KIGALI - A financial scandal has rocked Maranatha Church Mission of Rwanda, splitting its leadership and there are growing fears of total collapse.
The church’s top leaders, Sadok Runezerwa and his deputy Fredrick Gafaranga, are embroiled in a bitter fight over Frw74million.
The grant, in form of equipment and cash donations, is from the church’s affiliates in the US and Europe.
Founded in 1996, with the main the objective of spreading God’s word, the church has instead been turned into a battle field by its leaders. The raging conflict prompted the police to move in and close the church temporarily.
Runezerwa accuses Gafaranga of embezzling aid materials worth Frw53m from a US donor Samaritan Purse through Province of Episcopal Church in Rwanda (PEER) sent to the church in 2004.
The mayhem started last November when Gafaranga led a group of 20 supporters and violently disrupted a Sunday service.
Runezerwa blames Gafaranga of fuelling the struggle and accuses his deputy of engaging in a series of wrong deals that involve financial scandals.
A document obtained by The New Times indicated that the Gafaranga received items on behalf of the church. They included scholastic materials and clothes, which were meant for vulnerable children.
But Runezerwa claims that the donations never reached the vulnerable children under Maranatha Church’s Family Care Project.
Runezerwa also accuses Gafaranga of having embezzled another Frw21.6m from Norwegian and Swedish donors that was also meant for the same children.
Efforts to get a comment from Gafaranga yesterday were futile.
But the last six months’ payroll documents of 122 vulnerable children at the Family Care Project contain his signature on behalf of at least ten beneficiaries.
The documents are also signed by another man called Silas Mutware, whom Runezerwa claims connived with Gafaranga to swindle the donation.
Early this month, parents of the affected children lodged a complaint with Kigarama and Gikondo Sectors’ authorities.
The three-page petition was signed by their six representatives. They accused Gafaranga and Mutware as well Moses Nkundabantu, Ezecheil Nahayo, J Baptiste and Moses Ruzerwa, all pastors from different churches, of embezzling funds meant to help their children.
Runezerwa alleged that the accused group was once arrested and detained at Gikondo Police Station on charges of causing violence in the church that led to its closure.
They were released after ten days on the directive of the prosecution of Kagarama Court of First Instance in Kicukiro.
Runezerwa’s supporters protested their release and filed a petition in Nyarugenge Court of Higher Instance.
They accused the former Kagarama Prosecutor Azarias Nsengimana of having influenced the group’s release on unjustifiable grounds.
“The case is still in the court and we’re looking forward for fair justice,” Runezerwa said.
But information from the church leadership indicates that wrangles between two parties have deepened even after the intervention of security and judicial authorities.