Rwanda — the Purpose Driven Nation?
In our documentary film Church of Tares, we explained how Rick Warren and his Saddleback Church have implemented the PEACE Plan in Rwanda for over a decade. Rwanda became the first “Purpose Driven Nation.” As Warren explained back in 2014, “I have been working with and watching the churches of Rwanda for nearly 10 years, and I believe now is the time for them to be a model to the world.” The problem is that this “model” resembles a fascist military dictatorship more than it does a democracy, let alone the kingdom of God.
The Guardian reported:
[I]n recent years, there has been a slow, sickening realisation that the west’s favourite African leader comes with a sinister edge. Kagame’s Rwanda, say critics, is an authoritarian state where democracy and human rights are trampled upon and dissenters are hunted down. When Kagame won the 2010 election with 93% of the vote, for example, three major opposition parties were excluded from the ballot. Two of their leaders were jailed and still languish there today.
The third, Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green party, was also arrested briefly then went into exile after his deputy, André Kagwa Rwisereka, was found dead, nearly decapitated. “It broke our hearts,” recalled Habineza, who returned home last month after two years in Sweden. “He was a man who came to our house to share a meal and was close to my family. It was a terrible death. I went to the mortuary to dress him for the burial. It was an intimate moment. It shattered us but we have to pull ourselves together.”
Habineza, who received death threats after breaking away from Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), feels frustrated at international donors’ failure to push for genuine democracy. “I requested Britain and others to take action regarding political space in Rwanda, but what they are doing, I don’t understand. If the international community took a stand on political space and democracy, that would be the most helpful to us.”
Habineza welcomed the work of Blair’s African Governance Initiative in Rwanda, but added: “I ask him to always request President Kagame to look at these issues: democracy and economic development go hand in hand. We are saying Rwanda is ready for democracy. Tony Blair should tell him this. There cannot be democracy in a country where there is no opposition party and no freedom of expression.”
In the past few years, several journalists have been arrested or killed, an exiled general survived a shooting in Johannesburg, and Scotland Yard warned two Rwandans living in Britain that “the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life”. A report this week by Amnesty International identified a series of unlawful detentions and torture including electric shocks. Coincidence? Kagame’s government insists the incidents must be examined one by one. His critics join the dots and find a pattern that includes state-sponsored death squads.
Jean Baptiste Icyitonderwa, general secretary of Social Party Imberakuri, claims its leader has been tortured in jail. “As a person in an opposition party, you can’t trust your own security,” he said. “Many times you hear some leader of the opposition parties got arrested, killed and some others disappeared, others are persecuted. That means no one who belongs to an opposition party can feel safe.”
Boniface Twagirimana, vice-president of the United Democratic Forces party, whose leader is also behind bars, said: “President Kagame is a dictator. He’s operating like he’s still in the forest as a rebel. He’s not a president for the whole country, only RPF members. He doesn’t want to open the political space to allow freedom of expression.”
The Globe and Mail summarizes: “Much of the world regards President Paul Kagame as a hero. But 20 years after he helped to stop his country’s brutal genocide, there are mounting allegations that he is silencing dissenters with violence.” Their months-long, international inquiry uncovered “explosive testimonies from those who say they were recruited for assassinations – including an alleged recording of one job offer.” (See also: U.S. lawmaker seeks probe into alleged Rwandan government plots to kill dissidents).
Though the Rwandan dictatorship is guilty of crimes against humanity, Warren said, “I believe the secret to Middle East peace is in Rwanda.” He said, “World leaders should be studying Rwanda. This should be the model.” The main purpose of Warren’s 2015 Rwanda conference was to showcase Rwanda’s development achievements. In his own words, Rick Warren said:
[M]ost nations are validated by their strength in exports; Rwanda can become famous for exporting leadership…Rwanda should be the leadership and innovation capital of the continent of Africa. That is why I am calling leaders from across the continent to come to Rwanda next year to learn. The strength of Rwanda is not in the ground; it’s in the people.
