Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rwanda has the highest incarceration rates. Can we talk about reconciliation?



Picture of the Mpanga Prison where close to 7000 prisoners are locked up.
No one knows for sure how many Rwandans (read: Hutu) participated in the genocide that targeted Tutsi and Hutu moderates. However, several wild figures have been thrown around. Th conventional view (in no small part a creation of the RPF) is of Hutu masses turning against their neighbors. However, was it "ordinary" civilians killing? Was it the Interahamwe? Was it the FAR or a combination of all the above?

Scott Strauss has suggested that some 200,000 people participated in the slaughter. He does this by interviewing the convicted. His estimates are based on a deduction of how many people one convict killed. Since even the total number of Tutsi killed is still contentions (no one knows where or how the 800,000 figure came about), this is not without holes.

For one, the number of Tutsi killed has been on the increase. The government now prefers 1.2 million killed. However, some academics such as Susan Thomson settles for 500,000. Christian Davenport and Allan Stam massively rock the boat, suggesting that "more Hutus were killed than Tutsis". This, for them, is based on census data. According to them, there wasn't 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda at the time of the genocide. More, the present government in Rwanda counts Tutsi genocide survivors as exceeding 300,000.

The number game though not necessarily important is not entirely useless. Again, this comes down to the fact that genocide is a political process. Some have dismissed Davenport and Stam for relying on the statistics of a government that was planning to kill Tutsis and participated in massive discrimination against them. It is assumed that such a government would have a keen desire to lower the number of Tutsis so as to justify the economic and political oppression. However, as Stam has asked before, aren't genocidal regimes good at keeping numbers? The whole premise of genocide is that you track down your victims methodically and with remarkable speed. Indeed, this is exactly what happened in Rwanda.

There is another reason the numbers are important. Rwanda has one of the highest (if not the highest) incarceration rate. For all the talk of reconciliation, the prisons are still unbelievably crowded. I have visited a number of them and it is certainly a slow death. Of course, one shouldn't have mercy for mass murderous; however, there are credible reasons to believe that some of the men in prison are probably innocent. This has to do with the poor record of Gacaca--where untrained judges were used to settle genocide cases.

I am also aware that there are some Rwandans still guilty of genocide who were never presented before Gacaca. This is are extremely disturbing cases since no one knows what the state will do with them. Its impossible to believe that the state would hold someone in perpetuity without any form of trial. It questions how deep the reconciliation rhetoric in Rwanda is. Like many things in Rwanda, you either take it for face value or you don't. Serious evaluations are almost taboo.

Then there is another disturbing aspect of the reconciliation narrative. Men convicted and later "forgiven" are basically working as slaves, for the state and for rich individuals. They work for RPF companies, primarily in construction and completely with no pay. Many Rwandans, eager to save some coins have participated in this evil. Everywhere you see the men in their pink suits. Everywhere they toil in hard labor.

Again, I am not against men paying for their crimes. However, the number are critical if we are to make sure that the government is not oppressing innocent individuals. Also, important is an estimate of the number of Hutus who have died. Where they just innocent victims of the war? Where they targeted for killings? Were they perpetrators of the genocide meeting their revenge? We know for sure that many Hutus died, but there is little memory or studies done on that. And how can we talk of reconciliation?


Pope Francis speaks out in support of reconciliation in Rwanda. But will we listen?

The pope is speaking out on Rwanda. This is a big deal and I wish it was getting the attention it deserves. Even more, I wish harder questions were being asked.

The relationship between the Rwandan government and the Roman Catholic church has improved greatly since the mid-1990s when they treated each other as nemesis. Somewhere along the road, a consensus was reached. The church would stop criticizing the government's abuses and the government would back off any form of interference.

No one knows when or where how this consensus was reached. However, it has worked for the most part--of course, with some monumental setbacks.

Among the current major points of contention is the tendency for the Kagame regime in Rwanda to demand absolute loyalty. This has continuously put the church in an awkward situation, more so since the church has traditionally regarded itself as the guardian of the masses (read : Hutu). In some cases, individual priests have rebelled against the state and some have either been killed exiled or imprisoned. That said, it is difficult to remember a time in recent history when the church, in any capacity, lashed out at the government.

Regardless, many probably doubt whether this latest statement by the pope will amount to anything worthwhile. The Rwandan government insists that the Catholic church has to issue an apology because of its past role in the genocide. On its part, the Catholic church has never accepted responsibility choosing instead to blame the "bad apples". Indeed, several priests and even nuns have been convicted of participating in the killings. But Catholic priests nuns and members were also victims--some killed by Kagame's forces. What I am suggesting here is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

In the end, the pope is right to awaken the church from slumber. This is a pope that is increasingly concerned about the global poor--the rights of the "wretched of the earth". If priests are to push for reconciliation in Rwanda (which they should), it will definitely clash with the government's priorities. That said, there is no way we can achieve truth and reconciliation without the church participating in the process.

