Critics of Barack Obama's choice to include Rick Warren in the upcoming January 20, 2008 presidential inauguration ceremony have focused on the celebrity evangelist's religious beliefs and at least one report has traced his ties to reactionary African religious leaders. Media coverage of Rick Warren has failed to note, however, his friendship and alliance with two African presidents accused of perpetrating terrorism and massive human rights violations including massacres and assassinations, mass-rape, slave labor, sex slavery, large scale concentration camps, and the use of child soldiers.
A December 12, 2008 UN report charges Warren's African allies, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and Uganda's President Youwerie Museveni, with continuing to fuel the conflict in the Congo by supporting the renegade army of Laurent Nkunda, whose recent military offensive has created hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Rwanda and Uganda have been indicted, in a series of consecutive United Nations reports presented to the UN Security Council, released between 2001 and 2003 [see this UN page for all 5 reports], for repeatedly invading and violating the sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of The Congo, and supporting renegade armies in that country, in order to loot the Congo's immense natural wealth. The more than one decade long running conflict has claimed an estimated 5.4 million civilian lives.
In a 2005 ruling [ PDF file of ruling ], the International Court at the Hague found that the government of Uganda had,
"committed acts of killing, torture and other forms of inhumane treatment of the Congolese civilian population, destroyed villages and civilian buildings, failed to distinguish between civilian and military targets and to protect the civilian population in fighting with other combatants, trained child soldiers, incited ethnic conflict and failed to take measures to put an end to such conflict; as well as by its failure, as an occupying Power, to take measures to respect and ensure respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in [the Congo's] Ituri district, violated its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law...
...the Republic of Uganda, by acts of looting, plundering and exploitation of Congolese natural resources committed by members of the Ugandan armed forces in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and by its failure to comply with its obligations as an occupying Power in Ituri district to prevent acts of looting, plundering and exploitation of Congolese natural resources, violated obligations owed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo under international law."
In 2005 Rwanda became, at the request of its president Paul Kagame, the initial testing ground for Rick Warren's P.E.A.C.E Plan and the first nation in the world to implement Warren's "Purpose Driven Life and Leadership training program" on a national level. Warren has made at least ten separate trips to Rwanda and has been photographed multiple times with Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame.
As Christianity Today described, in April 2008 almost 20,000 Rwandans gathered together in Kigali stadium with Warren and Kagame, for the launch of Rwanda's first national "40 Days of Purpose" campaign. "This week we are launching a biblical way of living in Rwanda; we call it, 'The Purpose Driven Life' ," Warren told the crowd. Kagame followed: "I want to say to Rick and Kay Warren that they could not find a better place than Rwanda for the Purpose Driven campaign, for good and bad reasons. The bad reasons are related to our history - in our past we have lived a life without purpose. The good reasons are related to our future - that we have a chance with the Purpose Driven Life."
In November 2006, renowned French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, internationally famous for having located and brought to justice one of the most notorious terrorists of the 20th Century, 'Carlos the Jackal', called for the prosecution of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, for triggering the 1994 Rwandan genocide by allegedly ordering the plane carrying the former president of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the former president of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamire, to be shot down with ground-to-air missiles--an act of terrorism generally credited with triggering the wave of violence that swept across Rwanda within hours of the assassination.
Bruguière, who was unable to indict Paul Kagame because under French law heads of state are under diplomatic immunity, issued warrants for nine of Kagame's top aides, including the head of the Rwandan military, Charles Kayonga. On November 9, 2008 the Rwandan Director General of State Protocol, Rose Kabuye was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, for extradition to France to be tried on judge Bruguière's charges.
In early 2008, as the LA Times reported, Judge Fernando Andreu of Spain's National Court called for the prosecution of Kagame, for a series of reprisal massacres that followed the Rwandan genocide. Spanish law also grants diplomatic immunity to heads of state but Andreu indicted 40 members of Kagame's government.
The actions of judge Bruguière and judge Andreu are part of a larger movement to reassess the Rwandan genocide and the role of Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). Journalists such as Keith Harmon Snow , lawyers such as law professor Peter Erlinder who have worked within the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and also eyewitnesses to the mass killing in Rwanda, criticize the tribunal process for ignoring extensive evidence and testimony implicating Paul Kagame and the RPA in a an extensive pattern of massacres and human rights abuses both during and after the Rwandan genocide [see: 1, 2]
Janet Museveni, Ugandan President Yowerie Museveni's wife and a born-again Christian, is a close ally of Rick and Kay Warren who has determinedly promoted abstinence-only sex education in her country. Uganda was officially declared the second 'Purpose Driven' nation in early 2008.
In the late 1990's, the Ugandan military initiated a campaign of terror, through massacres and human rights atrocities, against nearly two million Northern Ugandans, mainly from the Acholi tribe who were forced, ostensibly for protection against the rebel Lord's Resistance Army, into squalid, tightly packed and undefended concentration camps along the Uganda-Congo border. A 1997 report from a United Kingdom Acholi refugee group blamed Ugandan President Yowerie Museveni for initiating the conflict. The plight of Ugandans in the camps has been extensively chronicled including through short documentary videos, the situation has received little mainstream media coverage even though a former United Nations undersecretary has described the situation as slow genocide.
Dr. Adam Branch, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at San Diego State University who lived in the Northern Uganda camps for one year states,
"We have all, I hope, heard of the crisis of displacement in northern Uganda. At its peak, two million Ugandans-almost 10% of the entire population- were driven from their homes through a government campaign of murder, torture, threats, and bombing and burning down villages, and forced to live in squalid, unprotected internment camps."
Branch was the lead researcher in a September 2007 report on the Northern Uganda camps, Fostering the Transition in Acholiland: From War To Peace, From Camps To Home.
As Peter Okema Otika, an Acholi from northern Uganda and President of the African Students Organization at the University of Pittsburgh writes in The Black Commentator,
"Since 1986 when ragtag rebel leader Yoweri Museveni took power, the Acholi have known nothing but war, killings, maiming and abductions. In 1987 Museveni's troops were ordered to kill and plunder the Acholi in the name of searching for rebels opposed to his government.
The government in Kampala used its then National Resistance Army (NRA) to kill thousands of Acholi, shooting them on sight, burning their houses, raping the women and men, and plundered their crops and animals. Government troops blamed the Acholi for alleged rebel collaboration and punished them with inhuman brutalities.
While this was going on, Museveni barred local and international media from the region...
The government stepped up its terror against the people in 1996 when it ordered all Acholi living in their homes in the villages to vacate immediately and come to concentration camps or face the consequences. Those who delayed were bombed out of their houses using military tanks and helicopters and forced to run to the camps.
At the camps... the government troops beat up the men, arrest them as rebel suspects and rape the women including girls under the age of 15."
Meanwhile, the brutal fighting in the Northeastern Congo, along with its usual procession of killings and massacres, mass rape and abduction of children to be child soldiers, continues into the present, and the UN has charged Rwanda, under the leadership of Rick Warren ally Paul Kagame, with backing the Congolese warlord Lauren Nkunda whose military efforts have played a key recent role in driving the ongoing conflict.
A late 2008 military offensive by Lauren Nkunda's army caused the panicked flight of hundreds of thousands of Congolese refugees from areas in northeast Uganda controlled by Nkunda's forces. Nkunda's forces have been charged, in a December 11, 2008 Human Rights Watch report with a recent massacre and other human rights violations. In 2005 The Democratic Republic of the Congo issued an international arrest warrant for Nkunda, for alleged crimes including the following, described by the UK Times Online. [also see Human Rights Watch reports 1 and 2]
In 2002, Nkunda "brutally suppressed a mutiny in Kisangani, a key trading town formerly known as Stanleyville that sits on a broad bend in the Congo River. More than 160 people were executed, some bound and flung off a bridge into the river, earning him the nickname "The Butcher of Kisangani".
...In June 2004 his troops besieged and then overran the once-beautiful town of Bukavu on the southern shore of Lake Kivu. Declaring that he had to protect the town's Tutsi population from ethnic attacks, his troops launched their own pogrom, raping women and children, murdering civilians and looting homes and shops."
In December a report presented to the UN Security Council accused that Rwandan government officials "have been complicit in the recruitment of soldiers, including children, have facilitated the supply of military equipment and have sent officers and units" to aid Laurent Nkunda's forces. The report charged that the government of Uganda was also aiding Nkunda's forces, and the UN panel of experts who compiled the report presented evidence of direct satellite telephone calls between the office of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Laurent Nkunda's rebel forces fighting against the Congolese army. The Congolese government has described Laurent Nkunda's offensive as supported within Congolese territory by Rwandan government tanks.