There are two existing perceptions of Rwanda. In his book Political Governance in Post-Genocide Rwanda, Filip Reyntjens points out the “two radically opposed perceptions of Rwanda”:
One is that of Bono, Pastor Rick Warren, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair, who are just a few of the “Friends of the New Rwanda,” as well as most aid agencies. This perception focuses on technocratic/bureaucratic governance and hails economic progress; visionary leadership; reforms in education, health, and agriculture; women empowerment; and market policies. . . . The other perception, shared by most academic observers, projects a highly critical view of the polity that emerged after the genocide. It focuses on political governance and denounces autocratic rule, gross human rights abuse, growing inequality and rural poverty, victimization of the Hutu majority, and injustice. This has created structural violence and will eventually lead to political instability and new conflict. (xiii)
I share the latter opinion with the author above. Let’s allow the evidence speak for itself. First of all, Dr. Noel Twagiramungu, a Rwandan national, provides the following brief historical background on how Rwanda went from genocide to dictatorship:
One of the bitter and well-known legacies of colonialism in Rwanda is that the colonial administration concentrated all the privileges of power in the hands of a Tutsi elite, excluding the Hutu. When a Hutu elite, sponsored by new colonial agents – notably within the Catholic Church – revolted in 1959, the ensuing bloodbath forced into exile the Tutsi ruling class along with thousands of sympathizers.
Among those exiled, was one Paul Kagame. Born in 1957 and forced into exile in 1961, Kagame grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda at a time when the Tutsi who remained in Rwanda were considered second-class citizens in what had essentially become a Hutu republic. After helping Museveni seize power in Kampala in 1986, Kagame and other Rwandan refugees formed an armed rebellion, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The RPF invaded Rwanda on October 1, 1990. In July 1994, in the wake of the assassination of then President, General Juvenal Habyarimana, whose 21-year long reign had collapsed into genocide, Kagame and the RPF seized power.
In The Rwanda Genocide Coverup: Twenty Years of Lies and Fabrications, the author outlines the facts about Rwanda since the RPF came to power in 1994. Pambazuka reported:
Pierre Péan, a renowned French investigative journalist and Keith Harmon Snow, an American Investigative journalist, all have factually point out that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and Paul Kagame were responsible for the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana, and therefore of having sparked the inter-ethnic killings in 1994! The list is long!
In November 2006, as the Huffington Post reorted, the French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguière called for the prosecution of President Kagame, for “triggering the 1994 Rwandan genocide by allegedly ordering the plane carrying the former president of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the former president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamire, to be shot down with ground-to-air missiles—an act of terrorism generally credited with triggering the wave of violence that swept across Rwanda within hours of the assassination.”
This BBC film Rwanda’s Untold Story “investigates evidence of Kagame’s role in the shooting down of the presidential plane that sparked the killings in 1994 and questions his claims to have ended the genocide. It also examines claims of war crimes committed by Kagame’s forces and their allies in the wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo and allegations of human rights abuses in today’s Rwanda.”
A lawsuit was filed in 2010 also alleging that “Kagame ordered the political assassinations that triggered the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.” After the two previous Rwandan presidents were assassinated, the BBC reported:
The deaths of the presidents led to more ethnic conflict in both states but it was especially savage in Rwanda.
By June 1994 the Rwandan military – helped by Hutu civilians – had massacred at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
After the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front [RPF] victory captured Kigali in July, two million Hutus fled into neighbouring Zaire (later the Democratic Republic of Congo)
Many were too afraid of retribution to return in spite of the formation of a multi-ethnic government with a Hutu as president.
In 1995 a UN-appointed international tribunal began trying some of the people behind the atrocities in Rwanda.
But by the end of 2001 the tribunal had judged just nine cases, handing down eight convictions and one acquittal.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide was one of the most horrific events of the 20th Century. But many are unaware of another massacre the following year where thousands of unarmed civilians were killed by Rwandan soldiers. An SBS News Radio reported on the atrocities:
“The first sign was watching the RPA clear the villages and hills around it. People being forced out and as they ran… they were made to run, they would shoot them.”
He says the RPA were ruthless in their execution.
“They did it in a grotesque way. They’d shoot them in the leg and then they’d laugh at them and then watch them trying to get up and eventually put a bullet in their head or somewhere fatal.”
Completely surrounded by heavily armed and trigger happy RPA troops, the people in the camp had nowhere to run.
And as Jordan recalls, armed militias within the camp were also busy doing their own killing.
“The Rwandans had machine guns, they had mortars, and all set up to mow these people down; which they did.
“And while this was going on, there were also people running within these poor people with machetes and other weapons killing them from within as well. So these displaced persons were being hit from both sides; from the army and from militias from within the camp.”
