When Nicholas Musonye first became the Secretary General of CECAFA in 2000, Rwanda was trying to rebuild its football from scratch. The local football federation (Ferwafa) had gone through a turbulent times and stability was needed to cushion the popular sport.
Having spent most of his youthful time in newsrooms in East Africa, Musonye had not intended to get into the muddy and murky world of football. But in his last assignment as a journalist covering the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana, CAF recognised his ability and catapult him into the mainstream CAF media committee.
During this period, CECAFA was also in turmoil having been suspended by CAF for insubordination and taking a wrong position during the 1998 FIFA elections. Things were made even worse for the regional body when the entire executive led by Tesfaye Gebreyesus of Eritrea was kicked out.
The looming vacuum was not going to last for long as CAF went on to look for the possible replacement of the executive, and, a new Secretary General. As fate would have it, the former CAF President Issa Hayatou and Vice President, the late Farah Addo of Somalia, with so much vested interests in the region settled on Musonye as the new secretary General in a dramatic move initiated during a General Assembly in Kampala Uganda.
Musonye, who had been a permanent figure in AFCON championships since 1994, had some knowledge of CAF operations and had for a long time interacted with CAF big shots. So he had his ways of getting things done using Addo, who had also wrestled for the CECAFA presidency.
Since that eventful day in Kampala, Musonye has been at the helm of CECAFA– through happy and turbulent moments over his last 20 years of reign.
He got CECAFA from the ashes, brought it to the limelight and his star rose higher when, with the help of former Ferwafa president Ceasar Kayizari, saw President Paul Kagame became the patron of CECAFA in 2002.
The arrival of President Kagame saw Rwanda literally becoming the home of CECAFA, hosting more events than any other country in the region.
Surviving many attempts to remove him, Musonye has remained bullish when it becomes to defending the ideals he believes in. In the last 20 years he has been at the helm, CECAFA has had many successes, and remains the only football zone in Africa that consistently organises annual competitions.
The CECAFA Kagame Cup is the only club competition in Africa that is staged at zonal level. It is also the only region that has all along staged the challenge cup for national teams.
But despite all the achievements, Musonye has been criticized for high handedness and overstaying in the office.
When asked about these accusations, he responds: “I don’t believe much in democracy. If you allow too much democracy in Africa, you will not move. That is why I sometimes make unilateral decisions. This has served well for CECAFA.
Regarding his exit, he says: “I want to go, and very soon it is going to happen.”
In an exclusive interview with Saturday Sport earlier this week, the long-serving CECAFA boss revealed that he waits for the next cycle of elections, and won’t be standing for another term.
Visibly joyful, Musonye said he had always wanted to stage a big CECAFA event in Rwanda and this dream has been fulfilled following the success of the 2019 CECAFA Kagame Cup, which concluded last Sunday in Kigali.
With 16 teams in contention, and four different venues, the Kenyan said, “This year’s showpiece was, by far, the best the region has had in a long time.”
Ugandan champions KCCA clinched their second CECAFA Kagame Cup title after beating Tanzania’s Azam FC 1-0 in the final.
Speaking to this publication in Kigali on the eve of the final match, Musonye fondly expressed his happiness of having made so many friends in Rwanda during the period he served as CECAFA boss. “I do have many friends around and almost in every corner of the country.”
This has been a great joy for me and I will always be grateful to President Kagame, and the people of Rwanda.”