishops Mbanda and Rucyahana, and what do you know, these fellows re-assured them that all was well! The Rwandan reality shown in pictures such as the following one of Gitarama prison is not the reality that our clergy and missionaries experience.
And so we arrive at November, 2015 and the “Bear Much Fruit” Assembly back in North Carolina. I have moved on from believing in fairy tales about Rwanda, but I am not clergy and I am not invested in a story that is false, so it’s easier for me to move along and adapt my thinking to truth, as opposed to make believe. Not so for the assembled folks in North Carolina.
Much has changed in PEARUSA, Bishop Glenn is gone, Bishop Thad is quasi-retired, and the whole story of “Rwandan missionaries” who will re-evangelize the United States has been quietly put on the shelf. In its place we have “Walk with Rwanda” a campaign to get more Anglicans in the USA to support a church that functions within a one party State and makes no waves. Bishop Barnum’s book Never Silent with all its talk of resisting evil wherever you see it is a sad joke when you see the total lack of application when it comes to evil in Rwanda.
Rwandan bishops regularly appear with the dictator of their nation in a spirit totally opposite that of a martyr like Janani Luwum. But the sad fact is that religious journalism is almost non-existent in late 2015 so this isn’t covered, and Anglican journalism consists of press releases and occasional interviews with a bishop. If bad news comes from ACNA, it isn’t covered, if it comes from TEC, it makes headlines. This is a hypocritical state of affairs.
More chapters will unfold in the history of Rwanda and the Anglican world. Sadly, the chapter that is beginning to close on PEARUSA is one of silence, compromise, ignorance and failure.