More than a million lives were lost in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which affected all facets of society. Sport was no exception.
Today, Rwanda is marking the Genocide for the 24th time. Officially, the mourning period ends on April 13 but commemoration activities will go on until July 3, the day when the killings were stopped by the Rwanda Patriotic Front.
There will be no sporting or any entrainment activities during the mourning week, with authorities urging members of the public to participate in commemoration activities in their neighborhoods.
The commemoration break starts just a day after four teams (Amagaju, APR FC, Bugesera, and Police FC) joined Mukura Victory Sports, Sunrise and Marines in the quarterfinals of Peace Cup.
Last evening Amagaju overcame AS Muhanga 1-0 to progress after a 2-2 aggregate score (thanks to the away goal rule), APR drew 0-0 against La Jeunesse to earn a 3-0 aggregate victory, while Bugesera also played out a goalless draw against SC Kiyovu but came out on top thanks to the away goal they scored during the sides’ 1-all draw in the first leg. Police FC reached the last eight after routing Musanze 3-0 to make it an aggregate win of 4-2.
The seven teams will later be joined by either Rayon Sports or Entincelles, whose two-legged fixture was postponed owing to the former’s continental duties.
Meanwhile, Rayon Sports took a giant step toward the group stage of CAF Confederations Cup after thumping Costa do Sol of Mozambique 3-0 at Kigali Stadium last evening in the fixture’s first leg, with the return match due in Maputo later this month.
Speaking on the eve of the 24th Genocide commemoration, a senior official at the Ministry of Sports and Culture (Minispoc) called on all sportsmen and women in the country to be exemplary during this mourning period by owning commemoration activities.
The Director of Sports in the ministry, Emmanuel Bugingo made the appeal in an interview with Saturday Sport on Friday.
“Athletes in different disciplines are role models and influential to many, they should be models during this period and own the planned commemoration activities. It is not only about joining the rest of the public in commemorating but also taking a good time to honour the sports men and women, coaches and administrators who were killed during the Gencoide,” Bugingo said.
He reiterated the ministry’s commitment to work closely with sports federations to organise competitions in memory of the sportsmen and women as well as all Rwandans who were killed during the Genocide.
“The ultimate message to the sports fraternity this year remains unchanged; to spread unity and love among all Rwandans through sports, which has proved to be one of the vehicles to healing the wounds caused by the Genocide.”
Bugingo, a former volleyball player in the national team, also confirmed that different federations will hold annual Genocide memorial tournaments in May and June to pay homage to members of the sports fraternity that were killed.
He also revealed that Minispoc, which is responsible for commemoration activities, is organising a ‘Walk To Remember’ specifically for sportsmen and women who lost their lives in the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Rwanda Volleyball Federation (FRVB) is one of the few sports federations that consistently organise annual memorial tournaments since 1995.
FRVB lost over 50 members in the killings.
Other federations expected to hold memorial tournaments this year include that of basketball, handball, cycling, football, Karate and taekwondo.
Rwanda Football Federation (Ferwafa), which oversees the country’s most popular sport in the country, will be organise a memorial tournament for a third time since 2016 when they hosted the inaugural tourney in honour of departed football players, coaches and officials.
Football and volleyball are two of the sports disciplines that were hugely affected by the Genocide, losing over 70 and 50 players, respectively.