The days for substandard worship structures in Kigali City are numbered after the city mayor, Dr Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, announced tough measures against them on Tuesday.
The move comes in the wake of strong earthquakes that struck the Western Province recently, killing about forty people, some of whom were hit by the rubbles of church buildings.
During a meeting with religious leaders at the City Hall on Tuesday, Kirabo warned that advocating for God’s cause doesn’t mean putting up shoddy places of worship that pose a threat to human lives.
“Think twice before you undertake any action to put up a church that has deadly consequences to your followers and the entire public,” she warned the clergy.
Kigali City Council (KCC) officials say they are not against religions but want their buildings to meet the required minimum standards.
“What we’re doing is not against churches, but we want God’s word to be spread within safety living of Christians,” Reuben Ahimbisibwe, a KCC Inspector, said. In a PowerPoint presentation about church buildings in the city, Ahimbisibwe noted that some of them lack the necessary requirements to warrant their existence.
Among the requirements he mentioned include building plan, a design, materials and methods of construction.
The installation of lightening conductors was also emphasised on as a prerequisite element in the construction of any churches.
“We will continue enforcing the standards viewed by church owners as an obstacle because we’re obliged to protect the lives of their followers,” Jeanne d’Arc Gakuba, the city vice mayor in charge of Welfare, said.
On the issue of rainwater from the roofs of churches and other city buildings, Kirabo issued a March deadline for all owners to have resolved the problem.
Despite the KCC demand to have well-built church structures, owners complain of delay in issuance of documents necessary for works to begin.
James Muhemeri, the Legal Representative of African Christian Church (ACCR), claimed that their church has for over the last decade failed to secure such documents.
However, Kirabo urged them not to look for scapegoats while building structures that are vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes.