KIGALI - Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, has refuted claims made by the lawyer of Father Emile Nsengiyumva, that the clergyman is on trial for his opinion.
Cannisius Karambizi had told the BBC that his client, a priest of Karenge Parish in Rwamagana ,was on trial because he opposed how the government policy to eradicate grass thatched houses (Nyakatsi) was being implemented.
It was reported in this newspaper that the Fr. Nsengiyumva, 45, was urging his flock to resist government policies and had even went as far as excommunicating members of the church who had joined the anti-Nyakatsi and family planning campaigns.
“Let me clarify the point; that in this Republic, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, including those that oppose Government Policies. However, it is a criminal offence to mobilize against Government policies with a threat of or imposition of sanctions. That is what this Priest stands accused of,” said Ngoga.
“If that situation was to be allowed by any legal system, there would never be authority of legitimate elected Governments. By imposing religious sanctions to church members perceived to support lawful policies, the priest committed a punishable offence and that is what we in the prosecution authority think and are pursuing in a court of competent Jurisdiction. We are not reading from the depth of his mind, we are dealing with his words and deeds to others he accuses of not sharing his opinions.
Nehime Uwimana, the Mayor of Rwamagana, wondered how a religious leader could fight the eradication of Nyakatsi, instead of being a partner in the programme.
“This is a man who has been telling people that they should keep away from family planning because it has side effects. He has been openly saying this to his flock,” he said.
Jean Bosco and Donat Twizeyimana both residents of Karenge sector said that the priest has been intimidating and harassing them, because they participate in government programmes.
“Most of us are no longer allowed to take the sacrament, just because we abide by what the authorities tell us. He doesn’t allow us to associate with non-Catholics...it’s terrible,” they said.