Questions we ask in silence on the Rwanda genocide

On one level, the horrors of the 1994 genocide demands that we keep off political debates as we solemnly remember our loved ones. Yet, genocide is fundamentally a political process. How to navigate the two challenges will continue to weigh down on most Rwandans as we enter the commemoration period.

There is one fixed truth: genocide was perpetrated by Interahamwe's and the Rwandan army against mostly Tutsi civilians and Hutu moderates. But I feel, for many reasons, we are still far from comprehending the circumstances around the killings. This is because some important factors remain largely ignored or completely unexplored.

These unknown factors have crystallized into questions that we contemplate about, even if silently so. As usual the the main commemoration event will be accompanied be a political event attended by leading political/ religious and economic figures in which Kagame will give the keynote speech. He will certainly us talk about what he refers to as Rwanda's miraculous recovery, that he is the one who has built a once troubled state into the "success" that it is. As he has done in the past, he might also use this occasion to caution his critics whom he believes are planning another genocide. "I won't allow it to happen", he will say.

But several important stories will be lost. A lot of dots will remain unconnected.

One question that definitely requires some reverse reasoning is the assassination of the Rwandan president and his Burundi counterpart. Who assassinated Habyarimana and would there have been genocide in the absence of Habyarimana's death? The RPF, which sees genocide as an culmination of a consistent policy of exterminating the Tutsi since 1958 will argue that this was bound to happen. However, many will not be satisfied by this answer. Regardless, the questions will slip away in deep silence.

Kagame's superiority complex is to some extent built around what he has done. But it is also built around this lingering silence around him. He has worked tirelessly to maintain a dauntless narrative that depicts him as a white knight. Could it be true that Kagame, as some of his closest colleagues have stated, ordered the plane of his predecessor to be gunned down? Why has the international community largely ignored this issue? Can we ever have a fuller understanding of the Rwandan event without identifying who is behind the "trigger" of the genocide?

But there are more puzzling and silent question with regards to Kagame's conduct before, during and after the genocide. Perhaps we have been blinded by guilt unable to ask any bold questions. However, can we learn any worthwhile lessons from a historical event that remains only partially understood?

20 years after the genocide, a fuller understanding of the it should aim towards demystifying Kagame and the RPF. This the only way to open room for a discussion on Rwanda's future and that of the great lakes region in general. We have a horrible past in which Rwandans have butchered each other on the basis of ethnicity, the important lesson is to build a more inclusive state. How can we evaluate this when one side claims unprecedented righteousness?

Lastly, is the role that the genocide memorials (and the annual commemoration) play in Rwanda's collective consciousness--to the extent that such a thing even exists. The issue here is that, depending on who we are, we remember differently. However, image-conscious Rwanda insists on a level of political conformity that is almost unprecedented anywhere. This same conformity privileges a certain narrative while killing diversity of memories. Who is being remembered and why? How does this contribute to the reconciliation agenda that Kagame claims to have achieved?

From my experience, the commemorations can be a sphere of humiliation for some. The event is understood through the duality of good and evil, focusing on the Tutsi survivors and the Hutu killers. How can such a narrative, repeated every year, contribute to nation building? This is one of those "silent" questions.

What I am saying is that the genocide commemorations inevitably create difference, which in turn imputes superiority and inferiority, guilt and innocence. This is further solidified through events that happen throughout the six weeks or so. The "voluntary" contributions that are offered by the impoverished masses to support survivors during this period further emphasizes this difference. It is an event for some (Tutsi survivors) and not an event for all.

What is amazing is that the above ethnic contestations happen within a background that denies the existence of ethnicity. Does the government of Rwanda honestly believe that people are stupid not to notice that you can't talk about "genocide against the Tutsi" while denying the existence of Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda? I suppose this is another question many of us ask but only in silence.

But the questions are endless...

Round-up of articles as we approach 20th commemoration of Rwanda genocide

As we approach the 20th commemoration of the Rwanda genocide (the present government refers to it as the "genocide against Tutsi"even while denying the existence of ethnicity in Rwanda), there are several powerful stories that have emerged this week. These stories not only remind us of the utter horrors endured by many during this dark period but also reminds us that genocide and human suffering on a massive scale are not a thing of the past. They sadly continue to happen whether in Central Africa Republic, in Syria, Mali, DRC, Somalia or Libya.


