Notre Histoire - Our Story
AUCA IN TIME AND SPACE
By Ngabo A. Sebahashyi
My whole life is inseparable from the existence of the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) in which I have been working since 1989. This university was founded in 1978, but the official opening was held on 15 October 1984.
Situation géographique de Mudende sur la Carte de la République du Rwanda
It was located at Mudende, the former Mutura commune, Gisenyi prefecture (part of the current western province). In 1994, just before the genocide, the university had 7 faculties.
Following the genocide and massacres of 1994, AUCA had temporarily suspended its activities until 7 May 1996, during which time the university reopened its doors on a transitional site in Kigali. Therefore, the university could only operate three of its original faculties, namely: Business Administration, Education Sciences and Theology.
The need to rebuild the university has been badly felt since 1998. Therefore, several attempts for reconstruction failed because of lack of means, will, or both at the same time. It was only in 2001 that one could truly speak of the beginning of the process of reconstruction. Curiously enough, in the same year I was appointed first coordinator of construction and then director of development.
In this section of the student’s records, I will speak, in an illustrated manner, of the photos of some of my most significant experiences at AUCA. I prefer to divide my work in a chronological order.
- A glimpse at the past of AUCA
- AUCA current activities
- AUCA future plans
A Glimpse at the Past of AUCA
I pointed out earlier that AUCA opened its doors in 1984. Its development has been very rapid as far as the academic staffing, the administration and the student enrolment and the infrastructure are concerned. Thus, in less than 10 years, AUCA became a major centre for higher education, well-known throughout the Adventist French-speaking Africa.
However, everything did not turn for the better in the best of the possible worlds. After 10 years of absolute growth, it was a total toppling. Everything that had been done during this period was destroyed in a few months and the fate of the university seemed inexorably compromised. Indeed, the destruction of the campus happened in successive waves:
The period of the genocide (April 94 - July 94), during which time the campus was looted by hordes from various origins (local population, the military and the desperate Interahamwe militia, AUCA staff who had remained in place helped themselves before fleeing, etc.).
Corpses of the victims of the Rwandan genocide (April 94 – July 94)
The campus became then "a sort of no man's land" remained for several years to thank you for all those who wanted to take something. Thus, from the lightest to the heaviest, in the long run anything free or immovable was taken away. However, buildings and fixed assets were not affected.
End 1996, the first influx of refugees from the neighbouring Kibumba (DRC), was sheltered at Mudende campus. A few months later the refugees returned home but they were replaced by some other refugees more numerous than the former. The prolonged stay of the latter became more detrimental to the survival of the campus. These refugees were the first to sell or destroy fixed assets (sanitation facilities: sink, toilets, bathtubs, water heaters, ceilings for heating, etc.). The campus lost its true face.
The site of Congolese refugees at Mudende campus (end 96)
The war of infiltrators completed the work of destruction. Firstly, by making the campus completely uninhabited, for it was practically uninhabitable, secondly by putting it to the disposal of all sorts of adventurers. During this period (97-99), generators, iron sheets, metallic doors and even, in some places, windows were swept away.
Mudende campus after the period of infiltrators (end 99)
The photos below show a portion of what remains of Mudende. We took them during the damage assessment by the Joint UNHCR-AUCA-Ministry of Public Works. One can see the central academic building, the dormitories for girls and boys, the cafeteria, the faculty of science, etc.
The second dormitory for boys
The cafeteria and a partial view of the chapel
The central academic building
AUCA's Current Activities
Owing to these circumstances, the Adventist University of Central Africa cannot hope to return to its former campus. The university reopened its doors in 1996 in Kigali in modest buildings. Administrators, teachers and students were looking forward to a better day when the institution would look like beautiful campus worthy of a university.
Some people said that this was a resurrection of the university; others rather claimed that it was the last stage of the agony of AUCA. But the claim was not based God’s promise according to which: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit ..." (Zechariah 4:6)
In fact, when you enter the small campus of this old and prestigious institution, you will never find any evidence that justifies its reputation. You will rather find only small buildings that are not even worthy of an elementary school.
The small campus of Gishushu in Kigali used at the reopening of AUCA in 1996
Although the current plot of the site is not even enough for a primary school, committed administrators and teachers conducted a university programs there, a sign of the beginning of the resurrection of the old Adventist University of Central Africa.
On the left: Students and their teacher under the trees during a class session. On the right: Graduands during a graduation ceremony.
In fact, in order to get out of this situation, it was necessary to engage in both activities, i.e. teaching and thinking about reconstruction. Both challenges are difficult: teaching in such conditions is not easy, rebuilding without resources is even more difficult. The only way out of this crisis was to sell Mudende campus to the Government of Rwanda.
