Mukura Victory Sports full-back Janvier Mutijima has credited football with saving him from isolation and depression following the tribulations his family had to face after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
This year’s official week of Genocide commemoration ended April 13, but commemoration activities, which started on April 7, will continue for a duration of 100 days, symbolising the number of days the Genocide lasted, during which over one million lives were lost.
Born and raised in Gikondo, of Kicukiro District, Mutijima is the third born in a family of seven children to Maxime Rutangura (RIP) and Adeline Mukashyaka.
Janvier Mutijima (left) celebrates with his Mukura teammate Hassan Rugirayabo after their side beat APR 1-0 in Azam Rwanda Premier League in January this year. Courtesy.
Mutijima was only 10 months old when the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi started. He lost a brother and his father later passed on in 1999 succumbing to wounds he sustained during the Genocide.
His father, Mutijima narrates, had sought refuge in Kabgayi, Muhanga District, where he luckily linked up with his children and wife. That is where they survived from.
“My father was a very tall man, so whenever the killers crammed people in cars to take them for assassination, he always failed to fit in the car. That’s how they always left him behind and swore to come back for him but this never happened because RPF later came to our rescue before they could go through with their plans,” said Mutijima.
Janvier Mutijima (right) challenges APR defender Fitina Omborenga for the ball during a past league match at Kigali Stadium. Sam Ngendahimana
He added: “Though he survived, he still had wounds that later killed him.”
With the passing of his father, Mutijima and his siblings faced many problems, with no means of survival as they were left to be singlehandedly raised by their mother who also had no job.
“My mother was left with a huge burden of raising us, it was very tough. Before the Genocide, we were – I was told – well off as a family but this all changed very rapidly. We were left with nothing, we led a miserable life, and affording school was a problem.”
The sensational defender says that his mother did what she could and managed to send them to school, and when they reached in upper classes; FARG (Genocide Survivors Assistance Fund) came to their rescue, and that lessened her burden.
In this journey, Mutijima salutes his mother’s heroism, crediting her for doing all that she could to raise them decently.
Janvier Mutijima joined Mukura in September 2018 after seven years with AS Kigali. Courtesy.
“During the Genocide she was advised to abandon me – I was ten months old – and fight for her survival, but she refused and chose to fight for both of us. I thank my mother a lot, and I want her to know that she will always be a part of me,” he says.
However, despite all the life struggles he and his family had to go through, Mutijima always – since childhood – loved football and spent a lot of time either playing or watching it, but little did he know it would turn into a career.
It was not until when he was in secondary school that he took it more seriously and, not long after, he started to impress scouts for different football academies in the country.
At the age of 18, he was signed by AS Kigali and would feature for the City of Kigali-sponsored side for seven years before moving to Mukura Victory Sports in September 2018.
“Football has saved me from isolation and depression, and gave me a sense of life.”
The 25-year-old has been instrumental in Mukura’s impressive run this season as he helped the black-and-yellow outfit to reach the play-off round in CAF Confederation Cup, and currently stand third in the Azam Rwanda Premier League, behind giants APR and Rayon Sports.
The vastly talented left-back, Mutijima, has featured for the national teams at all levels; from the U17 Amavubi Starlets, U20, U23 and the senior Amavubi team.