  • Mark Doyle of the BBC has written a powerful article that revisits the 1994 horrors. Doyle was among a handful of journalists in Rwanda at the time. Its a difficult task to go back to a past you never wish to return to. He interviews the daughter of the former prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana (among the first high profile victims of the massacre along with her husband). Her name is Marie-Christine Umuhoza and perhaps due to the pain and anguish, the daughter hasn't uttered a word in the last 20 years. She is now speaking out remarkably to honor the life of a Senegalese peacekeeper Mbaye Diagne. He comments are very brief and one wishes for more. What does the daughter of this giant think of post-genocide Rwanda? However, some appear dissatisfied by the story. On Twitter, Werner De Poorter who was a Belgian paratrooper with the UN peacekeeping mission stated: "And there were many (good) people like him ( Capt. Mbaye Diagne)! That is the shame" 
  • Jonathan Tepperman of Foreign Affairs conducted an interview with Kagame. It is quite telling although there is little revealed that is new. Kagame portrays himself as a person whose life revolves around the genocide. He blanket denies participating in revenge killings. At the same time, the interview reveals that Kagame can be quite naive. For instance, he seems unaware of how expansive freedom of speech is in the United States. Contrary to his view, as Tepperman reminds him, one can start a party in the US to defend the rights/ interests of black people against the whites. This is one of those moment when I feel the Tepperman should have pushed harder. As US cable by Wikileaks reveal, Rwanda has become a Tutsi state in political terms. Moreover, Kagame picked up arms to rightly fight for the rights of the Tutsi. How could it be then that Kagame is so wary of group interests?
  • The Guardian is compiling stories of Rwanda's ""puzzling tale of growth and political repression". There are some astounding figures: the number of tourists has increased six times since 2000, rural to urban migration has skyrocketed, and the GDP has increased by a half since 1995. Other successes are in the dropping of infant mortality and the dramatic increase of women in parliamentary politics. Some of these undoubtedly represent some form of progress. However, some of the statistics such as the representation of women in parliament are extremely hollow and misleading. This is because focusing on elite women in parliament almost all of them belonging to the ruling party obscures the fact that (1) a lot of women (journalists, activists and politicians) are currently in jail for opposing Kagame's government, (2) that Rwanda's regime is run by a military elite that imposes an ethnocentric hegemony and that (3) such an analysis says little about rural women who widowed depend on small scale farming for sustenance. With their partners either dead or in jail, life remains almost unbearable.

I will keep updating the list as more article spring out. In the meantime, feel free to point me to other interesting write-ups.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Anglican Church Dangerously Dances to Kagame's Tunes in Rwanda.


PEAR USA

An American blogger and a member of the Anglican church has been investigating the eerily links between the Anglican church and the Rwandan government. If you recall, the Catholic church in Rwanda singularly supported the previous regime even as it committed the genocide. The current ruling party emanated from the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel group that is also responsible for mass killings. The Anglican church has replaced the Catholic church and its leaders appear to have very close links with the ruling party. For those who know Rwanda's history, this can't be good news. The report extensive report below explains why.
If you look around the blogosphere for Anglican news you will generally find surface level press-release journalism, particularly when it comes to CANA, the REC, and PEAR USA. No one that I am aware of is offering scrutiny or asking hard questions. If you want an interview, you better be on the good side of bishop so and so. And when it comes to Rwanda, the many experts on the country pay very little attention to the Anglican Church there, despite it’s role as a propaganda arm of the State. This puts me in a unique position at the confluence of Rwanda and PEAR, a spot that no one else is paying attention to (as they ought to be). With that in mind, I want to summarize how PEAR USA is structured for those who know about Rwanda but have little knowledge about the Church.

Brief History

Before PEAR USA there was the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), which was also part of the Rwandan Anglican Church from 2000 to 2011. The head of the AMiA, Chuck Murphy, defied the Rwandan House of Bishops when they attempted to exercise authority over him. His defiance led to the collapse of the AMiA, with churches either staying in a now puny AMiA, fleeing directly into the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) or remaining under Rwandan oversight as PEAR USA. The glorification of the Rwandan Church was the reason that many of us in PEAR USA remained with Rwanda, setting a premium on the relationship with them, which allowed Americans to maintain theological distinctives1 and do as they please with minimal oversight from the Rwandans.

Part of Two Churches

The bishops of PEAR USA are part of both the Rwandan House of Bishops and the ACNA College of Bishops. How does this work? Who really knows? American clergy in PEAR USA are canonically resident in Rwanda, which place an onus of responsibility on them.
PEAR USA org
Figure 1

The American Bishops

There are five American bishops as of this writing, including:
Bishop Steven A. Breedlove, Presider of PEARUSA, and Bishop Ordinary of the Atlantic Coast Network
Breedlove and Gasatura
Figure 2. Breedlove and Gasatura
When I asked Breedlove if the Rwandans showed any degree of self critique or criticism for their government, he could not come up with an example or answer of self criticism. He later worked with my parish priest to censor a post I wrote which affirmed the UN reports of John Rucyahana’s fundraising for M23.
Bishop  Ken A. Ross, Bishop Ordinary of the West Network
Fig 3. Bishops Rwaje, Ross and Rucyahana
Fig 3. Bishops Rwaje, Ross and Rucyahana
Bishop Thad Barnum, Assisting Bishop of the Atlantic Coast Network-Northeast Region
Figure 4. Bishops Rucyahana and Barnum
Figure 4. Bishops Rucyahana and Barnum
Bishop  Quigg Lawrence, Assisting Bishop of the Atlantic Coast Network-Mt. Virginia Region
Lawrence is good friends with Kagame sycophant John Rucyahana, and even had him attend his consecration to bishop after Rucyahana had been accused of M23 support.
Figure 5. Bishop Lawrence and Rucyahana
Figure 5. Bishop Lawrence and Rucyahana
Bishop David Bryan, Bishop Ordinary of the Southeast Network
Figure 6. Bishop David Bryan
Figure 6. Bishop David Bryan

Americans Working in Rwanda

There are a couple notable Americans from PEAR USA working back in Rwanda, one is Brandon Walsh and the other is Jay Greener. Bishops Rwaje and Mbanda serve as the public face of PEAR to the West since Kolini and Rucyahana retired and started their work supporting M23. It is logical therefore that they have westerners working directly for them to cultivate relationships with PEAR USA congregations.
Figure 6. Americans in Rwanda
Figure 7. Americans in Rwanda
Greener formerly served as Communications Officer for the Anglican Mission in America and as such has experience with public relations.
Figure 8. Bishop Mbanda (second from left) with Jay Greener (right)
Figure 8. Bishop Mbanda (second from left) with Jay Greener (right)

Meet the Bishops

The Rwandan bishops include:
Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, Bishop of Gasabo.
Figure 9. Archbishop Rwaje with Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame
Figure 9. Archbishop Rwaje with Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame
Archbishop Rwaje was the co-author of a letter to the United Nations protesting a report that the UN issued on Rwanda’s involvement with M23. This letter attacked both the UN Mapping Report and the Group of Expert’s report and said, “Overall, we think that blaming Rwanda for the DRC crisis is a result of manipulation which leaves behind the real issue of governance and the responsibility of the Congolese government to solve this conflict.”
Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo, Bishop of Gahini
Figure 10. Bishop Alexis with the Rwandan First Couple
Figure 10. Bishop Alexis with the Rwandan First Couple
Bishop Alexis heads the Barakabaho Foundation, an NGO.
Bishop Nathan Amooti, Cyanguggu Diocese
Quigg Lawrence’s church in Virginia has a church building partnership with Bishop Amooti; this church in Georgia did too. Amooti was formerly an assistant to retired Archbishop Kolini. Like many bishops, Amooti is from outside Rwanda, as he was born in Uganda.
Figure 11. Bishop Amooti
Bishop Jered Kalimba, Shyogwe Diocese
Figure 11. Bishop Kalimba
Figure 12. Bishop Kalimba

