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Burundi

Executive Summary

The constitution defines the state as secular, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides for freedom of conscience and religion. It prohibits political parties from preaching religious violence or hate. Laws regulating religious groups require registration with the Ministry of the Interior, and religious groups must meet standards including a minimum number of adherents in order to seek registration. Government officials expressed support for the former head of the Seventh-day Adventist Church – at the time a government official – who was ousted by the Church in November 2018 for alleged embezzlement. Police briefly detained the new head of the Church and some of his followers in May and arrested him again in October, beating some of his followers during a demonstration that same month. He remained in detention at year’s end without formal charges. The Ministry of the Interior reduced membership in the Body for the Regulation and Conciliation of Religious Confessions from 11 members to eight, of whom five were religious leaders. Government officials told observers that membership in the Church of the Rock, an evangelical Christian church headed by the first lady, was required to be successful as a member of the government. In September the Catholic Bishops Conference released a letter denouncing intolerance and political violence ahead of presidential elections scheduled for May 2020, and priests read the statement aloud at Catholic services throughout the country, according to media.

Some Muslim leaders reported that public schools and those run by other religions sometimes excluded girls who opted to wear the hijab.

U.S. embassy representatives met with the Ministry of the Interior’s religious regulatory body, stressing U.S. support for religious freedom and discussing the group’s work to promote dialogue and tolerance within and among religious groups. The Ambassador, and later the Charge d’Affaires and other embassy representatives, encouraged societal leaders, including representatives of major faith groups, to support religious acceptance and promote interfaith discussion of the collaborative role religious groups could play in disseminating a message of peace and tolerance to the population.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 12.2 million (midyear 2019 estimate). According to the 2008 national census (the most recent), 62 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 21.6 percent Protestant, 2.5 percent Muslim, and 2.3 percent Seventh-day Adventist. Another 6.1 percent have no religious affiliation, and 3.7 percent belong to indigenous religious groups. The Muslim population lives mainly in urban areas, and the head of the Islamic Community of Burundi estimates Muslims constitute 10-12 percent of the population. Most Muslims are Sunni. There are some Shia Muslims and a small Ismaili community. Groups that together constitute less than 5 percent of the population include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Orthodox Christians, The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, Hindus, and Jains. A 2013 national survey found 557 religious groups in the country.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution establishes a secular state; prohibits religious discrimination; recognizes freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; and provides for equal protection under the law regardless of religion. These rights may be limited by law in the general interest or to protect the rights of others, and may not be abused to compromise national unity, independence, peace, democracy, or the secular nature of the state, or to violate the constitution. The constitution prohibits political parties from preaching religious violence, exclusion, or hate.

The government recognizes and registers religious groups through a 2014 law governing the organic framework of religious confessions, which states these organizations must register with the Ministry of the Interior. There is a 20,000 Burundian franc ($11) fee for registration. Each religious group must provide the denomination or affiliation of the institution, a copy of its bylaws, the address of its headquarters in the country, an address abroad if the local institution is part of a larger group, and the names and addresses of the association’s governing body and legal representative. Registration also entails identifying any property and bank accounts owned by the religious group. The ministry usually processes registration requests within two to four weeks. Leaders, administrators, or adherents of religious groups who continue to practice after their registration has been denied, or after a group has been dissolved or suspended, are subject to six months’ to five years’ imprisonment and a fine.

The law regulating religious groups also incorporates specific registration requirements. Any new, independent religious group based in the country must have a minimum of 300 members. Foreign-based religious groups seeking to establish a presence in the country must have 500 members. The law prohibits membership in more than one religious group at the same time.

The law on religious groups does not address tax exemptions or other benefits to religious groups; however, the financial law exempts tax for goods imported by religious groups that can demonstrate the importation of these goods is in the public interest. Some religious schools have agreements with the government entitling them to tax exemptions when investing in infrastructure or purchasing school equipment and educational materials.

The official curriculum includes religion and morality classes for all primary and secondary schools. The program offers religious instruction in Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam, although all classes may not be available if the number of students interested is insufficient in a particular school. Students are free to choose from one of these three religion classes or attend morality classes instead.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

In May police arrested 23 Church members, including Barishinga and elected administrators, and released them after more than a week of detention following appeals by the world Church headquarters to the government. Two members reported having been beaten during their detention. On July 27, police intervened to prevent violence when Ndikubwayo led a group attempting to enter a church in Buganda in the northwest of the country during services held by supporters of Barishinga. On October 2, in Ngozi in the north-central part of the country, police reportedly beat Barishinga supporters during a confrontation between followers of each of the disputed Church leaders, according to media.

In July the ECD released a statement that said the government improperly recognized only the part of the Church controlled by Ndikubawayo, that it had given him access to the Church’s financial accounts after he had been dismissed by the ECD, and that large and unauthorized withdrawals had been made from those accounts followed by donations to government officials in the name of the Church. At year’s end, the government continued to support Ndikubawayo’s position as Church president.

President Pierre Nkurunziza routinely employed religious rhetoric in the context of political speeches and invoked divine guidance for political decisions. The government continued a campaign launched in 2017 promoting the “moralization of society,” which was criticized by several NGOs as a “religious crusade” targeting the churches and morals of the country. The president conducted events in provinces around the country attended by invited groups including government officials, ruling party members, religious leaders, and other local notables. During the events, which were not recorded or open to media and during which participants were not allowed to take notes, he gave lengthy addresses highlighting a mix of religious, historical, and cultural themes. The president also continued efforts begun in 2017 and connected rhetorically to the “moralization” campaign and invoking religious appeals, to require unmarried cohabitating couples to formalize their relationships as marriages.

President Nkurunziza and, according to press reports, most government ministers belonged to the Church of the Rock, an evangelical Christian church headed by First Lady Denise Nkurunziza. The Church designated Thursday as a weekly day of prayer and fasting for members of the ruling political party in honor of the president. Government officials told observers that membership in the Church of the Rock was required to be successful as a member of the government.

In April the Ministry of the Interior announced that all churches built of nondurable materials had one month to comply with the law on building standards to continue operating; however, there were no reports that any churches were shut down.

In August National Assembly President Pascal Nyabenda warned the Catholic Church on Twitter not to meddle in politics in the approach to the 2020 elections and to avoid expressing political opinions, which he called destabilizing.

In September the Catholic Bishops Conference released a letter denouncing intolerance and political violence ahead of presidential elections scheduled for May 2020. When a copy of the letter was leaked prior to official release, the senior communication advisor to the president stated some bishops should be defrocked for “spreading hatred” before elections, and the secretary general of the ruling CNDD-FDD party accused the bishops of dividing the country. Priests read the statement aloud in churches on the following Sunday. Days later, the presidential spokesperson stated publicly that the “statement of Catholic bishops is a normal statement,” adding that “they have the right to express themselves as it is a sign of a strong democracy.”

In November government media reported that the interior minister recommended that churches not hold general assemblies until after the May 2020 presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections, reportedly to avoid leadership conflicts.

In April the government reduced from 11 to eight the membership of the Body for the Regulation and Conciliation of Religious Confessions. The government established this religious monitoring committee in 2018 to ensure religious groups complied with applicable laws and to mediate conflicts within and between groups. By year’s end, membership had dropped to seven; five from religious groups and two from the government. The religious group members included the grand mufti of the Muslim community and four Protestant leaders; the Catholic representative who resigned in 2018 was not replaced. The president of the regulatory body said the Catholic Church chose to remain independent and instead consulted with the government via a separate agreement. Religious leaders appointed by the government served as president and vice president of the body, and a government employee served as executive secretary. The body continued its efforts to promote dialogue among and within religious denominations during the year but was constrained by resource limitations, according to the body’s president.

The government continued to grant benefits, such as tax waivers, to religious groups for the acquisition of materials to manage development projects. According to the Burundi Revenue Authority, the government also granted tax waivers to religious denominations for the import of religious materials such as printed materials, wines for masses, and equipment to produce communion wafers.

On July 3, National Assembly President Pascal Nyabenda presented airline tickets and funding for a pilgrimage to Mecca to an 82-year-old Muslim who had expressed sadness at being unable to afford the pilgrimage during a 2017 ceremony welcoming returning pilgrims.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Some Muslim leaders reported that public schools and those run by other religious denominations sometimes excluded girls who opted to wear the hijab.

Several religious leaders participated in a U.S.-Swiss sponsored conference among religious leaders of Great Lakes countries, which also included the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, to explore ways that religious leaders could use their influence to prevent and mitigate conflict.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

Embassy representatives met with the religious leaders who chaired the Body for the Regulation and Conciliation of Religious Confessions, stressing U.S. support for religious freedom and discussing the committee’s work to promote dialogue and tolerance within and among religious groups.

The Ambassador, and later the Charge d’Affaires and other embassy officials, regularly met with religious leaders of various faiths to discuss how to improve religious freedom in the country. The embassy encouraged societal leaders, including political leaders and representatives of major faith groups, to support religious acceptance and promote interfaith discussion of the collaborative role religious groups could play in disseminating a message of peace and tolerance to the population.

