By our reporter

Local government Authorities in Rwanda have suspended activities for a total of 714 churches in different parts of Kigali over the last one week for failure to meet minimum standards.

The places of worship were found to lack basic infrastructure, fell short of hygiene, safety standards and had issues related to their legal status, according to local leaders.

According to Rwanda’s New Times newspaper, the crackdown is being carried out by respective urban district authorities in partnership with the Rwanda Governance Board.

Justus Kangwagye, the Head of Political Parties and Civil Society Department at the Rwanda Governance Board said places of worship are required to meet basic requirements in terms of safety, hygiene, infrastructure and legality which those affected were found to be lacking.

“Worshiping should be done in an organised way and meet minimum standards. Exercising your freedom of worship should not encroach on other people’s rights.  They have been asked to halt operations until they meet the requirements,” Kangwagye said.

Some may not be able to resume operations any time soon, he added.

Kangwagye said some premises exposed worshipers to risks.

Others were found to have inadequacies such as lack of parking lots which would lead to their members parking by the roadsides and causing traffic jam.

Other churches which were closed operated from tents.

“Churches that are hosted in tents were also asked to review their premises before they can continue their operations. As for hygiene and sanitation, you cannot have a gathering where there is no water for washing hands, no toilets among other issues,” he said.

Others, he added, were warned on the lack of safety and security installations and asked to look into it or risk closure.

For instance, a number of churches were found not to have metal detectors for security measures, which is a requirement, or a lightening arrestor.

Heads of such churches were also put on notice to make the necessary adjustments.

The authorities also issued a warning to churches that make noise and disturb peace in residential neighbourhoods.

Some churches, according to him, were hiding behind freedom of worship in breach of the law.

The directive has not only affected Christian places of worship as a mosque was also affected.

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