On July 15, 2017, the day the two aspirants submitted their candidatures to vie for the post of president of the Rwanda Football Association (Ferwafa), a leading voice in the opposition ranks told me, “We have entered the race but our main objective is to see these elections are called off.”
The incumbent Vincent Nzamwita and Albert Mwanafunzi, a former Ferwafa Executive Committee member submitted their bids to run for the federation’s top job.
But now, thanks to the tireless effort of the ‘Rwanda Football Coalition for Change’, the elections that had been scheduled for September 10, will not go ahead as planned, following a directive from the World football governing body, Fifa.
‘Rwanda Football Coalition for Change’ an alliance of local club owners, which was formed to challenge what they describe as Nzamwita’s “dictatorial rule” as Ferwafa head, launched a campaign to bring about ‘fundamental changes’ in the administration of Rwandan football.
The group is headed by second division side Pepiniere FC president Jean Marie Munyankumburwa, who is deputised by John Uwintwali (La Jeunesse).
Raoul Gisanura of Gasabo FC is the secretary for mobilisation, Donatien Nsengimana is Secretary General and Rugende FC’s Walter Rubengesa is treasurer, while Fidel Kanamugire (Hope Academy) is their Spokesperson.
Since launching their activities officially on May 23, the group has gained so many supporters and well-wishers, who want to see change in the management Rwandan football, particularly at the top of the administration tree.
FIFA, in a letter sent to Ferwafa on Friday evening, directed them to put on hold the elections indefinitely until amendments have been made and incorporated in the electoral code governing ‘Ferwafa Presidential elections.’
This is exactly what Raoul Gisanura of the ‘Rwanda Football Coalition for Change’ told me they hoped to achieve when they petitioned both CAF and FIFA on August 25, indicating that the electoral code governing Ferwafa elections had violated by the incumbent.
All along, Nzamwita’s opponents and critics have been stating quite the obvious that the next elections, under the current set-up, can never be free and fair, thanks specifically due to the influence of the current office holder.
Under the current status quo, Nzamwita will defeat his opponent hands down, not because he offers the best solutions to the many challenges Rwandan football faces but, he offers the bigger ‘transport facilitation’ to the electorates, majority of whom are gullible poor souls and easily temptable.
It’s unfortunate that so many of these local club owners and administrators venture into football for money first and passion later and because there is not enough money from doing the right things, they end up settling for the meager ‘handshakes’ from those who have provided they toe the line.
Just recently, Nzamwita was forced to deny misappropriating federation resources following allegation to the contrary by some members of his Executive Committee.
And a couple of months ago, he had to apologize to the nation and the country’s former footballers for belittling Rwanda’s historic appearance at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Tunisia.
Nzamwita suggested that the country’s representatives to the 2004 AFCON finals were not a true representation of Rwanda since most of them were mercenaries, remarks that triggered angry responses from Rwandan football fans and legends alike.
For four years since he was elected to lead the local football governing body, it has been blunder after another and although we can’t deny that he has had a few successes, the overriding fear is that things can only get worse.
Seeing FIFA intervening in the internal affairs of Rwandan football for the first time, is a clear indication that all is not well at Ferwafa after all, and it goes a long way to vindicate those, who have stood strong in opposing the manner in which the beautiful game is being managed in the country.
So, could this be the start of the end for Nzamwita? The answer is yes and now—yes because we now know that he had compromised the electoral process to benefit his run for a second term, and no because he’s has been able to compromise the electorates for so long that it’s hard for so many of them not to vote for him.