Rick Warren's effort to create an international Christian humanitarian movement, starting in Africa, has received considerable favorable media attention, which has helped the Saddleback Church mega-pastor to craft an image as a moderate, compassionate and forward-looking evangelical leader. But the actions of Rick Warren's key allies in Africa, Ugandan President Yowerie Mouseveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, undercut Warren's claims of concern for human well-being.
Over the last decade Rick Warren has broken out into secular superstar status, as a celebrity who shares stages with national leaders and pop stars, by branding himself as a visionary humanitarian dedicated to mobilizing an international network of Christian churches and inspiring 'one billion' Christians worldwide to become personally involved in the appealingly named P.E.A.C.E. Plan, to uplift the developing world and alleviate suffering through good works.
Rick Warren's "P.E.A.C.E. Plan" aims to transform 68 countries through attacking what Warren depicts as the biggest global problems which, in order of importance, are 'spiritual emptiness', egocentric leadership, diseases including HIV/AIDS, poverty and illiteracy. Warren announced his plan on April 17, 2005, at an event, held at California's Anaheim Angels stadium, during which Warren called for "total mobilization", "global expansion" and "radical devotion" in a world movement that would feature a combined government, business and church effort to evangelize the earth and establish a Christian world 'kingdom'. During the event, pastor Warren exhorted his Saddleback church members to follow Jesus with the committed zeal shown by followers of men who led the bloodiest political and revolutionary movements of the 20th Century: Hitler, Lenin and Mao.
During the stadium event, Rick Warren has called for a second Christian Reformation, and he has stated his intent of inspiring 'one billion' Christians, half of all Christians globally, to become personally and 'radically' committed to changing the world. Pastor Warren sketched out his vision, which he declared was from God, of a "revolution", launched through Warren's "Purpose Driven" network of hundreds of thousands as pastors globally, to create a Christian world regime.
"Stop dreaming and start doing," the "Purpose Driven Life" author told his Anaheim Stadium crowd. Warren described a global Christian movement to bring the message of Jesus Christ to every man, woman and child on Earth. "It's going to cover the planet," he proclaimed, "and then the end is going to come."
Though Warren's speech was in the idiom of Christianity, he did not seek to inspire his Saddleback audience with examples of great religious leaders who have changed history through persuasion or other nonviolent approaches. Rick Warren looked to 20th century exemplars of vision and dedication but not to Mohatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or any other religious leaders.
With more than a hint of admiration in his voice, pastor Warren described how in 1939 in a packed Munich Stadium before the leader of the Third Reich, young brown-shirted men and women spelled out in formation, with their bodies, words in German which read "Hitler, we are yours."
"And they nearly took the world, " pastor Rick told the stadium crowd. He moved on to quote another inspirational example from the 20th Century, Lenin, who said 'give me 100 committed, totally committed men and I'll change the world.' Once again Warren observed, "They nearly did."
Having cited dedication and zeal of young Nazis and the efficacy of Bolshevik Revolutionaries, Warren moved on to describe how the sayings of Chairman Mao, printed up in the "Little Red Book", had helped propel the revolutionary fervor of the Chinese Red Guard who had carried out the violent, anarchic revolutionary spasm known as the Cultural Revolution.
With those examples fresh in his audiences mind, Rick Warren instructed the crowd of his thirty thousand to hold up pre-printed signs, within their programs, white letters against a red background, that said "Whatever it takes."
Looking out at the crowd Warren enthused, "I'm looking at a stadium full of people who are saying, 'whatever it takes, God'.
Initially, the "P" in Rick Warren's P.E.A.C.E. plan stood for "planting churches". In a later iteration the "P" was recast as standing for "promoting reconciliation". But as Warren's one-hour talk currently on his official P.E.A.C.E. Plan website makes quite clear, the plan is primarily about evangelizing the world and multiplying Christian leadership to help carry that out. Compared to the need to save souls, alleviating human suffering is secondary.