Bishop Augustin Mvunabandi, Kigeme Dicoese
During the 1990′s, it appears that Bishop Mvunabandi actually participated in scrutinizing his government, as this government attack blog lists him as part of an NGO in Rwanda: “A Kenyan section was represented by an Anglican Bishop, Augustin NSHAMIHIGO who lived in Nairobi, and Tanzanian section was represented by another Anglican Bishop Augustin MVUNABANDI, and who was in the refugee camp in Ngara, Tanzania.”
The bishop is a representative of Rwanda Bible Society. This link notes his preaching at a Business Funding Project in his diocese.
Figure x. Bishop Mvunabandi
Figure 13. Bishop Mvunabandi
Bishop Emmanuel Ntazinda, Kibungo Diocese
Bishop Ntazinda has been developing relationships with Ireland. He praises the Kagame government, particularly NURC,  in this interview.
Figure x. Bishop Ntazinda
Figure 14. Bishop Ntazinda
Bishop Augustin Ahimana, Kivu Diocese
Bishop Ahimana has been a vocal defender of the Kagame regime in the Western publication Christianity Today. One biography of him says that he is “part of Pastor Rick Warren’s PEACE initiatives, a member of the World Vision Organization, and a contributor to Christianity Today Magazine. Ahimana has an MA in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Seminary, a BA in Business Administration, and a diploma in Law.”
Ahimana attributes the actions of Christians during the genocide to superficial faith, despite the massive influence of the East African Revival:
We were nominal Christians without a life changed by the Gospel. It was so-called Christians who rose up and killed other Christians. It was church leaders betraying church members. People were butchered in sanctuaries. How can you explain this in a country that was said to be 90 to 94 percent Christian? Only because of a superficial faith. There was none of God’s love in people’s hearts, no faith in their hearts.”
Figure x. Bishop Ahimana
Figure 15. Bishop Ahimana
Bishop Nathan Gasatura, Butare Diocese
Figure 16. Bishop Gasatura at a prayer breakfast in Rwanda.
Figure 16. Bishop Gasatura at a prayer breakfast in Rwanda.
Gasatura is another face of Rwanda to the West. He was born in Uganda. Bishop Gasatura heads the Rwanda Initiative for Sustainable Development (RISD)  one of the many NGOs that seem to work hand in glove with the Rwandan government. As the RISD website says: “Rwanda Government Ministries” are a “partner” for RISD, in particular, the Ministry of Justice (MINIJUST).”
But perhaps more troubling is an event in 2010, when Bishop Gasatura hosted an event for the Global Peace and Unity Foundation presenting President Kagame The Service to Humanity Award.
Bishop Laurent Mbanda, Shyira Diocese
Figure x. Bishop Mbanda (rear) at the recent appalling prayer breakfast
Figure 17. Bishop Mbanda (rear) at the recent appalling prayer breakfast
Bishop Mbanda was born in Rwanda but grew up in Burundi and spent many years in the United States. Mbanda recently attended the prayer breakfast at which Kagame boasted about his killing of Patrick Karegeya and made promises to hunt down and kill other critics of the government.
Mbanda praised the Rwandan government, saying, “The country enjoys peace, security throughout and visionary leadership. It is a story of success and model of good governance in the region. Reconciliation is taking hold, the country and people are turning to the Lord.”
In the 90′s, Mbanda wrote:
Hopefully, the new Kigali government will keep its hands clean in the matters of the Church, just as they have so far. My prayer is that the Church can divorce itself from the kind of church-state relationships that seek favours from politicians in exchange for the Church’s prophetic voice.
This has of course not happened, and Mbanda is silent in public about the role of Kagame and the RPF in Rwanda. He claims that the country has healed and is on the rise in this interview.
Bishop Louis Muvunyi, Kigali Diocese
muvunyi 2
Figure 18. Bishop Muvunyi
Muvunyi was principal of Kigali Anglican Theological College prior to his elevation.
Bishop Emmanuel Ngendahayo, Byumba Diocese
Figure x. Bishop Ngendahayo
Figure 19. Bishop Ngendahayo
Bishop Ngendahayo replaced Archbishop Rwaje upon his elevation. RPF Government representative James Musoni spoke at his consecration, saying, “A good Christian leader is one who preaches the word of God while at the same time strives to promote unity of Rwandans, in addition to working closely with government to spearhead development.”

One Important Non-Bishop

One key Anglican figure who is not a bishop is Anglican Pastor and Vice President of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) Antoine Rutayisire.
Figure x. Rutayisire and Kagame
Figure 20. Rutayisire and Kagame

Funding

According to the most recent PEAR USA budget, $77,460 was given to the Rwandan Anglican Church in 2014. I don’t think this counts other money that individual parishes might send directly to Rwanda, although I imagine that most money is consolidated via the top level PEAR USA budget.
Figure 20. 2014 PEAR USA Budget
Figure 21. 2014 PEAR USA Budget

