Questions need answering Mr. Minister
You can always tell when someone in positions of authority like a Minister or just head of a public office is under pressure because you start to hear rumours of rows, talk of tension and the quiet, whispered suggestions of animosity beating rounds.
Make no mistake; Sports Minister Joseph Habineza and Rwanda National Olympics Committee boss Ignace Beraho are under pressure to put Rwandan sport back on track after years of unnecessary struggle for supremacy.
For years, Habineza and Beraho, both holding powerful offices in regards to the governance of local sports, have been involved in an unpleasant war for supremacy, and guess what; the biggest loser has been the people and the country’s sports.
This sickening situation has been very much about each one of the two leaders wanting to do his business independent of the other, yet ideally, it’s very impossible to say the least.
By chain of command, NOC is under the sports ministry docket, and so it goes without saying that Beraho or anyone else occupying NOC’s top office is answerable to Habineza or anyone else in that office for that matter.
Unfortunately, it has taken until the end of Beraho’s tenure as RNOC president for the two men to bury hatchet (at least in public) and agree on one common issue of national and at some degree international concern.
That defining moment arrived last Saturday during RNOC extra-ordinary general assembly which the Minister requested for an invitation and to which he got his wish.
The unusual meeting was called to present a report by the Commission on Jurisdiction and Ethics set up by the local Olympics Committee but the Minister seized the opportunity to make it clear who the boss is.
Habineza, who joined in towards the end, took the opportunity he was offered to address the meeting, basing on the report, to remind the gathering that it was sitting illegally, he even joked, “I can right now call Mary Gahonzire (the acting Commissioner General of Police) to arrest of you all because you’re gathering here illegally.”
The report made by the five-man commission headed by one Philbert Rutagengwa, unearthed some unkind loopholes in the way all local sports institutions operate, concluding that, all but two (Chess and Karate) do exist and operate illegally.
Basing his argument on the report’s findings, Habineza wondered, “You’re all seated here as who? In which capacity are you gathered here when you’re operating illegally?
He blasted (sports) federation leaders, including RNOC boss, who was seated just two seats way from him, for not taking the issue of existence and operations seriously.
“When it comes to trips, you (referring to federations leaders) are all-over the place but when we tell you to solve your status, you turn a deaf ear.”
“I’ve given you up to January 1, 2009 after which any federation that will not have solved its legal status will be shut down.
“It’s over two years we’re talking about the same issue without any success, now I think I should be a lot more tough on you,” Habineza stated.
The Minister also used the occasion to let everyone in Rwanda’s sports circles including RNOC president, know who calls the tune.
He said, “Each sports institution in Rwanda must report to the ministry (of sports). For whatever you do, financial, plan of action, you must report to me.”
“You talk of independence, how can you be independent when you exist illegally,” he wondered as he expressed his disgust with the way sports in the country is being run at the level below his office.
He fumed, “It’s really a shame to find that 14 years down the road, sports in this country depends solely on government funding.”
Now, after the latest ultimatum, which comes on the heels of seven official warnings or reminders, one wonders whether the Minister is ready to do what no one else has dared to even think of by taking an unprecedented decision to shut down all illegal federations.
Because, if come the deadline day, no other federation has solved the problem, Rwandans will be waiting to see what happens to the local Olympics Committee, which like the individual federation needs at least three legal (federations) to become legal itself.