Embassy officials continued to promote interfaith dialogue and support efforts by local civil society organizations to do the same. Senior embassy leadership participated in public events organized by Bujumbura’s Muslim community to foster productive engagement among members of the community and between the community and other religious denominations.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The constitution provides for freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination based on religious belief. Relations between the government and religious organizations markedly improved in 2019, following the inauguration of President Felix Tshisekedi in January, according to media reports. In contrast to the previous year, there were no reports of government repression or intimidation of religious organizations engaged in political activities.

Antigovernment militia members targeted churches and church property in the North Kivu and Ituri Provinces, where armed groups remain active. Local media reported that on June 5, armed militia members kidnapped Father Luc Adelar Alecho, a Catholic priest in Ituri Province. The militants allegedly reproached him for his homilies urging his congregation to reject armed groups before letting him go. Local leaders in the northern part of the country expressed concern over the presence of the nomadic Muslim Mbororo cattle herder communities. Some leaders described their migration as an “Islamic invasion.” Clashes between Mbororo and local populations resulted in several deaths in Upper and Lower Uele Provinces throughout the year. In addition to religious differences, observers stated there were also economic and political concerns linked to the conflict, and for that reason it was difficult to categorize these acts as solely based on religious belief.

U.S. embassy officers met with officials in the Ministries of Justice, Human Rights, and Interior to discuss religious freedom issues, including government relations with religious organizations. Embassy officials also met regularly with religious leaders and human rights organizations and discussed relations with the government, their concerns about abuses of civil liberties, and the safety of religious leaders in the country’s conflict-affected areas.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 87.3 million (midyear 2019 estimate). The Pew Research Center estimates 95.8 percent of the population is Christian, 1.5 percent Muslim, and 1.8 percent report no religious affiliation (2010 estimate). Of Christians, 48.1 percent are Protestant, including evangelical Christians and the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth through the Prophet Simon Kimbangu (Kimbanguist), and 47.3 percent Catholic. Other Christian groups include the Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Greek Orthodox Church. There are small communities of Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Baha’is, and followers of indigenous religious beliefs. Muslim leaders estimate their community to comprise approximately 5 percent of the population.

A significant portion of the population combines traditional beliefs and practices with Christianity or other religious beliefs.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of religion and the right to worship subject to “compliance with the law, public order, public morality, and the rights of others.” It stipulates the right to religious freedom may not be abrogated even when the government declares a state of emergency or siege.

The law regulates the establishment and operation of religious groups. According to law, the government may legally recognize, suspend recognition of, or dissolve religious groups. The government grants tax-exempt status to recognized religious groups. Nonprofit organizations, including foreign and domestic religious groups, must register with the government to obtain official recognition by submitting a copy of their bylaws and constitution. Religious groups must register only once for the group as a whole, but nonprofit organizations affiliated with a religious group must register separately. Upon receiving a submission, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) issues a provisional approval and, within six months, a permanent approval or rejection. Unless the MOJ specifically rejects the application, the group is considered approved and registered after six months even if the ministry has not issued a final determination. Applications from international headquarters of religious organizations must be approved by the presidency after submission through the MOJ. The law requires officially recognized religious groups to operate as nonprofits and respect the general public order. It also permits religious groups to establish places of worship and train clergy. The law prescribes penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment, a fine of 200,000 Congolese francs ($120), or both for groups that are not properly registered, but receive gifts and donations on behalf of a church or other religious organization.

The constitution permits public schools to work with religious authorities to provide religious education to students in accordance with students’ religious beliefs if parents request it. Public schools with religious institution guardianship may provide religious instruction. Government-owned schools may not mandate religious instruction, but offer religion as a subject.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

Following the inauguration of Felix Tshisekedi as president in January, relations between the government and religious communities improved, according to the media and religious leaders. Unlike the year prior, there were no reports of acts of violence or intimidation against Catholic Church officials by the government. In March the government freed several political prisoners from the Catholic Lay Community (CLC) who had been arrested in 2018 for leading protests, which nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and others had called an arbitrary action. Other CLC activists, including Leonnie Kandolo, who spent a year in hiding after organizing protests in support of elections in early January and February 2018, stated in January that their freedom of speech had returned with the inauguration of Tshisekedi.

The MOJ again did not issue any final registration permits for religious groups, and had not done so since 2014. An MOJ internal audit reportedly focused on fraudulent registration practices remained incomplete at year’s end and was cited by some observers as an obstacle to the resumption of registration issuances. The government, however, continued its practice that groups presumed to have been approved were permitted to operate. Unregistered domestic religious groups reported they continued to operate unhindered. The MOJ previously estimated that more than 2,000 registration applications for both religious and nonreligious NGOs remained pending and that more than 3,500 associations with no legal authorization continued to operate. Foreign-based religious groups reported they operated without restriction after applying for legal status. Under existing law, which was under review, nonprofit organizations could operate as legal entities by default if a government ministry gave a favorable opinion of their application and the government did not object to their application for status. According to 2015 registration statistics, the latest year for which the MOJ had statistics, there were 14,568 legally registered nonprofit organizations, 11,119 legal religious nonprofit organizations, and 1,073 foreign nonprofit organizations. Religious nonprofits that were legally operating and registered included 404 Catholic, 93 Protestant, 54 Muslim, and 1,322 evangelical nonprofits, the latter including those belonging to the Kimbangu Church.

Muslim community leaders again said the government did not afford them some of the same privileges as larger religious groups. The government continued to deny Muslims the opportunity to provide chaplains for Muslims in the military, police force, and hospitals, despite a complaint filed in 2015 with the then-president and his cabinet.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Illegal armed groups operating in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri in the eastern part of the country occasionally targeted church leaders. Local media reported that on June 5, armed militia members kidnapped Father Luc Adelar Alecho, a priest and the administrator of the Catholic parish of Marie Reine de Jiba, in Ituri Province’s Welendu Ptisi Sector. The reports stated that the militants reproached him for his homilies urging his congregation to reject armed groups before letting him go.

Some religious leaders reported continued tensions between Christian and Muslim communities in the north. Local leaders expressed concerns that the nomadic Muslim Mbororo herder population was part of an “Islamic invasion” of the country. Sporadic violence between local communities and the Mbororo in Upper and Lower Uele Provinces throughout the year resulted in several deaths. In addition to religious differences, observers stated there were also economic and political concerns linked to the conflict and for that reason it was difficult to categorize these acts as solely based on religious belief.

In April ISIS claimed responsibility for attacks against a government military base that were carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group long-operating in North Kivu Province that proclaimed allegiance to ISIS in 2017 and was publicly recognized by ISIS as an affiliate in late 2018. In conjunction with the April claim of responsibility, ISIS announced the establishment of a new wilayat (province), ISIS–Central Africa. According to civil society sources in the eastern part of the country, these statements highlighted ADF’s desire to promote a strict brand of Islam in the overwhelmingly Christian region of the Great Lakes. Local Christian and Muslim leaders, with vocal support from the government, condemned ADF’s actions.

Leaders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses reported generally positive relations with individuals from other religious groups but noted that 27 cases of assault on or suspected killings of Jehovah’s Witnesses dating from as early as 2015 continued to languish in the court system or were never sent to court for criminal prosecution after the arrests of suspects. They also reported five assaults during the year that they stated were due to their religious beliefs in rural areas of Kwilu, South Kivu, and Sankuru Provinces.

Muslim leaders said that Christian groups sometimes failed to include them in intercommunal dialogues.

During the year, the Anglican Church reported that it was attempting to leave the Church of Christ in Congo, (ECC) a union of more than 70 Protestant denominations, in order to have the ability to act more independently.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

Embassy officials met with official in the Ministries of Justice, Human Rights, and the Interior to discuss religious freedom issues, including government relations with religious organizations. Embassy officials also regularly urged the government, security force leaders, and community and political leaders to refrain from violence and respect the rights of civil society, including religious groups, to assemble and express themselves freely.

Throughout the year, embassy and Washington-based U.S. officials engaged with members of religious groups and human rights organizations. In meetings and discussions with members of the Muslim Association of Congo, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Apostolic nunciature, and Jewish Community of Chabad-Lubavitch of Central Africa, U.S. officials discussed religious groups’ ability to operate within the country, their relationship with the government and other religious organizations, and their freedom to worship and express their religion as they saw fit.

Kenya

Executive Summary

The constitution and other laws and policies prohibit religious discrimination and protect religious freedom, including the freedom to practice any religion or belief through worship, teaching, or observance and to debate religious questions. The constitution provides for special qadi courts to adjudicate certain types of civil cases based on Islamic law. Human rights and Muslim religious organizations stated that certain Muslim communities, especially ethnic Somalis, continued to be the target of government-directed extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention. The government denied directing such actions. The Registrar of Societies again did not register any new religious organizations pending completion of revised Religious Societies Rules, which had not been finalized at year’s end, and approximately 4,400 religious group applications remained pending. In January the Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision that required a publicly funded school to allow Muslim students to wear the hijab, citing faults in the petition process but encouraging the parties to file a new suit using correct procedures so the court could rule on the merits of the case. The judgment directed the board of the school to provide exemptions for students to wear clothing in accordance with their religious beliefs, but some Muslims interpreted the ruling as permission for officials to ban the hijab. A court ruled in September that a secondary school broke the law by asking a student to shave her dreadlocks, stating that Rastafarianism is a religion.

