EDITORIAL: It’s the Gov’t, not the Church that sets health policies

For many years, the Catholic Church called the shots in Rwanda. It influenced policy, pulled all sorts of strings and had tentacles in all sectors of society.

The church was omnipresent, but its real leverage was that it owned the schools and hospitals, therefore, it had a psychological and spiritual hold over the country’s future elite.

There is no need to go back in history to show that the Catholic Church has a case to answer in the creation and escalating the ethnic rift that led to several rounds of massacres that culminated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Sometimes it is advisable to count the losses and move forward, exactly the path the government chose. In fact, the church has been given enough slack over its inglorious past, so it can at least leave the government to implement its policies without interfering.

Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries on the continent and some years ago, it had a galloping birth rate that needed urgent interventions. The policies put in place managed to drastically reduce the fertility rate from 5.8 children per woman to 4.2 between 2000 and 2015.

The Catholic Church runs nearly one-third of all health centres in the country, therefore, it would be an ideal partner in implementing the government’s health strategies. Despite the government picking the tab on some of the costs at those church-run health posts, the Church has prohibited family planning programs.

That is over-stepping its mandate as it does not design a country’s health policies, so it would be in its interests if it did not enter into a tug-of-war with the government