Six pastors arrested in Rwanda for opposing shutdown of churches

Clergy accused of planning to sabotage government operation.

The Redeemed Gospel Church led by Bishop Innocent Rugagi in Kigali, Rwanda. The church is among those closed over noise pollution. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG 

IN SUMMARY

  • The clampdown began two weeks ago and has seen at least 714 churches closed for not meeting regulations such as standard structures, sanitation requirements, location of churches and certificates of operation.

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Police in Rwanda has arrested six pastors suspected of planning to disrupt the ongoing crackdown on churches by government over fraud and security concerns.

Rwanda National Police spokesperson Theos Badege told journalists on Monday that the six "ring leaders" were scheming to mobilise other clergy to oppose the churches closure by Kigali City authorities and the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB).

“They are suspected of forming illegal groups and conducting unlawful meetings with the intention of sabotaging or blocking an ongoing government exercise,” Mr Badege said.

The clampdown began two weeks ago and has seen at least 714 churches closed for not meeting regulations such as standard structures, sanitation requirements, location of churches and certificates of operation.

Among the those arrested are flamboyant Bishop Innocent Rugagi of Redeemed Gospel Church Rwanda and Apostle Charles Rwandamura of United Christian Church (UCC).

Others are pastors Fred Nyamurangwa of Free Church Community Pentecost in Africa in Rwanda (Celpar), James Dura of Healing and Deliverance Ministries Church and Emmanuel Shyaka Kalisa and Reverend Emmanuel Ntambara.

Last week, President Paul Kagame commented on the ongoing operation saying that he was surprised by the large number of churches. He pointed out that had there been proper planning, the situation would not have got to a level where the government has to close churches.

“Seven hundred churches in Kigali? Are these boreholes that give people water?”

“I don’t think we have as many boreholes. Do we even have as many factories? But 700 churches, which you even had to close? This has been a mess!” He said.

Mr Badege said the six pastors will be arraigned in court but did not indicated when.

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