THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
In 1997, Dr. Elie Alexandre Buconyori led a group of Free Methodist Christians from Burundi, Rwanda, and Kenya into a discussion of establishing a university. The group realized that the existing universities were not ready to offer Christian Higher Education and meet the needs in the sub-region. The group agreed to discuss about that issue in 1998 during a meeting of the Free Methodist Equatorial Area Fellowship, grouping Free Methodist Churches of Central, Eastern and Western Africa. In April 1998, General Assembly meeting was held in Nairobi, Kenya. At the end of the meeting, the delegates directed the board of Directors to set up a commission on Christian and Theological Education with the mandate to study possibilities of establishing a university in Africa.
Immediately after the meeting, the Board of Directors appointed an Executive Commission to assess the possibility of establishing Hope Africa University among other objectives. The commission submitted its report on the 1st of April 1999. After a careful and critical analysis of the report, the Board of Directors unanimously agreed to establish Hope Africa University. It was further agreed to establish the University in Kenya to serve the population of East and Central African nation in particular and also the entire African Continent. Rev. Dr. Elie Alexandre Buconyori was appointed to lead this important educational project by working under the guidance of an ad interim Governing Council chaired by Rev.Virgil Kirk Patrick.
THIS FIRST GOVERNING COUNCIL WAS MADE OF:
- Reverend Virgil Kirkpatrick (Chairman)
- Reverend Dr. Elie Alexandre Buconyori (Project Director)
- Bishop Noah Nzeyimana (Burundi)
- Reverend Gerard Baraza (Kenya)
- Reverend Deborah Hogeboom (Canada)
- Reverend Karuba Macinda (DRC)
- Reverend Déogratias Nshimiyimana (Burundi)
- Reverend Nixon Dingili (Kenya)
- Mrs. Emilienne Minani (Burundi)
- Reverend Onesphore Nzigo (Burundi)
- Reverend Anastase Rugirangoga (Rwanda)
- Mr. Japhet Nsanzerugeze (Burundi)
As Project Director, Rév. Dr. Elie Alexandre Buconyori started promoting the University in Africa and in North America. In August 1999, he visited the United States of America and attended the Free Methodist World Fellowship and the General Conference of the United States of America as an observer. Dr. Buconyori, Bishop Noah Nzeyimana (Burundi), Bishop By’enne Akulullangyi (DRC) and Bishop Eraste Iyamuremye (Rwanda) agreed to promote the institution in America and to seek support from American Churches. Several meeting were organized. In the first meeting, Dr. Buconyori met Rev. David Bates of Olives Branch Mission. David is a son of former missionary to Burundi, Congo and Rwanda. David was born in Burundi and grew up in both Burundi and Congo. Because of his love for Africa, he was requested to be part of the vision. Rev. Bates liked the vision very much. He contributed to the success of the project. Since then, Rev. David Bates has been a strong supporter and defender of the project.
The second meeting brought the Bishop Dr. Elie Buconyori, Bishop Dr. Gerald Bates and Bishop Dr. Gerald Bates together. Bishop Bates and his wife Marlene served faithfully as missionaries in Burundi, Congo and Rwanda until 1985 when Dr. Bates was elected Bishop in the Free Methodist Church of America. While a missionary, Bishop Bates had been working with African Leaders when they had the dream of establishing a university. He was happy to have the idea revived and translated into practice. He pledged to do all he could to make sure the dream became real. The African team requested Bishop Bates to serve on the Governing Council with authority to help form a support Board in the United States of America. Bishop Bates accepted the challenge. Since then, he helped to form Hope Africa University Board in United States of America known as HAU-US. The US Board works tirelessly to raise funds for the University.