What Rwandans Think About the Anglican Church of Rwanda

Getting Rwandans inside the country to speak openly about anything political is difficult to impossible. I have the testimony of three Rwandans, two who had been very high ranking and one former journalist, about the Church. Their opinions are anecdotal and may not represent what most Rwandans think, however, I think we can take them as a fair indicator of public opinion.
1. Theogene Rudasingwa. Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa served as the Secretary General of Rwanda’s ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), as Ambassador of Rwanda to the United States, and as President Paul Kagame’s Director of Cabinet (Chief of Staff).
I spoke to Dr. Rudasingwa about the Anglican Church in Rwanda and asked him how it relates to the oppressive Kagame regime. He told me that after 1994, the goal of the RPF was to make the international community feel guilty for what happened – the “you did nothing” narrative. He said that Kagame has co-opted evangelical churches, such as the Anglicans, as tools of his own corruption. He specifically mentioned Bishops Rucyahana and Kolini and how they talk to “unsuspecting Americans” with their narrative. He mentioned that Kolini was the head of the National Commission for the Fight Against HIV/AIDS and how Rucyahana is now the head of National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), government positions that not just anyone gets.
Rudasingwa told me that Bishop Kolini was “very pro Tutsi” and that we (meaning Kagame’s inner circle) considered him to be “one of us.” He says that the bishops could not operate without the RPFs’ permission and that the RPF likely decides on who is a bishop, where they serve, etc. I asked Rudasingwa how to explain that Archbishop Rwaje, a Hutu, is Archbishop. He said that Kagame allows these kinds of things as PR moves, more or less. He said that some of the bishops are good men who are afraid, but he went on to say that there is no excuse for silence or neutrality in the face of the evil occurring in Rwanda.
2. Gerald Gahima. Gerald Gahima was ”central to the rebuilding of Rwanda’s justice system in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, first as the chief of staff to the Rwandan Minister of Justice from 1996-1999, and subsequently as the country’s Attorney General from 1999-2003.”
He was asked about his opinion of the Anglican Church in Rwanda regarding reconciliation, and this is what he said:
OK I have very strong opinions about the Anglican Church in Rwanda. The Anglican Church  in Rwanda, one cannot even say it has been compromised by the State, it has basically made itself an arm of the State. It has…you remember what the, the role that the Catholic Church had during the Colonial period and the time of the monarchy? How the Catholic Church was very close to the State and how this continued even during the post independence period? The Anglican Church has basically taken the role of the Catholic Church as being the chief apologist of the RPF and that has taken away a lot of the credibility that the Church should have and because of this the …I don’t think the Anglican Church would be a viable, a useful contributor to the process of reconciliation in Rwanda because it has taken sides.
3. Godwin Agaba. Agaba is a journalist and was a resident of Rwanda until he was forced to flee in 2010. Agaba is Tutsi and an Anglican, he attended the Remera parish in Rwanda pastored by the Rev. Canon Peter Twahirwa. Agaba said:
Rwanda’s context: The Anglican Church of Rwanda operates within Rwanda’s boundaries. It is subject to the socio-political dispensations obtaining in Rwanda today. Its leaders are Rwandans – pooled from the citizenry who are fed daily on the dangers of dissent. Like other Rwandans, the civil society, the media, silence is a survival instinct. The social, political, economic, and even religious institutions of the society — outside of state control — have been deliberately weakened, subordinated, and some replaced by new regimented institutions used by the state or ruling party to control the society. The population itself has often been atomized. The result is predictable. Speaking out has a heavy price, and very few can pay such a price.
Bishops can’t operate without RPF permissions and indeed they are chosen by RPF strongmen, in other words these are politicians not men of God.
I think the Rwandan political culture has been corrupting church leaders. In order to be influential church leaders have to be insiders of the ruling party! The Anglican church of Rwanda can’t address injustice and human rights violations committed by the RPF because they are insiders! It’s not easy to challenge injustice when one is not independent.
The same situation happened to the Catholic Church during Habyarimana’s regime, as a result the RPA killed the Catholic Bishops and Priests in Gakurazo and Kabwayi! The Catholic Church in the DRC showed its independence when they spoke against Kabila’s controversial election!
The churches are not as powerful as they used to be in Rwanda. The RPF chooses bishops to have some influence similar to how other religions choose a Mufti. Also note that the Catholic Church deliberately chose Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege as their spokesman because they think he can talk to the RPF. It is a calculation that happens in almost all African countries.

 Conclusion

Americans who are involved with PEAR USA and ACNA have very little idea of what they are signing up for when they affirm a relationship with the Rwandan Anglican Church – I certainly didn’t. They should educate themselves before the relationship openly blows up in their face.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Kikwete Besieged between Kagame and CHADEMA

When President Kagame first launched attacks on his Tanzanian counterpart, Kikwete, they were largely easy to ignore. Indeed, President Kikwete did just that. Part of the reason was that the attacks were brazenly below the belt and turned into a well coordinated, full-blown, character assassination campaign. Kigali claimed to have done a background check on Kikwete in which they "discovered" his genocidal roots. The fiction-rich defamation plot went this way: Kikwete is a Burundian Hutu who is married into Habyarimana's family. On his part, Kikwete remained hushed.

Characteristic of Kigali (there isn't much for the war-mongers to do since the M23 defeat), the war on Kikwete's reputation didn't stop. Instead, it worsened: the claims were amplified by government-owned sites and a Twitter hashtag "#KikweteforFDLR" was enlisted to back this effort. Still, Kikwete kept silent.

However, it was the allegation that Kikwete had welcomed Rwanda's "enemies", into Tanzania's State House, which splattered the vomit close to his face. The provocation had reached home and Kikwete couldn't keep quiet anymore.

So the Tanzanian embassy in Kigali issued a statement, which denounced the "dangerous lies" fabricated by sources close to the Rwandan government. It was a strong statement in which Kikwete offered his convincing alibi: he was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos at the time the alleged meetings took place.

The truth is that Kikwete never met with any high officials of the FDLR or the RNC for that matter. There was never a meeting between the Rwandan opposition convened by the Tanzanian State House. My sources have confirmed that it is true that Twagiramungu traveled to Tanzania, but this was not by invitation of the state. Twagiramungu holds a Belgian passport, is not a fugitive and has every right to travel to Tanzania.

Will the attacks on Kikwete now stop? I am highly doubtful. Readers have to remember that the genesis of these attacks are in an Addis Ababa meeting last year where Kikwete suggested that Kagame holds talks with his armed opposition to resolve the problems in the East of DRC. While this suggestion fell on deaf years, it ignited the ongoing character assassination campaign directed from Rwanda's State House.

The moral of the story is that Kagame is a tough nut to crack. A seemingly larger than life dictator, he is not one to admit weakness. To negotiate with his enemies would suggest so. This is a no-go zone for him and his supporters. And, as he said last year, "he will wait for the right moment and hit Kikwete hard."

In case you haven't noticed, he has already started to strike hard. Just two days ago, the Tanzanian opposition party, CHADEMA, seemed to bandwagon with him. This is dangerous. Tanzanians tear each other down, while Kagame folds his arms and gets the last laugh.

The bottom line in all these leaves a difficult dilemma. This is the dilemma that no one wants to discuss in this hullabaloo over Eastern Congo. If we know that Kagame won't agree to negotiate with his armed opposition, what solution is there for the Eastern DRC conflict? This is important because repeated armed offensives against the FDLR have failed to produce its permanent defeat. Just like the M23, it is not difficult to see that a military solution will not work.

Already, Kabila is talking with M23 and making concessions with them. This of course will be useless unless a solution for the FDLR is found. And as long as the FDLR pretext lingers, Kagame will sooner or later find a way to sneak back into the DRC's forests. Indeed, while a solution for M23 is feasible (in large part due to Kabila's flexibility), a solution for the FDLR remains unthinkable and shrouded in mystery.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Kagame's Troops Killed her Four-Year Old Son : Moving Testimony by Esperance Mukeshimana

Witness Testimony on the Massacre of Bishops and other church officials by Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPA) soldiers and officers on June 5, 1994 at in Gakurazo, Rwanda .

My name is Esperance Mukashema. I am a survivor of the Rwanda genocide. I am of Tutsi ethnicity, as were my mother and father. I was married to the late Gasana Cyprien who was also Tutsi. My late husband was killed by Interahamwe Militia members at the beginning of the Genocide.

I miraculously survived the attacks in which most of my family perished and was able to get help in escaping to the compound of the Josephite Brothers order at Gakurazo, in the Gitarama region of Rwanda. The Josephite Brothers hosted and protected me and many other Tutsi throughout the period of the Genocide until July 1994 when the RPA, the Army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, captured and took control of the Gitarama region.

The following is my personal, eyewitness testimony concerning a massacre that was committed by members of the RPA at Gakurazo in which my son, Richard Sheja, was one of the victims.

The RPA attacked and captured the town of Kabgayi on June 2, 1994. Kabgayi is a historical city well known for its religious significance. It was headquarters of the region's Catholic Church Diocese and home of Catholic bishops, priests, nuns and brothers belonging to a wide range of religious congregations and associations with members from all genders and ages. The city is also home to many primary and secondary schools, seminaries, colleges and a major hospital. Kabgayi used to be a town that everyone considered as safe.

At the time of the RPA's capture of Kabgayi, there was a very large number of internally displaced people and refugees who had already sought refuge in the town. These people had fled their homes in fear of being killed. They came to Kabgayi and sought refuge in the premises of the Catholic Diocese because they believed that their proximity to the bishops would ensure their safety. Prior to the 1994 genocide, Catholic clergy had historically wielded a very strong social influence and were very respected and obeyed. Their voice carried a lot of weight. It was believed by many people that the militia responsible for the genocide in other parts of the country would not dare attack this "holy city" and fatally harm the religious leaders and members of the various religious organizations who were living in Kabgayi or the refugees who had sought shelter with them.