The Somalia-based terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (al-Shabaab) again carried out attacks in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Lamu Counties in the northeastern part of the country and said the group had targeted non-Muslims because of their faith. On February 16, media reported that al-Shabaab killed three Christian teachers at a primary school in Wajir County, a predominantly Muslim region. There were again reports of religiously motivated threats of societal violence and intolerance, such as members of Muslim communities threatening individuals who converted from Islam to Christianity. In February a group of men believed to be Somali Muslims reportedly beat and raped a Somali mother of four in Dadaab refugee camp because she converted to Christianity. In April a pastor in Garissa, who ministered to former Muslims in an underground church, was reportedly beaten unconscious by a group of Muslims and hospitalized. Muslim minority groups, particularly those of Somali descent, reported continued harassment by non-Muslims. Some religious and political leaders, however, stated tolerance improved during the year, citing extensive interfaith efforts to build peace between communities. Prominent religious leaders representing the main faiths in the country issued a joint statement condemning the January 15 attack at the Dusit D2 hotel in Nairobi by five al-Shabaab terrorists that killed 21 persons, including one U.S. citizen. Unlike the 2013 terrorist attack at Westgate Mall, there were few reports of reprisal attacks against Muslim communities. A survey by the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK), a national interfaith umbrella group, examined the extent of freedom of religion and belief in two coastal counties, Mombasa and Kwale. The study targeted youth, community members, teachers, women, religious leaders, government officials, and peace organizations. Findings indicated the perceived level of religious tolerance was 37.3 percent, and the perceived level of government intolerance to religions was 46.4 percent.

U.S. embassy officials emphasized the importance of respecting religious freedom in meetings with government officials, especially underscoring the role of interfaith dialogue in stemming religious intolerance and countering violent extremism related to religion. In June embassy representatives participated in an interfaith iftar as part of an embassy-sponsored program to support efforts by IRCK to strengthen understanding, respect, and acceptance within multifaith communities in Nairobi and Mombasa Counties. In September the Ambassador hosted an interfaith roundtable to build relationships with religious leaders and discuss efforts to improve tolerance and inclusion. The embassy hosted roundtables and other events that brought individuals of diverse faiths together to discuss religious tolerance and build mutual understanding.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 49.1 million (midyear 2019 estimate), of which approximately 83 percent is Christian and 11 percent Muslim. Groups constituting less than 2 percent of the population include Hindus, Sikhs, and Baha’is. Much of the remaining 4-5 percent of the population adheres to various traditional religious beliefs. Nonevangelical Protestants account for 48 percent of the population, Roman Catholics 23 percent, and other Christian denominations, including evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals, 12 percent. Most of the Muslim population lives in the northeast and coastal regions, where religion and ethnicity (e.g., Somali and Mijikenda ethnic groups) are often linked. There are approximately 217,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the Dadaab refugee camps, mostly ethnic Somali Muslims. The Kakuma refugee camp has approximately 193,000 refugees, including Somalis, South Sudanese, and Ethiopians, who practice a variety of religions.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution stipulates there shall be no state religion and prohibits religious discrimination. The constitution provides for freedom of religion and belief individually or in communities, including the freedom to manifest any religion through worship, practice, teaching, or observance. The constitution also states individuals shall not be compelled to act or engage in any act contrary to their belief or religion. These rights shall not be limited except by law, and then only to the extent that the limitation is “reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society.”

The constitution requires parliament to enact legislation recognizing a system of personal and family law adhered to by persons professing a particular religion. The constitution also specifically provides for qadi courts to adjudicate certain types of civil cases based on Islamic law, including questions relating to personal status, marriage, divorce, or inheritance in cases in which “all the parties profess the Muslim religion.” The country’s secular High Court has jurisdiction over civil or criminal proceedings, including those in the qadi courts, and accepts appeals of any qadi court decision.

Although there is no penal law referring to blasphemy, a section of the penal code states that destroying, damaging, or defiling any place of worship or object held sacred with the intention of insulting the religion of any class of persons is a misdemeanor. This offense carries a penalty of a fine or up to two years in prison but is reportedly rarely prosecuted using this law. Crimes against church property are more likely to be treated as malicious destruction of property, which is also a misdemeanor.

According to the law, new religious groups, institutions or places of worship, and faith-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) must register with the Registrar of Societies, which reports to the Attorney General’s Office. Indigenous and traditional religious groups are not required to register, and many do not. To register, applicants must have valid national identification documents, pay a fee, and undergo security screening. Registered religious institutions and places of worship may apply for tax-exempt status, including exemption from duty on imported goods. The law also requires that organizations dedicated to advocacy, public benefit, the promotion of charity, or research register with the NGO Coordination Board.

All public schools have religious education classes taught by government funded teachers. The national curriculum mandates religious classes, and students may not opt out. Some public schools offer religious education options, usually Christian or Islamic studies, but are not required to offer both.

The law establishes fees for multiple steps in the marriage process, which apply to all marriages, religious or secular. All officiants are required to purchase an annual license, and all public marriage venues must be registered. Officiants must be appointed by a registered religious group to conduct marriages in order to purchase the license.

The Ministry of Information, Communications, and Technology must approve regional radio and television broadcast licenses, including for religious organizations.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

Human rights groups and prominent Muslim leaders and religious organizations continued to state the government’s antiterrorism activities disproportionately impacted Muslims, especially ethnic Somalis and particularly in areas along the Somalia border. According to these groups, the government’s actions reportedly included extrajudicial killing, torture and forced interrogation, arbitrary arrest, detention without trial, and denial of freedom of assembly and worship. The government denied directing such actions. The government took steps, described by human rights organizations as limited and uneven, to address cases of alleged unlawful killings by security force members. The governmental Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), established to provide civilian oversight of the work of police, continued to refer cases of police misconduct to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution for prosecution.

In August Kenya Defenses Forces personnel killed ethnic Somali Muslim Abdullahi Kasim Yusuf, allegedly after he entered a Garissa military camp. The death led to local protests, and human rights defenders in the area called for an investigation, alleging other abuses by security forces in the region and stating there had been little accountability. In September security officers shot and killed two Muslims in Mombasa and Kwale whom they alleged were connected to terrorism and criminal activities. The men’s relatives and the NGO Muslims for Human Rights said the men were victims of extrajudicial killings and called for IPOA to investigate.

The Registrar of Societies continued not to register any new religious organizations pending completion of revised Religious Societies Rules, which had not been finalized at year’s end, and approximately 4,400 religious group applications remained pending.

In January the Supreme Court overturned on procedural grounds a lower court decision that required a publicly funded school in Isiolo County to allow Muslim students to wear the hijab, citing faults in the petition process. While the court’s decision included language recognizing the importance of accommodating religious dress in schools, some Muslims interpreted the ruling as permission for officials to ban the hijab. The court invited interested parties to file a new lawsuit following correct procedures so that it could rule on the merits of the case. The decision further directed the board of the school involved in the original petition to consult with parents and provide exemptions for students to wear clothing in accordance with their religious beliefs. The court also urged the secretary for education to establish new guidelines to better protect religious freedom in schools. In public statements, the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims highlighted what it called positive messages in the court’s ruling in what observers stated was an effort to defuse anger in the Muslim community.

The High Court ruled in September that a secondary school broke the law by asking a student to shave her dreadlocks, stating they were a manifestation of her religious beliefs as a member of the Rastafarian religion. The court ruling contained a permanent injunction restraining the school’s administration from interfering with the student’s education based on her religious beliefs, specifically mentioning her dreadlocks. The school had previously expelled the student for wearing her dreadlocks in a turban, after which her family sought redress and the court in January ordered the school to allow her to return pending a verdict in the case.

Christian televangelist Paul Makenzi of the Good News International Ministries, who was arrested in 2017 with his wife Joyce Mwikamba and charged with radicalizing children in Malindi, remained free on bail and resumed preaching while awaiting a court ruling on his case.

Muslim leaders continued to state that police often linked the whole Muslim community to al-Shabaab. IPOA reported numerous complaints from predominantly Muslim communities, particularly in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi, regarding intimidation, arbitrary arrest, and extortion by police. Some complainants stated police accused them of being members of al-Shabaab.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab again carried out attacks in Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, and Lamu Counties in the northeastern part of the country and said the group had targeted non-Muslims because of their faith. Authorities received numerous reports of terrorist attacks in the northeast of the country bordering Somalia by al-Shabaab and its sympathizers that targeted non-Muslims. On February 16, media reported that al-Shabaab killed three Christian teachers at a primary school in Wajir County, a predominantly Muslim region. Al-Shabaab remained the focus of government antiterror and police efforts throughout the northeast and coastal region.

