KIGALI - Rwanda’s all-inclusive leadership approach in the wake of the 1994 genocide has enabled the country’s Muslim community to realise its full potential, the new Mufti has said.
Speaking during his inauguration ceremony at the Kigali Regional Stadium, yesterday, Mufti Abdul Karim Gahutu expressed the community’s confidence in the government of President Paul Kagame, who attended the function.
He said it had allowed Muslims play an active role in the country’s reconstruction and development, a far cry from the politics of exclusion exercised under the previous regimes.
“We have Muslims occupying high leadership positions in Cabinet, Parliament and the local government,” said Gahutu, who takes over from Sheikh Saleh Habimana.
The country’s constitution, promulgated in 2003, stipulates that leadership positions must reflect the diverse backgrounds that exist in the Rwandan society.
The Mufti castigated the Genocidal regimes for limiting the fundamental rights of Muslims, including restrictions on gatherings during major occasions such as Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan.
He praised President Kagame and his government for transforming the country’s socio-economic fortunes through universal education and healthcare, infrastructure development and economic growth, among others.
The new Mufti saluted the government for promoting reconciliation, justice and equal rights and opportunities among the citizens.
Gahutu castigated the country’s critics, pointing out that they had not offered any alternatives to the government’s ‘progressive’ policies.
He promised to promote good governance during his five-year term. He also pledged the Islamic community’s support towards the One-Cow-Per-Poor-Family drive, adding that they had undertaken to pay health insurance for 50,000 needy people by the end of the year.
In his remarks, President Kagame paid tribute to the Islamic community for their contribution in the country’s development process, and pledged more government support.
Gahutu is the seventh Mufti of Rwanda since Islam was officially accepted in the country in 1964.
The President congratulated Sheikh Gahutu upon his election as Mufti, and thanked his predecessor, Sheikh Habimana, for his contribution, both to the country, and to Islam in particular.
Kagame also promised support towards the construction of a Rwf 5 billion state-of-the-art Muslim complex.
The five-storied building, which will serve as the country’s Islamic Headquarters, will host the Mufti residence and office, a women recreation centre, a hotel, library, among others.
Kagame reaffirmed the country’s equal treatment of all religious denominations and social diversity, insisting that no citizen should be deprived of their inalienable rights, religious or otherwise.
Mufti Gahutu gave President Kagame a Kinyarwanda language Quran, a spear, shield, bow and arrow, in recognition of his support to the Islamic community. The Quran was the first to be translated from Arabic to Kinyarwanda, Sheikh Gahutu said. Kagame is a Catholic.
The outgoing Mufti, Habimana, handed a Quran and other essential Islamic books to his successor. Habimana’s mandate expired on June 6 after he had served out his two terms.