What the Interahamwe militia dared not do, (attack the religious leaders and the refugees under their protection), the RPA did.

Three bishops were present at Kabgayi at that time of its capture by the RPA: Mgr Thaddee Nsengiyumva (the Bishop of Kabgayi), Mgr. Vincent Nsengiyumva (the Archbishop of Kigali) , and Joseph Ruzindana (the Bishop of Byumba). With the bishops were a large number of other high ranking members of the clergy, including assistant bishops, priests, nuns, brothers, lay church leaders and youth leaders.

The attack against the town of Kabgayi, was carried out by the 157th Battalion of the RPA, which was commanded by Col (now Lt. General) Fred Ibingira. Following the capture of Kabgayi, the RPA moved all the non-clergy displaced persons and refugees to the locality of Gakurazo. I and my three kids (eight year old son, six year old daughter and four year old son), had already taken refuge at Gakurazo for more than two month.

However, the bishops, other priests and their staff were first taken to a placed called Ruhango, where they were held, under constant guard, in a house close to the municipality office.

On June 5, 1994 the bishops and other clergy members were transferred again from Ruhango to Gakurazo, where the non-clergy had been moved to. The RPA officers told the Bishops that they were being moved to Gakurazo because Gakurazo was a clean and pleasant place befitting their status. The bishops and other clergy members arrived at Gakurazo around 12 pm under the escort of soldiers who were under the command of Major (now Brigadier General) Wilson Gumisiriza, who was assisted by, among other officers, Lieutenant Innocent Kabandana, Lieutenant Wilson Ukwishaka and Sergeant John Butera.

Upon arrival at Gakurazo, the Bishops (under the leadership of Archbishop Vincent Nsengiyumva of Kigali Diocese led prayers in the Chapel while a Burundian priest in charge of the Novitiate made sure that there were enough rooms for accommodating the members of the clergy who had been transferred from Ruhango. During the course of the evening of that fateful day, the soldiers who had accompanied the bishops and other clergy members from Ruhango summoned the clergy members to attend a meeting in the cafeteria. The bishops and the clergy members duly complied and took seats in the cafeteria. The Vicar-General of Kabgayi, Mgr. Innocent Gasabwoya, had my son seating on his lap.

Myself also was in the cafeteria at the beginning of what we thought was a genuine meeting. While I was stepping out of the room to take sleepy son to bed, my daughter followed us. Before I could reach the door of the cafeteria, some RPA soldiers entered and ordered the females to get out of the room immediately. On my way out, one of the soldiers suggested to also take my son Richard with me, but when I went back, Mgr Gasabwoya told me that the kid was in safe hands. Everyone else, except the bishops and the clergy, was asked to leave the cafeteria. As I was entering into my room, I heard shootings coming from the cafeteria. I heard my son yelling, calling mom for help. I returned to the cafeteria and witnessed the massacre. The RPA soldiers totally ignored my son plea and shot him in his back. All the people who had stayed in the cafeteria were shot dead by RPA soldiers. Only one priest miraculously survived the gruesome carnage.

After the massacre, Lieutenant Ukwishaka blew a whistle calling for attention and gathered all the refugees into the courtyard. The officer told us that the massacre that had just taken place had been carried out by one soldier who wanted to revenge his own family. The officer then took us to the cafeteria to show us the bodies of the victims.

There were bank notes of currencies from many countries (including US dollars and Rwandan Francs) spread all over the floor of the cafeteria. The bishops had apparently hidden money under their cassocks. The RPA soldiers who were at the scene ordered the Burundian priest who was in charge of the Novitiate to pick up and put together all the money that was on the floor and give it to them.

The day after the massacre, the bodies of the victims were buried in a mass grave. It is during that time that it was reported that the French intervention mission in Rwanda (Operation Turquoise) was about to be deployed. RPA officer Kabandana came to Gakurazo again and ordered all the refugees to move to the locality of Kinazi, Gitarama. After we arrived at Kinazi, some RPA soldiers, including the above named Kabandana and Butera, came and instructed the Burundian priest, Brother Vivens, and Mgr Gasabwoya's brother to provide them with a truck to carry certain supplies. The soldiers also took away the three men and the three were never seen again. We presumed that they were killed by Butera and Kabandana.

Done at s'Heerenouek on February 18, 2013

Esperance Mukashema