Over 700 Churches Closed Down By Rwandan Government

Rwanda has shut 714 churches in different parts of Kigali over the last one week for failure to meet minimum standards. New Times of Rwanda reported that the churches were found to lack basic infrastructure, hygiene, safety standards and had issues related to their legal status. The crackdown is being carried out by respective urban district authorities in partnership with the Rwanda Governance Board, the newspaper said.

Justus Kangwagye, the Head of Political Parties and Civil Society Department at the Rwanda Governance Board, said places of worship are required to meet basic requirements in terms of safety, hygiene, infrastructure, and legality which those affected were found to be lacking. Kangwagye said most of the affected places of worship were asked to halt operations until they meet the expected standards. "Worshiping should be done in an organised way and meet minimum standards. Exercising your freedom of worship should not encroach on other people's rights. They have been asked to halt operations until they meet the requirements” he said.

Some may not be able to resume operations anytime soon as some premises exposed worshipers to risks. "For instance, if the infrastructure is deemed likely to cause danger to those worshiping, it is obvious that it fails to meet the requirements" he explained. Others were found to have inadequacies such as lack of parking lots which would lead to their members parking by the roadsides and causing gridlock. Other churches which were closed operated from tents.

"Churches that are hosted in tents were also asked to review their premises before they can continue their operations. As for hygiene and sanitation, you cannot have a gathering where there is no water for washing hands, no toilets among other issues,” he said. Others, he added, were warned on the lack of safety and security installations and asked to look into it or risk closure. Kangwagye explained that setting up a church requires a temporary certificate which expires after 12 months.
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