In April a group of men believed to be Somali Muslims, according to Christian media, reportedly beat unconscious a pastor in Garissa who ministered to former Muslims in an underground church. Following his hospitalization, media reported the pastor moved with his family to a safer location.

In August a group of Muslims reportedly prevented an attack against Christians in the northern part of the country. According to Christian media, individuals affiliated with al-Shabaab planned to attack Christians working at a construction site for a new hospital in Kutulo. Muslims who heard of the planned attack went to the site to warn Christian workers to flee and confronted the gunmen when they arrived. The attackers reportedly opened fire, but there were no injuries.

According to NGO sources, some Muslim community leaders and their families were threatened with violence or death, especially individuals who had converted from Islam to Christianity and those of Somali ethnic origin. In February, according to Christian media, Somali Muslims beat and raped a Somali mother of four in Dadaab refugee camp because she converted to Christianity. They reportedly threatened her for more than a year to return to Islam.

Some interreligious NGOs and political leaders said religious tensions were not as high as in previous years, citing extensive interfaith efforts to build peace between communities. For example, the national interfaith umbrella group IRCK implemented several programs to promote interfaith acceptance in diverse communities. In several instances, national religious leaders representing the IRCK used their influence to help resolve violent conflicts, particularly among youths. Other community-level religious leaders came together to learn about each other’s faiths. Following the January 15 al-Shabaab attack at the Dusit D2 hotel in Nairobi that left 21 persons dead, including one American, Muslim, Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal, and other religious leaders condemned the attack in a joint press release that conveyed a united stance against terrorism and appealed for peace. Threats of reprisal against Muslim communities after the incident appeared largely on social media, in contrast to the widespread physical attacks against Muslims that occurred after the 2013 Westgate terrorist attack.

There were reports that, in general, non-Muslims continued to harass or treat with suspicion persons of Somali origin, who are predominantly Muslim. Police officers often did not serve in their home regions, and therefore officers in some Muslim majority areas were largely non-Muslim.

A survey by IRCK examined the extent of freedom of religion and belief in two coastal counties, Mombasa and Kwale. The study targeted youth, community members, teachers, women, religious leaders, government officials, and peace organizations. Findings indicated the perceived level of religious tolerance was 37.3 percent, and the perceived level of government intolerance to religions was 46.4 percent. Those surveyed cited extrajudicial killings of suspects of terror activities as a primary driver of marginalization and intolerance. Most respondents, 56.9 percent, believed attacks on other religions were responsible for hatred between religious groups. Less than half, 41.2 percent, believed the government “treated religions well.”

In February the National Council of Churches of Kenya proposed constitutional changes to limit the role of qadi courts, triggering claims of intolerance by some Muslim organizations and causing a significant rift for much of the year. IRCK leadership finally resolved the issue through discussions and mediation.

Religious leaders representing interfaith groups, including the Anglican, Catholic, evangelical Protestant, Muslim, and Hindu communities, continued to engage with political parties and the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission in the national reconciliation process initiated after violent 2017 presidential elections. In December representatives of a number of religious organizations participated in a National Dialogue Reference Group conference to promote national healing and identify social cohesion challenges.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

Embassy officials emphasized the importance of respecting religious freedom in meetings with government officials, including senior police officials and local governments in the coastal region, especially stressing the role of interfaith dialogue in stemming religious intolerance and countering religiously based violent extremism. Embassy staff continued to engage senior officials to underscore the importance of addressing human rights abuses by security forces, including those limiting freedom of worship, and supported a number of programs to improve police accountability.

The Ambassador and embassy staff met frequently with religious leaders and groups, including the IRCK, Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics, Interfaith Council of Kenya, Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, Hindu Council of Kenya, National Muslim Leaders Forum, Alliance of Registered Churches & Ministries Founders, and National Council of Churches of Kenya. Topics of discussion included the importance of religious groups in countering religiously based extremism and seeking guidance from religious leaders on human rights issues.

The Ambassador hosted an interfaith roundtable in September to build relationships with national leaders from various faiths, including representatives of the Christian, Muslim, and Hindu faiths. Participants discussed building tolerance between and among faiths and the critical role religious leaders play in peacebuilding efforts. The Ambassador encouraged the religious leaders to counter the divisive and inflammatory rhetoric of politicians and focus on building bridges between ethnic and religious groups as the nation prepares for 2022 national elections.

Embassy officials met individually with religious and civic leaders to urge them to continue to work across sectarian lines to reaffirm the importance of religious freedom, tolerance, and diversity. The embassy encouraged faith communities and other societal figures to see religious diversity as a national strength rather than a source of strife and division.

Malawi

Executive Summary

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on religion and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, belief, and thought. In October a standoff between an Anglican parish and Muslim communities in Balaka District over the wearing of hijabs by Muslim female students led to four government-funded schools being closed for eight weeks. The standoff also led to violence between the groups in November. On November 5, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology clarified its stand on wearing the hijab as being a “nondiscrimination approach” that allows religious dress in schools. A court case involving a Rastafarian child’s ability to attend school with dreadlocks remained pending, and by court order, the child was able to attend school with his hair intact pending conclusion of the litigation.

In May the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a multidenominational civil society governance organization, and the government held interfaith national prayers for peaceful general elections. In December PAC again held national prayers to promote religious tolerance ahead of the anticipated Constitutional Court verdict on a presidential election challenge case.

A U.S. embassy official discussed interfaith coexistence and faith leaders’ relationship with the government with the general secretary of the Malawi Council of Churches and with officers of the Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM), the second largest Muslim association in the country. U.S. embassy officials, along with U.S. Africa Command military chaplains, also engaged Malawi Defense Force chaplains and PAC to discuss religious issues in the country. U.S. embassy officials regularly met with leaders of religious groups on issues of religious freedom and tolerance.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 20.5 million (midyear 2019 estimate); the 2018 Malawi Population and Housing Census estimated the total population at 17.6 million. According to the 2018 census, 77.3 percent of the population is Christian and 13.8 percent Muslim. Christian denominations include Roman Catholics at 17.2 percent of the total population, Central Africa Presbyterians at 14.2 percent, Seventh-day Adventist/Seventh-day Baptists (the survey groups the two into one category) at 9.4 percent, Anglicans at 2.3 percent, and Pentecostals at 7.6 percent. Another 26.6 percent fall under the “other Christians” category. Individuals stating no religious affiliation are 2.1 percent, and 5.6 percent represent other religious groups, including Hindus, Baha’is, Rastafarians, Jews, and Sikhs.

The vast majority of Muslims are Sunni. Most Sunnis of African descent follow the Shafi’i school of Islamic legal thought, while the smaller community of mostly ethnic Asians mostly follows the Hanafi school. There is also a small number of Shia Muslims, mostly of Lebanese origin.

According to the 2018 census, there are two majority-Muslim districts, Mangochi (72.6 percent) and Machinga (66.9 percent). These neighboring districts at the southern end of Lake Malawi account for more than half of all Muslims in the country. Most other Muslims live near the shores of Lake Malawi. Christians are present throughout the country.

Traditional cultural practices with a spiritual dimension are sometimes practiced by Christians and Muslims. For example, the gule wamkulu spirit dancers remain of importance among ethnic Chewas, who are concentrated in the central region of the country.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, belief, and thought. These rights may be limited only when the president declares a state of emergency.

The law states that holders of broadcast licenses “shall not broadcast any material which is…offensive to the religious convictions of any section of the population.”

Religious groups must register with the government to be recognized as legal entities. To do so, groups must submit documentation detailing the structure and mission of their organization and pay a fee of 1,000 kwacha ($1). The government reviews the application for administrative compliance only. According to the government, registration does not constitute endorsement of religious beliefs, nor is it a prerequisite for religious activities. Registration allows a religious group to acquire land, rent property in its own name, and obtain utility services such as water and electricity.

The law authorizes religious groups, regardless of registration status, to import certain goods duty free. These include religious paraphernalia, vehicles used for worship-related purposes, and office equipment. In practice, however, the Ministry of Finance rarely grants duty exemptions even to registered groups.

Detainees have a right to consult with a religious counselor of their choice.

Religious instruction is mandatory in public primary schools, with no opt-out provision, and is available as an elective in public secondary schools. According to the constitution, eliminating religious intolerance is a goal of education. In some schools, the religious curriculum is a Christian-oriented “Bible knowledge” course, while in others it is an interfaith “moral and religious education” course drawing from the Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Baha’i faiths. According to the law, local school management committees, elected at parent-teacher association meetings, decide on which religious curriculum to use. Private Christian and Islamic schools offer religious instruction in their respective faiths. Hybrid “grant-aided” schools are managed by private, usually religious, institutions, but their teaching staffs are paid by the government. In exchange for this financial support, the government chooses a significant portion of the students who attend. At grant-aided schools, a board appointed by the school’s operators decides whether the “Bible knowledge” or the “moral and religious education” curriculum will be used.

