June 18, 2019

Vatican, Russian Envoys Force Closure Of Noisy Prayer Spots In Kigali Neighborhood

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Complaints over noise by the Pope’s Representative and Russian Envoy in Kigali led to the closure of prayer groups at a university college, The Chronicles has established.

In January, prayer sessions by different groups which had been taking place at the University of Rwanda College of Sciences and Technology (CST), formerly KIST, were halted by college officials.

The development was widely covered in local media at the time. The groups were told that they cannot continue holding prayers from the college’s facilities.

There are several religious affiliations at this college but those affected by the ban were Pentecostal Students Association (CEP), community of evangelical students (GBU) and the Rwanda Anglican Students Association (RASA).

These groups also have branches at nearly all Rwanda’s higher institutions of learning.

As The Chronicles reports, the action was taken on the prayer groups after a complaint filed with the City of Kigali on the noise which was coming from the college. The noise was daily, and had become unbearable for the people living around the campus.

Papal Apostolic Nuncio in Kigali Monsignor Andrzej Jozwowicz and Russian Ambassador Karén CHALYAN may have reached a point where they could hold no more.

Their residences are located close to the college in the Kiyovu surburb of Kigali. The residence of the President is also in the same neighbourhood, only that it is farther away.

Edward Ruzindana, Director of student welfare at this UR campus confirmed the intervention from residences of the Russian and Papal envoys.

“The places where they pray from today is really small. Many attendees will usually be standing outside. For the case of the [pentacoastal students], the noise would shake the entire hill virously whenever they prayed,” said Edward Ruzindana, Director of student welfare at this UR campus.

He said the previous locations of these prayer groups were located near the residences of “powerful people” who raised the issue with Kigali authorities, who in turn reported to the university college.

The supposed move to ban noisy prayers was also highlighted by Damascene Niyonkuru, leader of the CEP group in a speech to members on May 12.

It was a speech delivered as he handed over leadership of the group to his replacement.

He said: “We have endured so much hardships including having the students who have no financial capacity to contribute to our planned projects. However, what shook us more is the UR reforms that have transferred some students [to other campuses] …to worsen the situation, worship activities in our campus were banned but through prayers and fasting, they have resumed.”

Currently, though the groups have been allowed back to hold their prayer sessions at the college, they have been allocated small rooms and are barred from engaging in acts that cause high levels of noise.

Since February 2013, Kigali authorities and the police have been enforcing strict noise control regulations. Among the requirements is for bars, churches and event organisers to fit sound-proof equipment at places where they converge large numbers of people.

The guidelines instituted fines for noise pollution and hotlines for all the districts in Kigali, which residents can call to report noise pollution in their neighbourhoods. Anyone can also call 112 police number to report.

Offenders risk a fine of up to Rwf100,000. ($110)

As a result, police show up at any noisy spot and very often will ask the event to be called off or the equipment is confiscated, or both.

Noise pollution is also criminal, punishable under Article 600 of penal code, article 37 of the organic law determining the modalities of protection, conservation and promotion of environment in Rwanda.

When the news about the banning of noisy prayer groups at the UR campus emerged back in January, senior UR officials said at the time that they were enforcing a directive of the Prime Minister, which was issued back on April 11, 2017.

The directive banned holding prayer sessions in all government facilities and offices. The Minister of Local Government was directed to enforce the directive.

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