Negotiations between the authorities of the university and the Rwandan government began in 1999. The agreement of the government was given in 2003. It was not until February 2006 that the handing over and taking over were made between both concerned parties (the ECD and the Government of Rwanda, represented by its Ministry of Defense) (see photos of the event).
Handing Over and Taking Over
Pasteur Noah Musema, Vice President of ECD
Dr Hesron Byilingiro, Rwanda Union President
Pasteur Jozsef Szilvasi, Rector of AUCA
Dr Ephrem Kanyarukiga, Vice Rector Academics
Angela Pagarigan, Business Manager
Ngabo A. Sebahashyi, Director of Development
General Marcel Gatsinzi, Minister of Defense
Evariste Bizimana, Minister of Infrastructure
Lieutenant General Charles Kayonga, Chief of Staff - Land
Major Général Ciza Kaisari, Manager of Western Divsion
Day of the taking over and handing over of the Mudende campus in 2006. From left to right: Lieutenant General Charles Kayonga, General Marcel Gatsinzi, Evariste Bizimana, Pastor Noah Musema, Dr Ephraim Kanyarukiga.
Thus, Mudende campus has gone for ever. Currently it is occupied by the Rwanda Defense Forces. The past of AUCA has just been closed. The present has just begun, new horizons of the melodious bright future is opening.
Mudende campus after the taking over and handing over in 2006
AUCA's Future Plans
Ten years after the brutal ruthless genocide, the process of reconciliation and reconstruction continues in Rwanda. For Seventh-day Adventists this includes the "resurrection" of the Adventist University of Central Africa. First was the planned reconstruction of the existing university campus Gishushu, but church leaders globally opposed a disavowal, considering the site too small.
It suggested instead to seek a much wider field and preferably in Kigali where students and visiting professors are more available. Thus the government has given us the land Masoro located in the outskirts of Kigali. This is an area of 22 Ha, with a beautiful bird's eye view of the current international airport in Kigali. The site has been accepted by the Division and the General Conference of our church.
Groundbreaking Ceremony at Masoro. From the Right : Elder Pastor Geoffrey Mbwana (ECD President), Dr. Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya (Minister of Education), Evariste Bizimana (Minister of Infrastructure), Pr Jozsef Szilvasi (Rector, AUCA), Elder Pastor Blasius Rugguri (Executive Secretary, ECD), Dr Ephrem Kanyarukiga (Vice Rector AUCA), Sergie (ECD Treasurer)
With what the Rwandan government has given as the prize of AUCA Mudende Campus and appropriation of ECD, it was now possible to plan the reconstruction of a new campus of the AUCA. In this regard, Pastor Jozsef Szilvasi, rector of the university said in a ceremony to confer degrees:
Pasteur Jozsef Szilvasi (Former Rector)
We have chosen not to sit back and mourn the genocide. We are opting to be instruments in God's hands, and partners with all who have chosen to bring hope to the people of Rwanda.
The Adventist University of Central Africa will be housed in the campus of Masoro situated on a plot of 22 hectares in the extremities of the city of Kigali. After the ceremonies pause the first stone by government authorities, Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the Adventist Church Seventh Day at the global level, led the ceremony to break the first brick at the start of the construction of academic building. It was on 12 May 2005. I give you some verbatim words of Dr. Jan Paulsen without translation. He said:
Pastor Dr Jan Paulsen and Mr Jacques Kayigema,
on the day of the groundbreaking ceremony
There were those that said we should walk away from operating a university here in Rwanda again, because of the political uncertainty of the country, but we should not and cannot. The loss of our property still causes me deep sadness, but the mission of the church urges us forward.
Division East Africa and Central in collaboration with the Steering Committee of the University has taken significant steps to build the new campus, signed a contract with the Government of Rwanda to sell what remains of the old campus Mudende later and made money to help with construction.
Now the academic building has been completed.
The current Central Academic Building at Masoro Campus
The inaugural ceremonies were held on 22 July 2007. Other buildings will come immediately after the multipurpose room of about 2000 people, dormitories for girls and boys. The next academic year starts in October 2007 Masoro.
The Adventist University of Central Africa is the largest university of higher education in the service of Adventist students from francophone countries in the region of central Africa and east.
As such, it is a vital center for training future workers of the Church of Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, approximately 45% of all members of the Africa Division of center and east.
In this magnificent work, we rely on God's promise:"It is not by force nor by power but by the spirit of God. " With God we can.