Foreign missionaries are required to have employment permits.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

QMAM reported that some female students were asked to remove their hijab in order to have their pictures taken for the secondary school examination identification cards. Muslim organizations also continued to request the education ministry to discontinue use of the “Bible knowledge” course and use only the broader-based “moral and religious education” curriculum in primary schools, particularly in predominantly Muslim areas. According to Saiti Jambo, QMAM executive director, the issue arose most frequently in grant-aided, Catholic-operated schools.

According to media reports, conflicts often arose related to school dress codes prescribing a particular uniform and appearance that did not allow female students to wear the hijab. Beginning in October, a disagreement between the Anglican parish and Muslim communities in Balaka (a district in the southern part of the country) arose over the wearing of hijabs by Muslim female students attending Anglican schools receiving government funds. Four Anglican primary schools were closed for as long as eight weeks due to the standoff. Fighting between the groups broke out in early November after two Muslim girls wearing the hijab were prevented from attending a government school run by the Anglican Church, the M’manga Primary School, which is located in a part of the country where Muslims are the largest religious group.

On November 5, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology clarified its stand on wearing the hijab by Muslim female students as being a “nondiscrimination approach” that allows religious dress in schools. The ministry added that concerns about dress codes in schools run by faith-based organizations were forwarded to PAC for consultations, which PAC Publicity Secretary Bishop Gilford Matongax said would help the government in responding to concerns.

In November Alhaji Twaibe Lawe, secretary general of the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), the largest Muslim association in the country, said the Department of Road Traffic and Safety Services would allow women to wear the hijab for their driver’s license photograph; some photographers from the department previously had asked women to remove their hijabs before taking the photographs.

The court case that commenced in 2017 of a Rastafarian child who was selected through a highly competitive process to attend Malindi Secondary School in Zomba and then denied enrollment due to his dreadlocks continued during the year. A hearing scheduled for December 3 did not take place because the judge was not available. The Malawi Human Rights Commission officially joined the case as a plaintiff in 2018, filing an amicus brief on behalf of the student. National school policy usually requires children to wear closely shaven hair to attend. In January 2017 the solicitor general affirmed Rastafarian children’s constitutional rights to education. The child was allowed to attend school with dreadlocks after the Zomba High Court ordered in December 2017 that he be enrolled pending the conclusion of litigation initiated by the Malawi Women Lawyers Association on his behalf. The attorney for the student stated she had accepted a second case of a Rastafarian student denied school access because of dreadlocks in December and was working to consolidate the cases. She had requested that the existing injunction be broadened to cover all Rastafarian students.

Rastafarians continued to object to the laws making use and possession of cannabis a criminal offense in country, stating its use is a part of their religious doctrine.

Religious organizations and leaders regularly expressed their opinions on political issues, and their statements received coverage in the media. In April prior to general elections in May, the Nkhoma Synod of the Central Africa Presbyterian Church (CCAP) released a pastoral letter condemning endemic corruption, discouraging political violence, and calling on the Malawi Electoral Commission to avoid election fraud and rigging. In June following the elections, the Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP released a preliminary statement saying that the elections were generally free but that the synod was unable to attest to their credibility and fairness.

Most government meetings and events began and ended with a prayer, usually Christian in nature. At larger events, government officials generally invited clergy of different faiths to participate.

On May 4, PAC facilitated an event entitled “National Prayers for Peaceful Elections,” inviting leaders of multiple faiths to address the audience. All presidential candidates were present except the incumbent. The candidates signed a peace declaration during the prayers.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

In May both PAC and the government held national prayers for peace ahead of the general elections. Both interfaith events were televised and well attended by religious leaders, politicians, government officials, civil society, the diplomatic community, and the public. In December PAC also convened national prayers for upholding peace, the rule of law, and coexistence ahead of the Constitutional Court verdict on the presidential election challenge case. Both the vice president and the leader of the main opposition party were in attendance.

Religious groups operated at least 18 radio and 10 television stations. Approximately 80 percent of the radio stations were Christian affiliated, while 20 percent were Muslim affiliated.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

An embassy official discussed interfaith coexistence and religious leaders’ and organizations’ relationships with the government with the general secretary of the Malawi Council of Churches and with officers of QMAM. In December embassy officials and visiting U.S. Africa Command military chaplains met with chaplains of the Malawi Defense Force and three senior leaders of PAC to discuss religious and interfaith issues, including the conflict between Anglican and Muslim communities in Balaka schools. Embassy officials also regularly met with leaders of religious groups on issues of religious freedom and tolerance.

Embassy officials also engaged representatives of religious groups, including MAM, regarding girls being denied access to school for wearing headscarves. They also discussed with leaders of the Rastafarian community the issue of Rastafarian children with dreadlocks being denied access to school. Embassy officials attended national prayers in May and December.

Rwanda

Executive Summary

The constitution and other laws prohibit religious discrimination and provide for freedom of religion and worship. The law requires faith-based organizations (FBOs) to obtain legal status before beginning operations. It also calls for legal representatives of FBOs and preachers with supervisory responsibilities to hold academic degrees. During the year, the government allowed some of the 8,760 churches, mosques, and other places of worship that were closed in 2018 for violating health and safety standards and/or noise pollution ordinances to reopen after they made required infrastructure improvements. As of December 5, the government reported that 2,016 places of worship had been allowed to reopen.

Jehovah’s Witnesses reported government-subsidized Roman Catholic schools required all students to attend Mass regardless of personal faith. Religious leaders reported numerous faith-based groups and associations contributed to greater understanding and tolerance by participating in interfaith meetings, organizing activities under the auspices of an interfaith religious leaders’ forum, and collaborating on community development projects.

The Ambassador and other U.S. embassy representatives engaged the government to discuss the FBO law and its implementation. Embassy representatives consulted with FBOs to identify ambiguities in the law and raised them with senior government officials. Embassy staff also urged the government to communicate clearly the reasons for closing a specific place of worship on health and safety grounds, make that information available to the public, and work with the affected FBO to identify required infrastructure improvements. The embassy hosted interfaith events, including an iftar, where religious freedom and tolerance were among the key messages. The Ambassador hosted an interfaith lunch for representatives of the Anglican Church, Lutheran Church, Muslim community, and evangelical Christian churches and emphasized the importance of interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 12.5 million (midyear 2019). According to the 2012 census, the population is 44 percent Catholic; 38 percent Protestant, including Anglican, Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, and evangelical Christian churches; 12 percent Seventh-day Adventist; 2 percent Muslim; and 0.7 percent Jehovah’s Witnesses. Several other small religious groups, together constituting less than 1 percent of the population, include animists, Baha’is, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a small Jewish community consisting entirely of foreigners. Approximately 2.5 percent of the population holds no religious beliefs. The head office of the Rwanda Muslim Community (RMC) stated Muslims could constitute as much as 12 to 15 percent of the population. The majority of Muslims are Sunni, with a small number of Shia (200-300), according to the RMC. While generally there are no concentrations of religious groups in certain geographic areas, a significant number of Muslims live in the Nyamirambo neighborhood of Kigali.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of conscience, religion, worship, and public manifestation thereof even when the government declares a state of emergency. Exercising these rights may be subject to limitations to ensure respect of others’ rights and good morals, public order, and social welfare. The constitution bars political parties based on religious affiliation. The penal code stipulates religious discrimination is punishable by five to seven years in prison and fines of 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandan francs ($540 to $1,100).

Under the law determining the organization and functioning of FBOs, which include religious groups and nongovernmental organizations associated with religious groups, any organization, umbrella organization, or ministry that intends to begin operations must obtain legal status from the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB). According to the law, an FBO must submit the following to obtain legal status: an application letter addressed to the RGB; notarized statutes governing its organization; the address of its head office and the names of its legal representative and his/her deputy, their duties, full address, and criminal records; a document certifying the legal representative and his/her deputy were appointed in accordance with its statutes; a brief notarized statement explaining its doctrine; a notarized declaration of the legal representatives of the organization of consent to the responsibilities assigned to them; notarized minutes of the group’s general assembly that established the organization, approved its statutes, and appointed members of its organs; a notarized document describing the organization’s annual action plan and source of funding; a document indicating the building that meets the requirements of the building code of the area of operation; a letter issued by district authorities agreeing to collaborate with the organization; a partnership document issued by an umbrella organization of the organization’s choosing; and proof of payment of a nonrefundable application fee. The law states the RGB must either issue a certificate of legal personality within 60 days of the date of receipt of the application or, in case of denial, send a written notice explaining the reasons for the denial within 30 days of the date of receipt of the application. Under the law, FBOs that already held legal personality as of September 10, 2018, when the current law was passed, are not required to reapply but must harmonize their functioning and statutes with the current law and submit the revised statutes to the RGB within 12 months of the law’s enactment.

Under the law, if the RGB denies the FBO’s application for legal status, the FBO may reapply when the reason for denial no longer exists.

The law stipulates that preachers with supervisory responsibilities must possess a degree in religious studies from an institution of higher learning or any other degree with a valid certificate in religious studies issued by a recognized institution. The law also requires that an FBO’s legal representative hold a degree from an institution of higher learning. The law states that persons required to hold an academic degree shall have five years from the date of the law’s enactment to comply with the requirement.

