The Pentecostal Church of Rwanda or better known in Rwanda as ADEPR is at it again. Already, its leaders stole more than Rwf 3.3b from their followers, a matter local courts have failed to settle.
Just as with the above missing billions, which were related to a hotel project in Kigali four years ago, ADEPR is preparing to open another hotel. ADEPR has completed construction of a hotel in Gicumbi district, in northern Rwanda.
For starters, more than 20 percent of Rwanda’s 12m population are followers of ADEPR, according to the church’s own figures. Apart from the Catholic Church which covers 46% of the population, ADEPR rivals it in terms of number of churches.
Rev Pastor Murindahabi Canisius, head of ADEPR’s northern province region says the new hotel cost almost Rwf 1billion.
The name has not yet been decided, and inauguration is expected before end of the year. The details in terms of rooms and amenities have not been revealed, but looking from a far, the imposing structure will be iconic in such a rural border town.
Governor of the Northern Province, Jean Marie Vianney Gatabazi showed his enthusiasm about the project with photos on social media last week. He said people visiting the region’s touristic sites will have a place to stay.
Governor Gatabazi is right. The region has quite a plate to offer. Rwanda’s biggest border point, Gatuna, is located there. There was big business before relations with Uganda fell apart, though a mend is ongoing.
The National Liberation Museum Park at Mulindi, which catalogues President Paul Kagame and his RPF rebel movement, is based there. The rebels matched from there to take over Kigali and stop the genocide against Tutsis in 1994 across Rwanda.
Away from the good the new hotel development will bring to the region, the project has hallmarks of another bomb that may be headed for explosion.
The hotel was built through bank financing and the repayment will be done from money collected from ADEPR members in the northern region, according ADEPR provincial leader Murindahabi. And this is exactly the trouble hotspot.
In 2014, the ADEPR national leaders obtained a loan of Rwf 2.1 billion from the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) to finance construction of Dove Hotel, located in Gisozi, a Kigali suburb. It was opened in February 2017, and then trouble started.
The Chronicles has widely covered the controversy surrounding the Dove Hotel. As construction of the hotel was ongoing, Rev Bishop Sibomana Jean and Tom Rwagasana, the leaders, launched a fundraising from followers to repay the BRD loan.
However, as we have come to learn from a long legal process still going on, the Rwf Rwf 3,338,404,957 collected from the fundraising NEVER reached the bank. All of it just disappeared, opening a Can of worms.
By the time Dove Hotel was unveiled to the public, a silent revolt had been brewing in ADEPR as rumours circulated among followers that the bank loan had not been paid, and their money wasn’t there anymore. Two months after Dove Hotel opening, 12 senior leaders including Sibomana and Rwagasana were arrested in a government-led prosecution for misappropriation of Rwf 2billion.
At that time, the facts were not clear. But now they are, as has been reported previously by The Chronicles. A general election was coming up in July and August the same year 2017, and President Kagame’s ruling RPF couldn’t afford to have more than 2m unhappy potential voters.
After these ADEPR leaders were in jail, they were brought from the cells to hand over their offices in a bizarre ceremony in June 2017. A completely new team headed by Rev Bishop Karuranga Ephraim was installed. Since then, Karuranga has been attempting to regain trust of the followers and recover the lost monies, but with little success.
In a case bungled by government prosecutors, either deliberately – which may never be known, a Kigali court acquitted 10 of the 12 suspects in December 2018. Among those set free included the planners of the alleged scam, Sibomana and Rwagasana.
The only two who were convicted, were so minor, it is unlikely they knew anything. Sindayigaya Theophile and Mukakamali Lynea, were found guilty of stealing Rwf32m. They were ordered to repay this money to ADEPR or go to jail.
Among the victims of this complicated web of interests, is Uwimana Jean, who was an office messenger (Planton) at ADEPR headquarters in Kigali. Uwimana, according to court submissions, was “paid” a total of Rwf 431,203,807 (more than US$471,000).
As a salary, Uwimana earned less than Rwf 100,000 monthly. The current leadership of the church wonders whether he actually got any single cent from the Rwf 430m he was allegedly paid by the former leaders who made him do their dirty work.
Since October last year, an appeal was launched – filed jointly by the church and the government. ADEPR current leaders want the 12 accused to be forced to pay back Rwf 5,647,871,250.
This money includes, Rwf 2,309,468,293 which ADEPR is paying to BRD bank for the loan and the rest as payment to the lawyers handling the case.
In a 15-page submission to the High Court in Kigali, obtained by The Chronicles, ADEPR lawyers point fingers at Jean Bosco Mutangana, who was Rwanda’s prosecutor general and his deputy Agnes Mukagashugi. It is unclear if unrelated, but President Kagame on November 29 last year, replaced both officials.
Mutangana and his deputy Mukagashugi, at different times appointed prosecutors for the case, only to withdraw them just before the case was scheduled to reopen.
As a result, the new prosecutor found they are unable to deal with the huge case. Then the case waited for months. The constant changes of prosecutors is what caused the collapse of the original trial leading to the acquittal of the 10 key suspects, according to ADEPR lawyers.
The original prosecutor was Biraboneye Prudence. He was replaced with Nkubito Emmanuel during the progress of the trial in the lower court. What shocked the ADEPR legal team is that Nkubito filed an application with the court seeking to withdraw the charges.
“Instead of prosecuting the suspects, he was pleading on behalf of the suspects removing charges on them which led to their acquittal,” said one of the ADEPR lawyers in an interview in September.
Two days to the start of Appeals hearing on September 6, 2019, prosecutor Habarurema was withdrawn and the file transferred to a new prosecutor Rudatinya Gaspard. The ADEPR lawyers managed to convince the Appeals panel for an extension to September 13.
Mutangana, when contacted by The Chronicles at the time to respond to the allegations, declined, arguing that he could not discuss a case before a court of law.
The substantive hearing of the appeals case has yet to get underway, awaiting a forensics audit of ADEPR finances and projects which the court ordered.
There is no guarantee at this point whether the new ADEPR hotel in Gicumbi district will not be a repetition of the chaos the followed Dove Hotel in Kigali.