Rwanda comes of age, football not left behind

Even where I was then, it was frightening just to see television images of mutilated human bodies floating on the waters of Lake Victory—its was a moving sight, you could easily mistake it for a horror movie yet it was in the real world.
The Amavubi Stars team that going places with the new Rwanda.
The Amavubi Stars team that going places with the new Rwanda.

Even where I was then, it was frightening just to see television images of mutilated human bodies floating on the waters of Lake Victory—its was a moving sight, you could easily mistake it for a horror movie yet it was in the real world.

The prices of fish hit a record low but there were no willing buyers as people cancelled fish out of their diet; who would eat fish from contaminated waters! People wondered.

At least that’s how I first knew Rwanda in some depth and that actually those bodies where of Rwandans, who were dying by the thousands each day just across the boarder.

As a 15-year-old, form two student back in Uganda (Jinja) in 1994, I knew barely enough about Rwanda but of course I had (still have) Rwandan relatives, friends, classmates as well as old boys and girls.

At home, fish was banned indefinitely and I don’t remember having a dish of fish between April and December, 1994—but in that period I could hardly miss to read my mum’s news papers as they became a big source of an insight of what was happening in Rwanda.

While those of us (who where not in Rwanda as the powers that be of the time used the masses to systematically exterminate their victims) had the luxury to make choices of what we ate and what we didn’t, millions were going hungry for weeks, entrapped in a death cage and their only choice was a short prayer to the Almighty as they waited for their turn to die!

Trapped in an extremely volatile environment and with little access routes to safety with death staring them in the eyes, each day, millions of Tutsis lives were in danger of not seeing the next day and in exactly 100 days, estimates put the figure of victims of the turmoil at over a million and still counting…..

As these innocent lives including infants, (even the unborn were cut out of their expectant mothers’ wombs and later hacked to death!) were dying in the cruellest manner, the world just looked on either deliberately or it just cared little about the lives of black Africans in a tiny landlocked central African country with no interest to the free world.

The world that did nothing to stop the Genocide against the Tutsi, with some heavy weight countries even denying at the time that was happening in Rwanda was genocide but rather ‘ethnic violence between two rival tribes’!

Fifteen years later, the same world is now starting to make-up for their ineptness at a time when the worst mass carnage ever recorded in humankind took place in a country were the local have a light joke that ‘God spends at night at their place after spending the day elsewhere’.

Rwanda, just 15 years after going through all what it went through and considering where it was then politically, economically, socially and in all other aspects, is a new country whatever way you look at it—no wonder the world has now made it a case study.

As a high school student, I loved sports, particularly football and by then Ugandan football was booming with clubs like SC Villa, Express and Kampala City Council forces on the continent yet there was nothing in that respect coming from Rwanda.

A year after the genocide, Rwanda was ranked 168th in the world and 14 years down the road, Rwanda is 83rd according to the latest ranking, a rise by 82 positions—Rwanda’s highest placing was 78th in December last year and the worst has been 178 in July 1999.

In the early years after the genocide, Rwanda’s Amavubi Stars were some of the continent’s whipping boys in international football but that’s not the case any more.

The 5-1 defeat against Uganda in on August 1, 1998 is an example of how far Rwanda’s football has come while Amavubi’s qualification for the 2004 Africa Nations Cup (Tunisia) is the highlight of the growth of the beautiful game in the country of Thousand Hills.

Since the late 1990s, Rwanda has developed considerably in all sectors and sports, particularly football has not been left behind—local clubs are playing in the two continental competitions, Champions League and Confederations Cup every year though they’re still struggling to make any impact but there hope for things getting better as years roll by.

In the aftermath of Amavubi Stars heroics of 2004, opposition teams are obviously wary of facing the Amavubi Stars, another indicators of how Rwanda has come of age—pre-1994, few knew of Rwanda in football terms but now, Issa Hayatou (Caf president) and Joseph Blatter (Fifa boss) among others can testify on that ground.

In the last 15 years after the genocide that left behind a shattered and divided nation, sports has played a great role in uniting the people of this country—players play for the national and or clubs on merit and not because they belong to certain ethnic group.

Rwanda has started to stage international competitions, first it was African U-20 Youth Championship, next is the U-17 version and after that, it could be Africa Nations Cup yet 15 years ago, very few people from the free world wanted to be associated with Rwanda.

This is the Rwanda that all Rwandans and other stakeholders must strive for—a one Rwanda for all Rwandans, who are able to live side by side in harmony, a country where its people are free from the politics of hate and divisionism.

Ends

 

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