Kagame’s Partners in Crime
Since the RPF seized power, world leaders have promoted the Rwandan dictator President Kagame. According to The Rwandan, Kagame’s partners in crime are former US President Bill Clinton, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Saddleback pastor and author Rick Warren. Global Research News reported that the Kagame regime is helped “by powerful friends in high places in the West, including, former US President Bill Clinton, Susan Rice, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bono, Howard Buffett, Evangelical Pastor Rick Warren, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Bill Gates, and so on.”
Major Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa is a leader of one of the most prominent Rwandan opposition groups in exile. In a meeting at the Palais de Luxembourg, in Paris, on April 1, 2014, he said:
As Rwanda commemorates 20 years of President Paul Kagame’s reign of terror, it is important to identify the fundamental aspects of his strategy to keep himself and RPF in absolute, violent power. . . .
President Kagame and RPF have cultivated an elaborate network of foreigners (and a few Rwandans) who have to sell President Kagame’s image and narrative as the sole hero and savior of Rwanda.
Because Rwanda is heavily dependent on aid, and his reputation as the western-celebrated leader of the “emerging Singapore of Africa” is crucial to the continuous flow of aid, this group of people is crucial in facilitating him. Through what he calls the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC), he is able to promote a soft and deceptive image abroad, especially where it matters most, in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Through lobbying, public relations, and access to the media, these facilitators help President Kagame’s self-promotion abroad, and shield him from accountability for the crimes he commits on Rwanda, DRC and abroad.
The loudest and most powerful in the whole group are Tony Blair, President Bill Clinton, and the American evangelist, Rick Warren. They market President Paul Kagame as one of the most visionary leaders in the world.
For example, in 2009, TIME Magazine published an essay by Rick Warren in which he nominated Kagame for Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list of that year. In the opening paragraph Warren stated:
Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, is the face of emerging African leadership. His reconciliation strategy, management model, empowerment of women in leadership and insistence on self-reliance are transforming a failed state into one with a bright future.
On September 25, 2009, Warren presented Kagame with the International Medal of P.E.A.C.E, in a Saddleback Civic Forum on Healing and Reconciliation.” Warren also welcomed Kagame to the 2009 Saddleback Civil Forum on Reconciliation.
Pastor Rick Warren’s prayer and sermon mirrored Paul Kagame’s speech, chanting a slogan that the “West is not God,” and in Kinyarwanda “Sibomana,” alluding to his constant statement that Paul Kagame is chosen by God to lead Rwanda as long as God, not the people, wants to.
Growing up in post-genocide Rwanda, a blogger for Cry For Freedom in Rwanda wrote:
President Paul Kagame has attracted the praise of US Evangelical leaders, most notably among them being the influential Baptist minister, the Rev. Rick Warren. Last year, at a time when Congolese activists were accusing Kagame of raping and looting their country—Rwanda has invaded Congo three times in wars that have left 5 million dead, Rick Warren surprised many of us by finding the courage to award Paul Kagame with a “Peace Award”. (source)
In his article, Rick Warren’s African Allies Tied to Massacres, Sex-Slavery, Forced Labor, Concentration Camps, Bruce Wilson also noted Rwanda’s link to the injustices with the Congolese people:
[T]he brutal fighting in the Northeastern Congo, along with its usual procession of killings and massacres, mass rape and abduction of children to be child soldiers, continues into the present, and the UN has charged Rwanda, under the leadership of Rick Warren ally Paul Kagame, with backing the Congolese warlord Lauren Nkunda whose military efforts have played a key recent role in driving the ongoing conflict. . . .
In December a report presented to the UN Security Council accused that Rwandan government officials “have been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment and have sent officers and units” to aid Laurent Nkunda’s forces. The report charged that the government of Uganda was also aiding Nkunda’s forces, and the UN panel of experts who compiled the report presented evidence of direct satellite telephone calls between the office of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Laurent Nkunda’s rebel forces fighting against the Congolese army. The Congolese government has described Laurent Nkunda’s offensive as supported within Congolese territory by Rwandan government tanks.
Rick Warren’s effort to create an international Christian humanitarian movement, starting in Africa, has received considerable favorable media attention, which has helped the Saddleback Church mega-pastor to craft an image as a moderate, compassionate and forward-looking evangelical leader. But the actions of Rick Warren’s key allies in Africa, Ugandan President Yowerie Mouseveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, undercut Warren’s claims of concern for human well-being.
According to the New York Times, Kagame “acknowledged that some Rwandan churches have been sending money to Congolese rebels, as part of a Tutsi self-protection campaign.” Could these be Purpose Driven churches implemented by Warren’s PEACE Plan in Rwanda that are sending money to Congolese rebels?
