[Video] Uwacu: The sports enthusiast handed the mantle of leadership

Julienne Uwacu, the surprise pick for Minister for Sports and Culture, is no novice to sports. In an exclusive interview, the minister told the The New Times that she is determined to take sports to the next level and her determination is backed by a passion for sports and track record of hard work.
Uwacu (C) and fellow MPs ready for sports at Amahoro Stadium.
Uwacu (C) and fellow MPs ready for sports at Amahoro Stadium.

Julienne Uwacu, the surprise pick for Minister for Sports and Culture, is no novice to sports.

In an exclusive interview, the minister told the The New Times that she is determined to take sports to the next level and her determination is backed by a passion for sports and track record of hard work.

VIDEO: More about Julienne Uwacu, first female Minister of Sports and Culture. Source: TheNewTimes/YouTube

At just 36, Uwacu has arguably achieved a lot for her age.

“I hold a Masters Degree in International Economics and Business Law.  I am married, and mother of three. I guess that is all you want to know; now I can go home?”  the youthful minister says shortly after the interview started.

Born in Mudende Sector, Rubavu District, Uwacu becomes the first ever female Sports and Culture minister in Rwandan history.

Clad in African fabric, she warmly ushered us into her now former office at Parliament Buildings and pulled out chairs to make us comfortable.

Uwacu has been a Member of Parliament since 2008 and prior to being appointed minister, she was serving as deputy chairperson of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security.

We caught up with her shortly after 6pm, and found colleagues still congratulating her for the new appointment which was announced Tuesday. But she was quick to add that it was a little too early to celebrate.

“I have no reason to celebrate until I evaluate my performance at the end of the year in office,” Uwacu said.

“I will have time to celebrate when the President and the Rwandan people look back and say, ‘hey, the ministry has achieved this and that,’” Uwacu added.

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The minister during the interview at Parliament.

However, not everyone looked at it that way. She told us of how she had about 400 text messages she had not responded to, and many of them contained congratulatory messages.

Uwacu herself was surprised when she heard that she was the new Minister for Sports and Culture. “I had no clue about it until the last minute,” she said.

On sports

On the field, Uwacu boasts of years of experience dating back to her high school days. Her latest feat was helping the Rwanda Parliamentary football team reach the semi-finals of the 2013 Inter-Parliamentary regional football tournament in Kampala, Uganda, where she featured in the men’s team. Her team lost to the East Africa Legislative Assembly (Eala).

While a student at Irambura Girls Secondary School In Nyabihu District (then Karago commune in Gisenyi prefecture), Uwacu was one of the star performers of the school’s basketball team and her physique and large palms are sysnomous with basketball players.

“I was not lucky to engage in sports at a professional level, but I love sports and I still work out a lot,” she says.

Uwacu says she closely follows the national football team, Amavubi, and is an ardent Arsenal fan.

The appointment of Uwacu increases the percentage of women in Cabinet from 36 to 40 per cent.

Uwacu’s game plan

Uwacu said her top priority is nurturing young men and women into sports stars and promoting the Rwandan culture and national values.

“One thing I want to focus on, together with every stakeholder, is professionalising every single sports discipline we have in the country,” the minister said.

She added that ensuring that sports personalities benefit from what they do will also be an area of focus.

“This will not only propel Rwanda to the global sports fraternity, but also unleash hidden talents in our people,” Uwacu said, citing cycling as an example of how a well laid-out strategy can bear fruit.

“In the recent past, cycling has raised the Rwandan flag high. We need to look back and see how long it has taken us to develop that discipline to where it is now, and share the lessons with other sports disciplines,” Uwacu pointed out.

“We need to give young Rwandans the chance to nurture their talents from early on and provide them with all the facilities they need to develop professionally,” Uwacu added, citing athletics where Rwanda has a similar terrain to Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia that have excelled in the discipline.

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Uwacu (wearing glasses) back in high school.

Uwacu also believes by creating a conducive training environment and growth strategy with the young people in mind, the level of athletics will rise.

Rwanda will next year host the fourth edition of African Nations Championship (Chan). The minister said that key to succeeding in the tournament is early training and preparation.

“We can win Chan and go on to reach African Cup of Nations finals in 2017. We need to prepare ourselves as early as possible,” she said.

“What I can assure Rwandans is that the trust put in me by the President to lead this ministry will be justified. I will work closely with the team in the ministry to take sports and culture to a desired level,” Uwacu said.

What her colleagues say

‘Uwacu has the knowledge, the exposure, the passion for sports...and she is very well conversant with the Rwandan culture. She is young, which inspires the youth and smart to challenge the old, I am confident she will excel.’

MP Francesca Tengera Twikirize.

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‘She is a youthful and energetic minister; She is fit for this post, I believe. My fellow youth should be rest assured that Uwacu has the experience, and good will to carry on our development goals.’

Justine Mukobwa, MP for the Youth

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‘Uwacu is very cool and politically sound. She has love for sports; I would say she is a sports enthusiast. I have high expectations in her.’

MP Jean-Marie Vianney Gatabazi

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‘She is kind of a person who even encourages men to go for workouts. She is generous, kind and disciplined. She has passion for sports. She has all the cultural values a Rwandan woman should posses.’

MP Anitha Mutesi

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