Have you been hurt, disenchanted, disappointed, or even harmed by a spiritual leader? Cyemayire Emmanuel has been through it all. The pastoral failings created a lingering distrust towards spiritual leaders and places of worship.
Despite human flaws, everyone needs a spiritual guide, a Christian pastor or other faith. Not Cyemayire. He became so distrustful that he says he will never allow a godly preacher to have apostolic authority over his life ever again.
Self-styled ‘Bishop’ Deo Nyirigira, the cultic head of AGAPE Church which still operates from Mbarara district in western Uganda, is the reason Cyemayire has vowed he will not return to any place of worship.
The story of Bishop Nyirigira is long and complex. But we will break it down. He led a religious sect called MINIVAM Church operating from Nyamirambo. Internal wrangles over money and resources led to breakup. Some followers accused Nyirigira of stealing from them.
At the time, the country was just four years from the genocide against the Tutsi, and there was so much to do than follow up on fights in a church. Nyirigira is said to have lured about 100 followers to go with him, leaving Rwanda in 1998. He settled in Mbarara, running more of a cult than religious sect.
In 2012, Cyemeyire settled permanently in Uganda. But for all the previous years, he had been a regular traveler there to visit his relatives. In Rwanda, he owned DGM Ltd, a tour operator. He closed it, went with the savings to open an electronics shop in Kampala. He would later move the business to Mbarara, naming it Sanyu Electronics.
He tells us: “Mbarara is a vibrant city. People there have money. Someone sells their cows and then comes asking for all sorts of electronics. I got clientele much quicker,” adding, “However, one other reason for moving to Mbarara was because it was near Rwanda. I would be travelling shorter distances.”
In Mbarara, Cyemayire, who had been a regular churchgoer back in Rwanda, found AGAPE Church and joined immediately. Its membership was mostly Rwandans. Cyemayire didn’t know Deo Nyirigira, the flashy leader, who had at the time anointed himself ‘Bishop’.
The VIP driver
All went well, until the August 2017 presidential polls in Rwanda. Cyemayire was actively involved, backing incumbent President Paul Kagame, even going to vote at the embassy in Kampala. Bishop Nyirigira and other senior pastors were furious, and they made it be known to him.
Five months later, Cyemayire was kidnapped from his home on the night of January 4, 2018. He was taken away by soldiers as his teenage twin sons looked on in horror.
Vast amounts of content have been written in local media about Cyemayire’s ordeal including plucking his fingernails. The Chronicles had visited him this past week to find out how he was doing.
Cyemayire is not in good health and blames it all on Bishop Deo Nyirigira and other AGAPE Church pastors. Surprisingly, on the day of kidnap, the person who knocked on the door is a pastor in AGAPE Church. For 25 days, up to his eventual deportation on January 29, he has so much to say of what happened in Ugandan military intelligence facilities.
While in Rwanda, a medical review found his back had developed severe complications. He cannot sit up-right, always leaning on a cushion. He also wears eye glasses as a result of staying blindfolded with no natural light for long.
At his home in Nyarugenge district of Kigali, we find a Mercedes Benz car packed in his well-manicured compound. He told us the car is always there because the moment he drives it, he spends the following week laying down in excruciating pain.
Many months after returning to Rwanda, Cyemayire got a job as a VIP driver. ‘I was so good at my job that some clients, like one case from West Africa, couldn’t allow anyone to drive them,’ Cyameyire told us. But then, he had to leave the job, as he was always on sick-leave as the back pain aggravated.
Cyemayire’s wife gave birth prematurely due to the troubles the family was going through. His twin sons, now completing high school, after witnessing the horror of their father’s kidnap, managed to leave Mbarara by bus that night back to Rwanda. The one thing their Dad thanks them for, is carrying all documents in the bedroom such as passport, Rwanda ID, Ugandan Revenue Authority (URA) tax declarations and other business documents. The URA documents were basis for his ongoing compensation claims from the Ugandan government.
Uganda Revenue Authority tax documents
In Rwanda, Cyemayire was given an incomplete house by Nyarugenge district as part of government resettlement package. He has refurbished it so well it looks like a rich-lad’s retirement home. However, The Chronicles established that Nyarugenge district council directed that the executive gives him Rwf 1m cash package back in 2018. He has yet to receive that support.
In the recently concluded local elections, Cyemayire was elected on the sector council. He hopes to use this opportunity to actively participate in the development of his area, since he has been out of the country, coming back then as a visitor.
For the past three years, Cyemayire has also been reconstructing his life with AGAPE Church. Some things are making sense today. One case in point; a few years after joining the church, Cyemayire tells us that Bishop Nyirigira on several occasions asked that he sends his wife to have a private discussion with him. They discussed it with the wife and resolved not to do it. That was not the only bizarre red-flag that Cyemayire failed to notice.
In his teachings, according to Cyemayire, Bishop Nyirigira always said they would be going to “igihugu cy’isezerano” (the promised land). Later, the Bishop and other pastors went public, declaring backing for the Rwanda National Congress (RNC). These details are already in the public domain.
During the last days in the Ugandan military intelligence cells, Cyemayire was taken for what appeared to be routine interrogation and torture. The officer there said nothing else, apart from asking him what problem he had with Bishop Nyirigira.
Cyemayire explained: ‘’Looking back, it appears Bishop Nyirigira wanted to use my wife to mobilize me to join RNC. With that failed, when I campaigned for our President, they knew they could never have me. So, they reported me as a Kagame spy. The question which the Ugandan officer asked me, as to whether I had any problem with Nyirigira, convinces me that its AGAPE Church that connived to have me killed.”
In our search, several sects with ‘AGAPE’ operating from different regions of Uganda, we couldn’t link Bishop Nyirigira’s AGAPE to the others. However, The Chronicles has separately established that Nyirigira’s AGAPE Church was created under the license of Pentecostal Ministries of Uganda Churches (PMUC), quartered in Kitende, Wakiso district, outside Kampala.
There are other allegations that the founder of PMUC is a genocide fugitive also from Rwanda. However, we were unable to independently verify this information, and opted not to publish the names of that individual, which we have.
Cyemayire, 47, and several other deportees have filed a case at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) in Tanzania, seeking compensation. The case has yet to be decided. For the property he lost and the health complications, Cyemayire wants no less than 200m Ugandan shillings (Rwf 57m or $57,000).