GAFCON’s latest conference in Jerusalem (2018) won nearly universal praise from orthodox circles within the Anglican Communion, and rightfully so. However, the perennial problem of Westerners not having any idea what goes on in Africa reared its head when Archbishop Laurent Mbanda of Rwanda delivered a talk called “God’s World.”
Mbanda, an outspoken fan of Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, was made Archbishop this year. In his presentation to GAFCON he said, “…forgive me but I also love our President.” Mbanda told a story about Paul Kagame in the context of telling orthodox Anglicans to reject money and buildings from heterodox branches of the church. He said:
I love the country of Rwanda, and forgive me but I also love our President. Some time back there was an embargo on the country of Rwanda where they were saying that they need to freeze all the moneys that were given to the country. And I got that inspiration in me, he said, our President said, “With the little money that we are giving that seems like is coming in to us, can we sell who we are, can we sell our identity?” And the people of Rwanda said “no.”
The little money that was coming from the countries that were trying to help the country, within a short time, in a time of six months I believe, Rwanda started what they called, the Dignity Fund, and that fund raised more money than those countries were giving us within six months. (applause)
And I know sometimes that we are tempted with that money that comes from those places, that makes us sometimes sell our soul. There is no way we should be afraid of saying, “keep your money,” of saying, “keep your buildings,” of saying, “keep what you have, we have Jesus and will proclaim him faithfully in our nations.”
This story was greeted by applause, as the GAFCON delegates presumably knew little to nothing about the actual circumstances mentioned. Let’s look at the facts behind this glowing story from Abp. Mbanda:
The Rwandan government established the Agaciro (Dignity) Fund after donors froze an estimated US$75m in aid, following the publication of a UN report in mid-2012 that claimed to provide evidence of Rwanda’s support for the M23, a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Rwandan government denied the charges.1)
As a refresher, Rwanda supported M23, a military group that was essentially an extension of the Rwandan military attempting to detach the Congo’s Kivu provinces from the DRC. M23 buried people alive, raped, tortured, slaughtered and kidnapped children to be soldiers. All of this was supported by previous Rwandan Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini as well as retired Bishop John Rucyahana.
As a result of this, Western nations decided to slap Rwanda’s wrist and froze some aid, which is vital to Rwanda’s poor economy. This of course infuriated Paul Kagame who then trumpeted the Dignity Fund as a defiant jab at the Western powers he relies on.
Bringing this back to Archbishop Mbanda: he is telling a story to GAFCON about the loss of money due to very real war crimes and using it as an example of how to stand up to the man. He can rely on Western ignorance to get away with storytelling like this. In fact, GAFCON’s media arm subsequently linked to his presentation on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Indeed, GAFCON has made Mbanda a leader of the movement, something which should trouble Anglicans.