The Disintegration of The Catholic Church Of Rwanda

Writing in 1996, shortly after the genocide, Saskia Van Hoyweghen provides a portrait of the Catholic Church in Rwanda up until the genocide, and it is a portrait that is somewhat mirrored in the current Anglican Church of Rwanda. She says:

Until 1988 Rwanda was one of the best performing countries in the region. Rwanda, ‘la petite Suisse, pays des milles collines’, became paradise for NGO’s and missions, the favourite of the international aid community. The skill of the president in establishing a ‘postcolonial historic bloc’  should not be underestimated. Habyarimana understood that in ‘search for autonomy of the state’ a coalition with both the Church and the international community was valuable. Hence the completion of the Church-state symbiosis. On the top level the collaboration of state and Church was embodied by Archbishop Vincent Nsengiyumva, who was close to the presidential family and an active member in the committee of the MRND (Mouvement Revolutionnaire National pour la Democratie), the single party. The Church and state elites had a mutual interest in maintaining good relationships. The Catholic Church controlled most of the provision of education and health care, which was financially beneficial for the state, as education and health care are major expenses on the national budget. The state on the other hand could set the rules under which the Church had to operate by applying, for instance, (ethnic) quota systems.The central committee of the MRND was a forum where members of the same class, both Church and state leaders, could defend their often mutual interests. A position in this committee involved immense prestige and wealth. So Vincent Nsengiyurnva left this position only in 1990 under pressure of the Vatican, on the eve of the visit of the Pope, but he maintained friendly relationships with the president’s family. On every level, clergy were members of all sorts of development commissions. Habyarimana’s slogan was development, but it was the relatives of the presidents’ wife, Agathe Kanziga, who ate the largest part of the national cake at the expense of both Tutsi (the Gitarama-based establishment of former president Kayibanda) and of the rural population in general.

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