Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi was not bluffing when he issued a directive prohibiting any civil servant from praying at work premises.
On April 11, 2017, the PM wrote a letter directing all state institutions, with immediate effect, to halt any ongoing faith-based activities such as praying, mobilisation of followers and conducting any activity in that line.
The President was copied in the letter, written in Kinyarwanda.
The public went berserk. A storm on social media ensued. Debates about the directive was not well received. Religious leaders, especially the Born Agains, criticised the Prime Minister saying the move was not “Holly”.
However, the CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), Prof. Anastase Shyaka, whose institutions regulates, monitors and accredits faith-based organisations, defended the PM.
Prof. Shyaka quoted the law.
He said Article 1 of the Rwandan constitutions states that Rwanda is a secular republic, and is thus not run based on any religious affiliation. “The Rwandan State is an independent, sovereign, democratic, social and secular Republic; The principle governing the Republic is “government of the people, by the people and for the people”, the article reads in part.
Several definitions inform us that, secularism “is the state of being separate from religion, or of not being exclusively allied with or against any particular religion.”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister had also referred to the constitution. He said the law provides for only one hour for staff to take a lunch break.
“A lunch break and praying, take more time, some staff end up coming back to work after one hour, and that is not all, remember the law provides we have to work nine hours per day, clearly many people were exceeding one hour of a break,” Prof Shayaka said.
He also said that prayers were creating discomfort and sectarianism in some institutions. “Imagine if the head of the institution was the one leading the prayers, how would he treat those who don’t attend the prayers? And what bond would he create with those who attend the prayers?, we dont want such a scenario, it is unhealthy and is a distraction.”
“We believe in God, we respect our Lord, but let us respect the laws,” Prof. Shyaka explained. “We have more than one thousand faith-based organisations in Rwanda, imagine if we had to allow each one room to mobilise activities at our workplaces?”