By law, new public servants must take an oath of loyalty, which includes the phrase “so help me God.” Those who do not fulfill the requirement forfeit their position. The law does not make accommodations for those whose beliefs are not consistent with this requirement.

The law establishes fines of one to two million Rwandan francs ($1,100 to $2,200) and imprisonment from one to two years for any individual who obstructs the practice of religious rituals. The law also prohibits public defamation of rituals, symbols, and “religious cult objects.” The penalty is imprisonment for a term of not less than 15 days but less than three months and a fine of 100,000 to 200,000 Rwandan francs ($110 to $220), or only one of these penalties.

The law regulates public meetings and states that any person who holds a meeting or demonstration in a public place without prior authorization is subject to eight days’ to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandan francs ($540 to $1,100), or both. Penalties increase if the illegal meeting or demonstration is found to have threatened security, public order, or health. The law states that religious sermons must be delivered in designated facilities that meet the requirements of the law and that if an FBO intends to organize a special public gathering, it must seek authorization from the competent authority.

Under the law, FBOs are prohibited from causing noise pollution. Offenders are subject to a fine of 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandan francs ($540 to $1,100), and repeat offenders are subject to increased fines and up to one month’s imprisonment. By law, FBOs may not use their faith, religious practices, and preaching to jeopardize national unity, peace and security, public order and health, good morals, good conduct, freedom, or the fundamental rights of others.

All students in public primary school and the first three years of secondary education must take a survey class on world religions, ethics, and citizenship. The Ministry of Education establishes the curriculum. The law does not specify either opt-out provisions or penalties for not taking part in the class. The law allows parents to enroll their children in private religious schools.

The government subsidizes some schools affiliated with religious groups. A presidential order guarantees students attending any government-subsidized school the right to worship according to their beliefs during the school day, as long as their religious groups are registered in the country and the students’ worship practices do not interfere with learning and teaching activities. The order does not stipulate any procedure for arranging special accommodations.

The law states FBOs may give their opinions on social or faith-related matters but may not engage in political activities to gain political power, organize debates to support political organizations or political candidates, register, or use any other means to support candidates for any public office.

Every foreign missionary must have a temporary resident permit and a foreign identity card. Specific requirements to obtain the permit (valid for two years and renewable) include a signed curriculum vitae, an original police clearance from the country of prior residence, an authorization letter from the parent organization, and a fee of 100,000 Rwandan francs ($110).

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

During the year, some of the 8,760 places of worship across the country that the government had closed in 2018 because of what it deemed were violations of health and safety standards and/or noise pollution ordinances were allowed to reopen their physical premises after making the required infrastructure improvements, according to religious leaders. Many other facilities remained shuttered. As of December 5, the government reported that 2,016 places of worship had been allowed to reopen. Authorities again stated that the closures were necessary to protect the health of worshippers and stressed that while some places of worship had been closed, religious organizations had not been closed. In many cases, those congregations whose buildings remained closed opted to hold worship services in hotels, private residences, or buildings belonging to other congregations. Some of the affected groups reported that authorities clearly communicated the reasons for the closures and the steps needed to reopen. Others stated that authorities did not clearly explain which deficiencies needed to be remedied and that their places of worship remained closed as a result. These religious groups and other observers continued to express skepticism regarding the government’s actual motivation for closing the places of worship.

Amazing Grace, a Christian radio station, remained closed throughout the year. The Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) had revoked the station’s broadcasting license in April 2018 because of complaints about a January 2018 broadcast of a sermon by local Pastor Nicolas Niyibikora in which he said women were “dangerous creatures of evil, going against God’s plans.” RURA had also ordered the station’s owner to apologize for Niyibikora’s remarks and pay a fine. In May a court rejected the station’s owner’s suit against RURA and the Rwanda Media Commission for violating his right to opinion and conscience, ruling the station should have complied with RURA’s sanctions. On October 7, the station’s owner, a U.S. citizen, was arrested and deported to the United States. Authorities stated the owner was arrested because he attempted to hold a press conference on a public street without a permit. The director general of immigration and emigration told press the owner was deported as a prohibited immigrant because of his involvement in “activities that cause public disorder.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses reported in some cases they could negotiate alternatives to participating in compulsory community night patrols. Jehovah’s Witnesses explained that they considered these night patrols to be similar to military service, which their faith prohibits.

Jehovah’s Witnesses students were reportedly punished and dismissed from school for not attending religious services at school or not participating in military and patriotic activities at school. For example, 25 students were reportedly dismissed from school in January in Rutsiro District after they refused to sing the national anthem and participate in prayers. Jehovah’s Witnesses reported government-subsidized Catholic schools required all students to attend Mass regardless of their personal faith.

Government officials and religious leaders stated that unregistered religious groups received a significant degree of government scrutiny of their leadership, activities, and registration application until they obtained FBO registration under the law. Small religious congregations sometimes affiliated with larger registered organizations in order to operate.

Jehovah’s Witnesses continued to pursue judicial remedies for civil servants and teachers dismissed for refusing to swear an oath on the flag. Jehovah’s Witnesses reported that authorities included the names of those dismissed over the issue of oath-taking on an online list of persons considered unsuitable for public service, making it difficult for these individuals to obtain employment in the private sector as well. Jehovah’s Witnesses leadership engaged with officials in the Office of the President to discuss the matter, but as of year’s end, the legal requirement that civil servants and teachers swear an oath on the flag remained in place.

Government officials and religious leaders stated that both Christian and Islamic places of worship were affected by noise ordinance restrictions and were required to limit the volume on their sound equipment. Some places of worship were also required to install soundproofing materials.

Government officials presiding over wedding ceremonies generally required couples to comply with the legal requirement that they take a pledge while touching the national flag. Jehovah’s Witnesses continued to reject this legal requirement on religious grounds but were not able to obtain a waiver. Jehovah’s Witnesses said the requirement made it difficult for them to marry legally because few officials were willing to perform the ceremony without the flag oath. For some Jehovah’s Witnesses, placing their hands on a Bible on top of the flag was an acceptable alternative.

Muslim community leaders reported that they maintained a collaborative relationship with the Rwanda National Police and continued to work to combat extremism and radicalization in the Muslim community. Leaders reported that they conducted training throughout the year to educate young Muslims about the dangers of extremism.

On April 20, President Paul Kagame attended the launch of Hindu prayers called Ram Katha at the Kigali Convention Center.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Religious leaders reported numerous religious groups and associations contributed to greater religious understanding and tolerance by participating in interfaith meetings and collaborating on public awareness campaigns. During the year, the Rwanda Religious Leaders Forum (RRLF), an organization under the joint leadership of the Grand Mufti of Rwanda and Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, and evangelical Christian leaders, continued to pursue its stated aim of strengthening interfaith collaboration on education, combating gender-based violence, and promoting socioeconomic development, unity, and reconciliation. Activities included campaigns against child abuse, child labor, malnutrition, and drug abuse. In January the RRLF also signed a memorandum of understanding with the government in which it agreed to partner on programs to promote gender equity and fight gender-based violence.

In September the country’s first synagogue opened in Kigali.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

Embassy representatives engaged with government officials, including RGB staff responsible for FBO registration, to discuss the FBO law and its implementation. Embassy representatives consulted with FBOs to identify ambiguities in the law and raised them with senior government officials. Embassy representatives also urged the government to communicate clearly the reasons for closing a specific place of worship on health and safety grounds, make that information available to the public, and work with the affected religious group to develop a plan to address any shortcomings with respect to health and safety standards and noise pollution ordinances.

The embassy hosted interfaith discussions focused on religious diversity and included members of different religious groups in public outreach programs it conducted during the year. In September the Ambassador hosted an event for representatives of the Anglican Church, Lutheran Church, Muslim community, and evangelical Christian churches. The Ambassador emphasized the importance of interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance. In June the Ambassador hosted an iftar attended by approximately 50 guests, including the Grand Mufti of Rwanda and representatives from the government, diplomatic corps, local universities, as well as members of the Muslim community. In his remarks, the Ambassador emphasized the U.S. commitment to promoting religious liberty, called for people of all religious groups to be allowed to practice their faith freely and without fear, and recognized the Muslim community for providing strong support to the reconciliation process in the 25 years following the 1994 genocide. The Ambassador and embassy officials also engaged religious leaders through the Rwanda Religious Leaders Forum.

Tanzania

Executive Summary

The constitutions of the union government and of the semiautonomous government in Zanzibar both prohibit religious discrimination and provide for freedom of religious choice. Since independence, the country has been governed by alternating Christian and Muslim presidents. Twenty-two members of the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation (UAMSHO), an Islamist group advocating for Zanzibar’s full autonomy, remained in custody without a trial since their arrest in 2013 on terrorism charges. In May the Office of the Registrar of Societies, an entity within the Ministry of Home Affairs charged with overseeing religious organizations, issued a public notice requiring all religious institutions and community faith-based organizations registered under the ministry to verify their registration status with supporting documentation. This countrywide process began in May in Dar es Salaam and the coastal regions and continued in June and July in the Dodoma, Morogoro, Singida, and Manyara Regions. In June a court in Bukoba convicted and sentenced three Muslim men to death for killings committed in 2015 during conflicts between Pentecostal Christians and Muslims. In February police arrested the Itigi town council executive and two game rangers on charges they shot and killed a Seventh-day Adventist Church member during church services. In September press reported the minister of home affairs ordered the arrest of a Pentecostal preacher for noise pollution; the government later clarified that noise pollution laws did not restrict use of church bells or the Islamic call to prayer. In July a local government official closed 13 unregistered churches in the Bukoba Region after reports preachers were charging fees to pray for sick persons.