From an article in PoliticoMagazine:
Kagame counts some fabulously famous and powerful people among his friends—people like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Rick Warren. If those international elites truly value the welfare of Rwanda and its people, it is time they told Kagame to rein in the killing of his political opponents and respect human rights, or risk ruining his personal reputation and continued support for his country.
The All Africa Purpose Driven Church Conference in Rwanda
In August of 2014, Rick Warren announced the All Africa Purpose Driven Church Congress, a gathering of pastors and church leaders from all 54 African nations. This historic and unprecedented gathering was to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, in August 2015.
But Warren’s 2015 Rwanda Conference never happened. According to The Rwandan, “the American preacher Rick Warren has jumped ship. . . . Further, Rick Warren was a no show in Rwanda on February 20, 2016 at the annual prayer breakfast he normally attends.”
On September 4, 2016, Alex Birindabagabo, the Rwandan bishop and local representative of Warren’s PEACE Plan, “thanked God that he (Warren) is no longer showing up in Rwanda.” According to David Himbara, an educator political economist and author for The Rwandan:
Bishop Birindangabo would not dare trash Warren without approval from the Rwandan dictator Kagame. It is more likely that instructions to embarrass Warren came from the top. That is how Rwanda works. Moreover, we know that Warren had already abandoned the ship in 2015.
It is possible that Rick Warren backed out of the 2015 Conference because of many Christians exposing him and calling him to repentance for his involvement in Rwandan politics. For example there is the website Saddleback Can We Talk? developed by “Christians from all different denominations and backgrounds who have seen what is happening to our Congolese and Rwandan friends and have decided we could not sit silently any longer.” They wrote the following to Saddleback Church:
Saddleback, we love you, and we are very sad to tell you, your church is deeply hurting the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pastors and churches, Christians of all shapes and sizes, are being killed because of something your church is doing, and the sad part is that you don’t know it is happening. You mean well, but not understanding the culture and politics of Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo has led your church to do things we know you don’t mean to do. We all want our brothers and sisters everywhere in the world to know we care and love them right?
6,000,000 Congolese have died since 1996 in a war over minerals that gets very little attention in America. Saddleback is publicly and materially supporting men who are causing and exacerbating this conflict. While meaning to do good, your good intentions are being used to hurt your own brothers and sisters in Christ.
Though Rick Warren backed out of the 2015 Conference, he has not totally abandoned his plans for the “Purpose Driven Nation” of Rwanda. He continues to be an active supporter of the Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame. Last month (September 24, 2016), Rick Warren endorsed Rwanda leadership at Rwanda Cultural Day in San Francisco. Warren says Kagame is “an uncommon leader” with “integrity.” Again, Warren claimed “the model for peace in the Middle East is Rwanda.” Kagame also spoke at the same event.
But why is a professing Christian megachurch pastor one of the loudest supporters of a violent and oppressive dictator? According to Major Rudasingwa, violence and war characterize the Rwandan Patriotic Front. He remarked,
[S]ince coming to power in 1994, Kagame’s RPF regime has used organized violence and war as instruments of domestic and foreign policy within and outside Rwanda: the shooting down of President Habyarimana’s plane which triggered genocide; the murder of Rwandan bishops and priests (1994); the Robert Gersony Report that documented widespread massacres by RPF (1994); the Kibeho massacres (1995); the UN Mapping Report of 2010 that documented war crimes, crimes against humanity, and even possible acts of genocide against Hutu; assassinations of opponents in Rwanda and abroad, just to mention a few.
I agree with the assessment of Bruce Olson who commented:
By opting to launch his global transformation project, the P.E.A.C.E. Plan in blood-soaked Uganda and Rwanda, Rick Warren’s has embraced and co-branded himself with their authoritarian leaders who are accused of brutalizing their own countries and whose systematic military campaigns to plunder the natural resources of Democratic Republic of the Congo have been indicted, by both the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, for causing a more than one-decade long conflagration in Central Africa that has killed more civilians than any conflict since World War Two.
Rick Warren claims the authoritarian dictatorship of Rwanda is the model for peace in the Middle East. Rick Warren also plans to make the PEACE Plan global in order to create more Purpose Driven Nations just like Rwanda, even a Purpose Driven continent of Africa! If Rwanda is the flagship project of Warren’s PEACE Plan, then the world is in big trouble.