Many avenues have been used to foster unity and reconciliation since the end of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Among them is sports, and cricket in particular.
Introduced after the Genocide 22 years ago, cricket has played a key role towards fostering unity and peace in Rwanda.
The sport has become popular over the years culminating in the construction of a standard international cricket pitch in Rwanda.
As for the players, the game signifies far more than just a game of hitting a hard ball with a bat.
Sarah Uwera, the Charity Cricket Club captain says cricket and other sports have offered distressed and traumatized societies a platform to heal and reconcile.
Kicukiro cricket ground is where all cricket sports activities are carried out. In this very place, an infamous slaughter of people during the 1994 Genocide took place. During the Genocide in 1994, about 2000 people had sought refuge in the college at Kicukiro, however one fateful day after the United Nations had withdrawn its troops, bloodthirsty gangs using grenades and machetes killed almost all people who were hiding in the school.
Eric Dusingizimana, the national team captain says Cricket is a game of hope before adding that Rwanda Cricket Association (RCA) organises cricket for peace tournaments every year. The national team plays cricket with children as part of peace building efforts and over 5000 children throughout the country have so far been introduced to the game.
Audifax Byiringiro one of the most experienced cricket players in the country lost his parents during the Genocide, but he says cricket has helped him cope.
“I lost my parents and three siblings and life was so bad at the time, but with cricket, life got back to normal and I have hope for a better future,” he said.
Eric Niyongabo, the national cricket player says ever since he was introduced to the sport, his life rotates around cricket.
“In Cricket we are like a family, we learn from each other, we share ideas and even eat together. It has become a symbol of love and unity for all of us,” Niyongabo noted.
Rwanda cricket Association General Manager Robert Mugabe said that “Cricket as a game is a unifying factor; it brings people together from all ages men and women.”
“We organize tournaments in commemoration of our dear ones who perished in the Genocide and this season, we are planning to invite many more regional cricket teams to take part in the cricket for peace tournament,” he said.
He added that over the years Rwanda cricket has been helping survivors in Ntarama in Bugesera but plans to start helping other survivors are underway.