Witchcraft-related killings continued in the country. According to the Legal and Human Rights Centre midyear report, there were incidents of witchcraft-related killings of children in Njombe and other killings in Mbeya, Dar es Salaam, Iringa, and Simiyu. These killings involved both persons suspected of practicing witchcraft and victims whose body parts were used to make potions.

The embassy organized an interfaith iftar in May for senior Muslim and Christian religious leaders, government representatives, Dar es Salaam interfaith committee members, and journalists. The Charge d’Affaires hosted iftars and interfaith roundtables with religious leaders to promote and highlight the country’s religious diversity. The embassy brought together youth leaders and religious and community leaders to discuss local concerns around violent extremism related to religion and conflict.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 57 million (midyear 2019 estimate). A 2010 Pew Forum survey estimates approximately 61 percent of the population is Christian, 35 percent Muslim, and 4 percent other religious groups. According to the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Christians are approximately evenly divided between Roman Catholics and Protestant denominations. Other local observers believe that Roman Catholics constitute the majority of Christians, with Lutherans as the second biggest denomination. The majority of Muslims are Sunni, although significant minority communities exist of Ismaili, Twelver Shia, Ahmadi, and Ibadi Muslims. A separate 2010 Pew Forum Report estimates more than half of the population practices elements of African traditional religions in their daily lives.

On the mainland, large Muslim communities are concentrated in coastal areas, with some Muslim minorities located inland in urban areas. Christian groups include Roman Catholics, Protestants (including Pentecostal Christian groups), Seventh-day Adventists, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Other groups include Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’is, animists, and those who did not express a religious preference. Zanzibar’s 1.3 million residents are 99 percent Muslim, according to a U.S. government estimate, of whom two-thirds are Sunni, according to a 2012 Pew Forum report. The remainder consists of several Shia groups, mostly of Asian descent.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitutions of the union government and Zanzibar both provide for equality regardless of religion, prohibit discrimination on the basis of religion, and stipulate freedom of conscience or faith and choice in matters of religion, including the freedom to change one’s faith. The union government constitution allows these rights to be limited by law for purposes such as protecting the rights of others; promoting the national interest; and safeguarding defense, safety, peace, morality, and health. The Zanzibar constitution allows the rights to be limited by law if such a limitation is “necessary and agreeable in the democratic system” and does not limit the “foundation” of a constitutional right or bring “more harm” to society.

The law prohibits religious groups from registering as political parties. To register as a political party, an entity may not use religion as a basis to approve membership, nor may the promotion of religion be a policy of that entity.

The law prohibits any person from taking any action or making statements with the intent of insulting the religious beliefs of another person. Anyone committing such an offense is liable to a year’s imprisonment.

On the mainland, secular laws govern Christians and Muslims in both criminal and civil cases. In family-related cases involving inheritance, marriage, divorce, and the adoption of minors, the law also recognizes customary practices, which could include religious practices. In such cases, some Muslims choose to consult religious leaders in lieu of bringing a court case.

Zanzibar, while also subject to the union constitution, has its own president, court system, and legislature. Muslims in Zanzibar have the option of bringing cases to a civil or qadi (Islamic court or judge) court for matters of divorce, child custody, inheritance, and other issues covered by Islamic law. All cases tried in Zanzibar courts, except those involving Zanzibari constitutional matters and sharia, may be appealed to the Union Court of Appeals on the mainland. Decisions of Zanzibar’s qadi courts may be appealed to a special court consisting of the Zanzibar chief justice and five other sheikhs. The President of Zanzibar appoints the chief qadi, who oversees the qadi courts and is recognized as the senior Islamic scholar responsible for interpreting the Quran. There are no qadi courts on the mainland.

Religious groups must register with the Registrar of Societies at the Ministry of Home Affairs on the mainland and with the Office of the Registrar General on Zanzibar. Registration is required by law on both the mainland and in Zanzibar. In June the fines for offenses under the Societies Act, including operating without registration, were increased from a minimum of ten thousand Tanzanian shillings ($4) to a minimum of one million shillings ($440), but not to exceed ten million shillings ($4,400).

To register, religious groups must provide the names of at least 10 members, a written constitution, resumes of their leaders, and a letter of recommendation from the district commissioner. Such groups may then list individual congregations, which do not need separate registration. Muslim groups registering on the mainland must provide a letter of approval from the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (BAKWATA). Muslim groups registering in Zanzibar must provide a letter of approval from the mufti, the government’s official liaison to the Muslim community. Christian groups in Zanzibar may register directly with the registrar general.

On the mainland, BAKWATA elects the mufti. On Zanzibar, the President of Zanzibar appoints the mufti, who serves as a leader of the Muslim community and as a public servant assisting with local governmental affairs. The Mufti of Zanzibar nominally approves all Islamic activities and supervises all mosques on Zanzibar. The mufti also approves religious lectures by visiting Islamic clergy and supervises the importation of Islamic literature from outside Zanzibar.

Public schools may teach religion, but it is not a part of the official national curriculum. School administrations or parent-teacher associations must approve such classes, which are taught on an occasional basis by parents or volunteers. Public school registration forms must specify a child’s religious affiliation so administrators can assign students to the appropriate religion class if one is offered. Students may also choose to opt out of religious studies. Private schools may teach religion, although it is not required, and these schools generally follow the national educational curriculum unless they receive a waiver from the Ministry of Education for a separate curriculum. In public schools, students are allowed to wear the hijab but not the niqab.

The government does not designate religious affiliation on passports or records of vital statistics. Police reports must state religious affiliation if an individual will be required to provide sworn testimony. Applications for medical care must specify religious affiliation so that any specific religious customs may be observed. The law requires the government to record the religious affiliation of every prisoner and to provide facilities for worship for prisoners.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

Twenty-two members of the Association for Islamic Mobilization and Propagation (UAMSHO), an Islamist group advocating for Zanzibar’s full autonomy, remained in custody on the mainland following their arrest in 2013 on terrorism charges. In June during an Eid Al-Adha celebration at the Mtambani Mosque, a leader of the Coalition for Muslim Association, Sheikh Issa Ponda, announced the organization had written a letter to President John Magufuli complaining the government did not handle the case of the UAMSHO members correctly.

In June a court in Bukoba sentenced three Muslim men to death for decapitating four Christians in 2015 during an outbreak of violence that was attributed to religious conflict by legal experts. According to media reports, High Court Justice Lameck Mlacha found the three men guilty of murder based in part on a video that allegedly showed all three men admitting to police and local officials that they had been motivated by their religious convictions. According to prosecutor Hashim Ngole, the three men also were serving prison terms for their involvement in arson attacks on more than a dozen churches in 2015. Ngole said 13 more cases were under investigation from the 2015 church burning and decapitation incidents.

In February police in Singida arrested the Itigi town council executive, Pius Luhende, and two game rangers on charges that they shot and killed a Seventh-day Adventist Church member. According to the media report, the district executive director and game rangers went to collect taxes from the church member as the victim left church services. Church members said they had gathered outside after prayers and saw two Land Cruisers with government license plate numbers enter the church area. They said the three accused attackers fought with several church members before shooting the victim.

In September Minister of Home Affairs Kangi Lugola instructed police to arrest Pentecostal Power Ministries preacher Eliya Mahela for noise pollution after residents complained of noise coming from his church. While Mahela was released, the case remained under investigation at year’s end. During a tour of the area in which the church was located, Lugola also made a general call for the arrest of those causing what he termed noise pollution. According to interfaith religious leaders, the government later met with religious leaders and said the noise pollution law would not be used to stop the ringing of church bells or the Islamic call to prayer.

In July Karagwe District Commissioner Godfrey Mheruka closed 13 unregistered churches in the Bukoba Region. According to the media, the pastors of the churches, who were from Rwanda and Burundi, charged fees to sick individuals seeking prayers as treatment. Approximately 25 persons, mostly women and children, were taken from the churches by authorities to a government hospital to receive medical treatment.

As of year’s end, religious leaders reported the government had not implemented the policy change on tax exemptions for charitable in-kind donations. In 2018 the Tanzanian Revenue Authority (TRA) announced that religious organizations would no longer receive automatic tax exemptions for charitable in-kind donations and would be required submit individual requests to the TRA to receive tax exemptions on donations.

