Straight to the point – the Rwanda Football Association, FERWAFA, president Vincent de Gaulle Nzamwita must step down after his unjustified comments about the Amavubi AFCON 2004 team – which appeared to undermine Rwanda’s historic qualification.
During his presidency, which started on January 5, 2014, Nzamwita has made a couple of blunders but the latest one has not only damaged his credibility but potentially tainted the image of the entire nation, and in my view, he should not be allowed to get off the hook lightly.
He needs to take responsibility for his gaffes and not think that he can simply say, ‘oh I’m sorry, my comments were taken out of context.’ it’s not enough.
For starters, Nzamwita’s latest mistimed, unnecessary, unfortunate and totally wrong remarks came while unveiling Amavubi new head coach Antoine Hey to the local media this week, when he asserted that the team that qualified for AFCON 2004 in Tunisia was not a true depiction of Rwanda.
In what you would call ‘talking before thinking’, the head of Rwandan football was quoted saying that, “For me, it is like Rwanda did not play in AFCON because we had many players who were not Rwandans, so we need to plan for many years to come not just qualify once and fail again.”
Obviously Nzamwita’s unpatriotic remarks were greeted with the kind of reaction they deserve and several Amavubi legends, mostly those that took part in the historical qualifying campaign and eventually the tournament in Tunis, demanded that he steps down.
Two days later, he appeared on the national television and said, “All I wanted to say was that we should put much emphasis on youth football development. Strategic development will pave way for Rwanda to successively feature in Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. This was the message I wanted transmit to the general public.”
“I want to take this moment to apologize to all Rwandans, who erroneously perceived my message which was transmitted in my inarticulate Kinyarwanda expression,” he explained.
Again, the key word in Nzamwita’s half-hearted apology is ‘erroneous’ – which to me, he still believes he never did (read said) anything wrong and that, instead his message was just misunderstood because he doesn’t how to speak proper Kinyarwanda. Give me a break.
I am no legal specialist or even know much about legal matters but am quite aware of an important legal principle that says “ignorance of the law is no excuse,” which simply means that you can’t defend your actions by arguing you didn’t know they were illegal.
The FERWAFA president may not have broken any judicial law but he broke the moral law and it will take more than a half-hearted apology for him to regain his credibility as the head of that institution.
Personally, I am not surprised that the head of Rwandan football is calling fellow Rwandans, who gave everything within their means and ability to qualify for the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, foreigners.
First, we need to make it very clear, no foreigners played for Rwanda in Tunis – the moment every player, even those that Nzamwita and whoever think like him, received a Rwandan passport and put on the famous Yellow and Blue jersey, they ceased to be foreigners, they become Rwandans, period.
It’s foolhardy for anyone to say otherwise but again in Nzawmita’s eyes, maybe if one was not born in Rwanda and both your parents are not Rwandans, then you’re not Rwanda or at best, you’re less Rwandan!
The man has a history of calling people foreigners – several years ago, I was the first on the receiving end of his ‘xenophobic’ rhetoric, when, during his time as APR FC secretary general, he appeared a radio talk show and said that, I quote, “this boy Hamza has no right to talk about Rwandan football after all he’s a foreigner.”
All this because he wasn’t happy with one or two stories that I had written about the army side – to use boxing language, that was a cheap shot and below the belt but it passed and went unnoticed.
No apology came forth and of course, I didn’t expect or ask for one and when we met later, we laughed it off and life moved on because for me, what he said then made no difference to what I believe(d) in, which was and remains, above one’s nationality.
But this time, things should not be left to appear normal because by attacking the players and officials, among them, his predecessor (Gen. Ceaser Kayizairi, who was FERWAFA president then), is like undermining Rwanda’s historic qualification, and to me, he has crossed the line, red or not.