After the horrible events of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the country has undergone sporting revolutionary mechanism to promote peace, unit and reconciliation through sports events.
Since 1995, memorial tournaments have been organized in various sports disciplines in the remembrance of the scribes, sportsmen, families and fans who lost their lives during 1994 Tutsi massacres.
Rwanda has been on an ambitious programme to build her image through sports. Perturbed by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi where over one million people are believed to have died, the government has succeeded in using sports as an essential vehicle to unite its people and build the country’s image beyond her borders.
During the Juvenal Habyarimana’s regime, Rwanda was divided mainly along ethnics (Tutsi and Hutu) lines, which culminated in the 1994 genocide after Habyarimana’s death.
But the heavy investment in sports made by the current (Rwandan) government has helped to cover up for the memories of the past. Rwandans are today identified as one without the Hutu - Tutsi linings.
Government’s support has helped the country to build a strong and well organized sporting system. Sports and football in particular has helped to unite the people of Rwanda who no longer talk about the past ethnic groupings.
The government of Rwanda has spent quite large sums of money to support the construction and promotion of various sports infrastructures and events.
The government together with the local soccer body has invested a lot in youth development programmes and in maintaining their national teams.
After the admission of Rwanda to the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) in 1997, the country has played key roles in participation and promotion of the regional body.
The Rwanda government has been very supportive in ensuring that successful tournaments are staged. Many CECAFA senior challenge cup where member countries compete in their respective national colours as well as the CECAFA club championships where best clubs converge have been successfully organised.
Most recently, Rwanda was accredited by the African football confederation (CAF) to host the under-17 African youth championship.
This showed the trust and appreciation to the stride of Rwanda in promoting sports and particularly football as part of the reconstruction process. The U-17 tournament comes on the heels of the Africa U-20 Youth Championship, which was held in Kigali last year.
The Rwandan society has been able to interact with people from different countries through such events and have been able to learn quite a number of things from each other.
It is also important to mention that the spirit exemplified by the Rwanda government in terms of financial support for the previous tournaments has even simplified CECAFA’s work whenever Kigali is hosting their activities.
As a result the regional soccer tournaments have become more popular in Rwanda than in any other Cecafa member country. Rwanda’s contribution has been multi-dimensional, promoting soccer in the region and helping the country improve on her international image.
The contribution of the government has helped the local football body in organizing events and has helped CECAFA market the event to the local populace.
But more importantly Rwanda has been able to build its image locally and project herself positively on the international scene while diverting the attention of nationals from local problems.