Genocide survivors will this afternoon petition the Catholic Episcopal Council – the highest decision making body of the church protesting its decision to honour two convicted priests.
Under their umbrella organisation –Ibuka, the genocide survivors told KT Press, “We are meeting the president of Episcopal Council, Bishop Philippe Rukamba, to tell him our worries and the total confusion their festivities are causing.”
Kabgayi Diocese is scheduled to hold silver jubilee celebrations on 16th July. However, priests Emmanuel Rukundo and Joseph Ndagijimana currently convicted of genocide, the church says it will honour them for their ‘exemplary service’ to the church.
The two priests are serving long sentences including; 25years and life sentence respectively, for Genocide crimes.
Last week Bishop Smaragde Mbonyintege of Kabgayi Diocese endorsed an invitation letter including a list of seven priests that will be honoured. This has outraged genocide survivors.
However, Bishop Mbonyintege said; “We cannot erase them out of our minds. They are our people. They are citizens of this country and belong to Catholic Church. We shall go on with celebrations to thank God and repent before him.”
In another twist, a revised invitation letter was issued on July 10 indicating five priests whose 25 years of priesthood will be celebrated, but adds, “ordained in the same year also include two convicts of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi; Father Joseph Ndagijimana and Emmanuel Rukundo.”
The invitation also reads, “There are also two priests who died and will be prayed for to rest in eternal peace, including; Father Alphonse Mbuguje and Father Sylloni Habiyakare.”
Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, president of Ibuka says the catholic church is just torturing genocide survivors; ” celebrating killers and mourning those whom they killed in the same event.”
Dusingizemungu said, Father Mbuguje was killed by Father Rukundo during the Genocide against Tutsi.
Bishop Mbonyintege noted; “Although these (priests) are in prison they are still ours irrespective of being convicted of personal crimes while serving as priests.”
Kambanda Noel twitted “#HelloSmaradge Please don’t mix innocent victims with Interahamwe. Fr.Mbuguje did not just die a natural death, was killed in complicity with Fr. Rukundo.”
In his response, Bishop Mbonyintege told KTPress;“We understand that pressure is high; some people have allergy by just seeing those two names; we shall consider removing them from our invitation.”
Mbonyintege also said, “If we agree, a priest in jail is still a human being, there are some rights you cannot negate them, medication for example.”
However, it’s not just removing the two names on the list that matters; it is even about separating two events, as for Ibuka.
“Let them celebrate the jubilee for the priests with clean hands and then schedule commemoration of deceased priests on another day,” said Dusingizemungu.
Tom Ndahiro, a genocide scholar considers the revised invitation, ‘G’ (Genocide) Denial to celebrate Kabgayi criminal priests. Just cover-up semantics #HelloSmaradge.”
In 2001, Rukundo was arrested by Swiss officials acting on an arrest warrant issued by International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and was later extradited to Arusha, Tanzania.
ICTR found Rukundo guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity including murder and extermination and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
Fr. Joseph Ndagijimana, was arrested and accused of facilitating the murder of several Tutsi hiding at Byimana Parish and didn’t spare a fellow priest Alphonse Mbuguje of Cyangugu diocese.
Gacaca community court found him guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment at Mpanga prison in Southern Rwanda.
Ibuka decides to complain to the Episcopal council after a statement they released to denounce the jubilee last week yielded no results.
Dusingizemungu suggests the Catholic Church “should better apologize for their role in Genocide instead of worsening the situation.”