The government used various public forums to emphasize that religious organizations should be self-funded and not rely on international donors.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Witchcraft-related killings continued in the country, although the government outlawed witchcraft in 2015. According to the Legal and Human Rights Centre’s midyear report, there were incidents of witchcraft-related killings in Njombe, Mbeya, Dar es Salaam, Iringa, and Simiyu. In March police arrested 65 individuals described as “witchdoctors” on suspicion of involvement in the ritual killing of at least 10 children. Civil society organization representatives, religious leaders, and politicians condemned the killings.

The Interreligious Council for Peace Tanzania continued its work as an independent body representing more than 120 groups nationally. The groups provide a platform for interfaith dialogue on social issues facing communities throughout the country.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

During the year, the embassy supported interfaith dialogue through iftars, programs, and partnerships with nongovernmental organizations. In May the embassy organized an interfaith iftar to promote interfaith dialogue attended by senior Muslim and Christian religious leaders, government representatives, Dar es Salaam interfaith committee members, journalists, and former participants in U.S. government exchange programs. The Charge d’Affaires’ remarks included issues of tolerance and religious freedom. The representative of the Chief Mufti of BAKWATA also mentioned the importance of tolerance and religious freedom in his speech.

The U.S. embassy brought together youth and religious and community leaders to discuss local concerns around violent extremism related to religion and conflict. The program included town hall meetings and information sessions that addressed issues of religious intolerance. The embassy provided small grants to youth groups in five districts to help establish an interfaith dialogue platform between Christians and Muslims.

The U.S. government continued to support programs with religious communities in Kagera, Arusha, Mwanza, Dar es Salaam, and Zanzibar. With this support, nongovernmental organizations worked with local government officials, youth, media, and religious groups to improve relationships between communities and address drivers of marginalization that contribute to religious tensions.

Uganda

Executive Summary

The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and stipulates there shall be no state religion. It provides for freedom of belief, the right to practice and promote any religion, and to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious organization in a manner consistent with the constitution. The law also prohibits radio and television stations from broadcasting advertisements that “promote psychic practices or practices related to the occult,” material that encourages persons to change their faith, and content that uses or contains blasphemy. The government requires religious groups to register. On July 24, the military intelligence agency, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), raided the Agapeo International Pentecostal Church in the Kibuye suburb of Kampala and arrested 40 Rwandan citizens attending a church service. The CMI continued to hold the Rwandans at year’s end without charge. The government restricted activities of religious groups it defined as “illegal” and arrested some individuals it accused of running churches that prevented followers from following a “normal” life. On January 30, local media reported the Uganda Police Force (UPF) banned Bishop Bataringaya Okumu, an evangelical Christian minister, from operating his church, Jesus the Living Stone Ministries, for participating in “illegal activities.” The UPF noted Okumu blocked his followers from seeking health care, promising he would heal them through prayer. The government stated in September that it was still holding consultations before introducing a policy to regulate religious groups; the draft policy received strong opposition from some evangelical Christian churches. Local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and media reported that the government disproportionately and unfairly arrested and imprisoned Muslims. The Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) stated the government continued to discriminate against Muslims when hiring for public positions.

A Christian man filed a lawsuit against all Muslims to prevent them from calling God by the name Allah.

U.S embassy representatives regularly discussed human rights issues, including religious freedom, with government officials at every level. The embassy organized an interfaith conference at which a U.S. Muslim cleric promoted interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance. During Ramadan, the embassy hosted an iftar, inviting political and religious leaders from all faiths to attend. During the event, the Charge d’Affaires urged political and religious leaders to embrace religious diversity. The embassy also used its social media platforms to encourage respect for religious freedom.

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 42.2 million (midyear 2019 estimate). According to the most recent census, conducted in 2014, 82 percent of the population is Christian. The largest Christian group is Roman Catholic with 39 percent; 32 percent is Anglican, and 11 percent Pentecostal Christian. According to official government estimates, Muslims constitute 14 percent of the population. The UMSC estimates Muslims (primarily Sunni) are closer to 20 percent of the population. Other religious groups, which collectively constitute less than 5 percent of the population, include Seventh-day Adventists, adherents of indigenous beliefs, Baptists, Orthodox Christians, Hindus, Jews, and those with no religious affiliation.

According to the Indian Association in Uganda, the largest non-African ethnic population is of Indian origin or descent, most of whom are Hindu. The Jewish community of approximately 2,000 members is mainly concentrated in Mbale Town, in the eastern region of the country. Generally, religious groups are dispersed evenly across the country, although there are concentrations of Muslims in eastern and northern parts of the country.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal Framework

The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and establishes there shall be no state religion. It provides for freedom of thought, conscience, and belief and the right to practice and promote any religion as well as to belong to and participate in the practices of any religious body or organization in a manner consistent with the constitution. The constitution also stipulates the government may limit these rights by measures that are “reasonably justifiable for dealing with a state of emergency.” The constitution prohibits the creation of political parties based on religion.

The law prohibits secular broadcasters from stating opinions on religious doctrine or faith. The law also prohibits radio and television stations from broadcasting advertisements that “promote psychic practices or practices related to the occult,” material that encourages persons to change their faith, and content that uses or contains blasphemy. The government, however, seldom enforces these provisions of the law.

The government requires religious groups to register to obtain legal entity status. According to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), the government requires faith-based organizations to register as nonprofit organizations with the bureau and then to secure a five-year operating license from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The URSB requires faith-based organizations to provide a copy of a land title or proof of ownership of premises, a copy of the board resolution to start a faith-based organization, a copy of the memorandum and articles of association spelling out what the organization intends to do, allotment of shareholding, and national identity cards of the directors. Although there is no formal mechanism to request an exemption from the requirement to obtain an operating license, in practice larger religious groups, including the Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and Seventh-day Adventist Churches, and the UMSC are de facto exempt, and the government does not require them to obtain an operating license.

Religious instruction in public schools is optional at the post-primary level. Primary schools must teach either Christianity, Islam, or both in their social studies classes. Many schools teach both and let students select which one to attend. Secondary schools may choose which, if any, religious studies to incorporate into their curricula, and students who choose to attend that school must take the course offered. Primary school students may choose to answer either questions about Islam or Christianity during the religion portion of the national social studies exams. The state has separate curricula for a number of world religions, including Christianity and Islam, and all schools must adhere to the state-approved curriculum for each religion they choose to teach.

The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Government Practices

On July 24, local media reported the CMI raided the Agapeo International Pentecostal Church in the Kibuye suburb of Kampala and arrested 40 Rwandan citizens attending a church service. The Uganda People’s Defense Forces and the UPF confirmed the arrests but declined to comment, saying that would jeopardize investigations. Local media speculated that the army raided the church suspecting its members to be Rwandan intelligence operatives. The CMI continued to hold the 40 Rwandans at year’s end without charge.

On January 30, local media reported the UPF in Gulu District banned Bishop Bataringaya Okumu, an evangelical Christian minister, from operating his church, Jesus the Living Stone Ministries, for participating in “illegal activities.” The UPF stated Okumu “practiced a doctrine that barred his followers from living a normal life.” The UPF said Okumu blocked his followers from seeking health care, promising he would heal them through prayer, including a patient with HIV who died at Okumu’s church after stopping his medication. Local media reported that a week after the UPF ban, Okumu’s followers returned and resumed operations at his church, which the reports said led the nearby community to set the church premises on fire. The UPF put out the fire, arrested Okumu for “disobeying lawful authority,” and later released him.

The UMSC stated in October the government continued to discriminate against Muslims in appointments to public positions and in the deployment of social programs. NGOs reported sections of the Muslim population believed the government singled out Muslims as potential perpetrators of high-profile crimes and often arrested them with no evidence. The NGOs reported prolonged detention without trial, torture, and inhumane treatment of Muslim suspects in the mideastern districts of Iganga and Mayuge continued. On September 12, according to local media, military intelligence officers beat and rearrested four Muslim suspects charged with terrorism and murder outside a courtroom immediately after the court had released them on bail. The military officers justified the action saying the four were “peace violators” and said they had new secret intelligence justifying their arrest.

A group of evangelical Christian ministers throughout the year repeatedly said they would resist a draft government policy that would require religious groups to submit information about their followers’ “social-economic transformation” to the government, submit annual financial reports, and impose minimum academic qualifications for religious leaders (although the specific educational requirements remained undefined). President Yoweri Museveni met evangelical Christian ministers on September 23 and stated the government would not enact a new policy, which had been under discussion for six years, until it had consulted all religious leaders.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On October 23, media reported Ivan Samuel Ssebadduka, who referred to himself as a monotheistic Christian, petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking to prevent all Muslims from using the name Allah when referring to God. The case was ongoing at year’s end.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy and Engagement

Embassy representatives regularly discussed human rights issues, including religious freedom, with government officials at every level. In May the embassy sponsored the Civilizations Exchange and Cooperation Foundation to host the Better Understanding for a Better World interfaith conference, where the organization’s head, a U.S. imam, engaged faith leaders, youth, and women to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance. During a May 14 iftar hosted by the embassy, the Charge d’Affaires urged religious and political leaders to embrace religious diversity. In July the embassy used its social media platforms to highlight the U.S.-sponsored Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and to call for greater respect of religious freedom for all.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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