Police in Kigali on Monday morning arrested an American pastor Gregg Schoof as he prepared to hold a press conference where he was to announce his departure from Rwanda.
Schoof, according to details we have obtained, is moving to Uganda where he is due to open a church and Amazing Grace Radio this Wednesday October 9.
The same radio has been closed in Rwanda since late last year by the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA), on the recommendation of the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC).
Amazing Grace Radio was unknown until January last year as there are more than 30 FM stations. Its troubles started when it hosted an evangelist Nicolas Niyibikora on January 28, 2018. He lambasted women, using graphics descriptions of the female gender. Some of comments used cannot be published.
Within days, the comments had been picked by mainstream news sites, and hell broke loose. Women rights activists were up in arms. Amazing Grace Radio was the talk in the corridors of power.
A petition was filed to RMC by a women’s group seeking action. RMC asked RURA to suspend the radio’s license for 3 months. RURA decided to suspend the radio for a month, required its owner Gregg Schoof to make a public apology, and also pay fine of Rwf 2m.
Schoof, in angry outbursts over the following days, dismissed RMC and RURA as government agents helping it to abuse his rights and those of his followers.
He went to court, accusing RMC and RURA of acting outside their mandates. The courts dismissed his cases.
According to sources, Schoof, realising he had no other place for recourse, stormed tower station where Amasing Grace Radio antennas were located to switch on his radio’s signal.
Schoof tried the act at least twice, trying to force his way into the government-owned facility, which also hosts broadcasts antennas of many other stations. He was unable to enter the usually guarded facility.
Last month, unconfirmed information circulated that he had been asked to leave the country by government security agencies.
On Sunday yesterday morning, Schoof sent out an invitation to newsrooms calling them to come for his press conference on Monday. The statement said each reporter would be given Rwf 4,000 ($4.2) as transport.
The same day, he attended a service at the Baptist Corner Church in Kigali where he was one of the founders and pastors. In his address, Schoof told the congregation that he was relocating to Uganda.
He said he was going to open a church and Amazing Radio station in Kisoro district, which borders Rwanda’s Burera district. The two have border called Cyanika, one of 3 major border posts between Ugandan and Rwanda.
In his sermon, Pastor Schoof also said he could not live in Rwanda as the government suppresses everything people do. He also said he will never forget how his rights had been clamped on by government.
The abuse Pastor Gregg is speaking about here emanates from the surprise arrest in April 2014 of his radio director Cassien Ntamuhanga, with ex-soldier Jean Paul Dukuzumuremyi, singer Kizito Mihigo and a woman.
They were subsequently charged and jailed on serious charges including planning to assassinate President Paul Kagame. The courts agreed with the prosecution and they were given lengthy jail sentences.
In October 2017, the Rwanda Correctional Services announced that Ntamuhanga had escaped from the high security Mpanga prison in Nyanza district, southern province, where even Sierra Leone war criminals were jailed. Since then, he has spoken on online radios of Rwandan exiles, but has not said where he is located.
Other people working on Amazing Grace Radio, also fled the country or have simply disappeared.
A combination of the trauma of experiencing the plight of Ntamuhanga and colleagues, and facing RURA with RMC, Pastor Gregg had had enough, sentiments he has echoed with friends and fellow pastors. He also made them public in the Sunday sermon to his church followers.
Around 10am today when he arrived at the venue of the press conference near Amahoro stadium, police officers also arrived, as if they had been waiting for him.
They presented to him a one page summon from the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) asking him to report to its headquarters.
Despite shouting at the cops, he was taken away, as reporters watched. He left a three page press statement he had prepared to read.
In it, he rants about RURA and RMC, for illegally shutting his radio, which he says the courts also facilitated.
“Our church was attached and closed illegally,” he writes, going on to highlight the 7,000 other places of prayer closed in the government crackdown.
Quoting bible verses, Pastor Gregg accuses government of a long list of issues. (SEE HIS STATEMENT BELOW)
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