As described in a January 7th, 2008 Daily Beast article by journalist Max Blumenthal, the reputation of Rick and Kay Warren, for work on HIV/AIDS reduction, appears considerably overrated. As Blumenthal writes, "a survey of Warren's involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with draconian right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating in favor of abstinence-only education. Most disturbingly, Warren's allies have rolled back key elements of the continent's most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Their activism, according to Stephen Lewis, the United Nations' special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, is 'resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which never should have occurred.' "
Rick and Kay Warren have supported a shift in HIV/AIDS policy, away from the classic "ABC" approach credited widely, such as by the World Health Organization with dramatically cutting Ugandan HIV/AIDS infection rates, and towards an "abstinence-only" emphasis which have been accompanied by new tariffs on imported condoms, that have dramatically raised the price of the prophylactics that once flooded Uganda, during the late 1990's when Uganda's new HIV infection rates were plummeting.
As abstinence-only has ramped up and condom availability decreased in Uganda, the HIV/AIDS rate has begun to climb, and according to the Ugandan government the national yearly rate of new HIV infections doubled, from 70,000 per year to 130,000 per year, in the first two years of the new Ugandan abstinence-only policy. In March 2005, Human Rights watch report charged that the new abstinence-only programs had "hijacked" Uganda's successful AIDS policy.
As Blumenthal's article goes on to explore, one of Rick Warren's allies in Uganda, Martin Ssempa, has played a key role in reducing the availability of condoms in Uganda. Famous for publicly burning a pack of condoms at Uganda's Makerere University, Ssempa advises Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni on HIV/AIDS policy and has successfully lobbied the US Congress to de-fund Population Resources International, a world distributor of condoms.
Martin Ssempa has delivered two speeches, and also led workshops, at Rick and Kay Warren's HIV/AIDS conferences. As public health expert Dr. Helen Epstein described, in an excerpt from a recent book of hers published in the New York Review of Books, Martin Ssempa told her that 'Satan worshipers under Lake Victoria' make deals with the devil to stage car accidents and kidnappings in exchange for cash.
Ssempa, a charismatic pastor, runs a church which performs regular exorcisms. Pastor Ssempa is also highly active in antigay activism in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal, and has publicized names of accused homosexuals who have subsequently gone into hiding.
Rick and Kay Warren portray their global initiative as an outgrowth of a sudden, disturbing moral epiphany Kay Warren had, in 2002 while reading a Time Magazine article, about the scale of suffering caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. As Kay Warren's official P.E.A.C.E. Plan biography quotes her,
"You and I must choose to be disturbed," Warren said. "God puts horrific and startling images in front of us daily through the newspaper, the television and eyewitness accounts. You can do what I did for years - choose to ignore it all - or you can become disturbed, seriously, dangerously disturbed, so disturbed that you are compelled to do something. . .
But we need to be seriously disturbed about things like homelessness, child prostitution, rape, poverty, injustice and AIDS."
Rick Warren's so-called P.E.A.C.E. Plan prioritizes evangelizing over concern for human needs such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and illiteracy. Warren defines the top problem afflicting the world as "spiritual emptiness" which, according to Warren, stems from a lack of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
As Purpose Driven pastor explained to a Dallas gathering of 12,000 Baptists, charismatic and nondenominational evangelicals in May of 2005, "spiritual emptiness" is an acute disorder characterized by aimlessness, fear and lack of purpose, afflicting non-Christians, that arises in the absence of a personal relationship with Jesus; "Billions of people live without Jesus Christ. Billions of people don't know God has a purpose for their life," Warren told his Dallas audience. "Egocentric leadership", the second greatest cause of world problems according to Rick Warren, is due to a lack of 'servant leaders' who model their behavior after Jesus.
Having defined the paramount world problems as, in essence, the fact that evangelicalism has not fully converted everyone on Earth into Christians, Rick Warren's P.E.A.C.E. plan squarely addresses that dire need -- for the Christian belief system to envelope the globe.
By opting to launch his global transformation project, the P.E.A.C.E. Plan in blood-soaked Uganda and Rwanda, Rick Warren's has embraced and co-branded himself with their authoritarian leaders who are accused of brutalizing their own countries and whose systematic military campaigns to plunder the natural resources of Democratic Republic of the Congo have been indicted, by both the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, for causing a more than one-decade long conflagration in Central Africa that has killed more civilians than any conflict since World War Two.