Almost every household in the East African country suffered some form of casualty. This year marks exactly 22-years of Rwanda’s saddest moment and one-time national team goalkeeper Eric Eugene Murangwa recounts how he survived the bloodshed thanks to football.
The documentary was inspired by the story of Murangwa, one-time the safest pair of hands for the Amavubi, using his role in soccer to promote peace to future generations affected by conflict.
“For many years afterwards, I kept asking ‘why me?’ And, recently I came to realize that those who survived had all survived for a purpose, which is to make sure our loved ones weren’t lost in vain. The only way we can do that is to make sure that what happened to them, and to us, never happens to our children.” Murangwa said.
Few weeks before the tragic incident, Murangwa, then on the books of Rayon Sports, one of Rwanda’s most successful clubs, was playing in the defunct CAF Cup Winners’ Cup, and had eliminated Sudanese giants, El Hilal at the First Round 4-2 on aggregate. The team will later withdraw due to the instability at home as opponents at the next round, Kenya Breweries had a walkover into the last eight.
“For just a few hours you could see people sharing a smile, sharing a laugh… You could see Hutus and Tutsi hugging each other on the street. For a very short time we forgot what was happening in our country,” added Murangwa.
The globular leather will later become very crucial in shaping his future, as he helps in promoting sport as a tool for building lasting peace.
“Twenty-two (22) years ago, hell fell on us when madness engulfed the beautiful thousands hills of Rwanda and innocent men, women, young and old were identified as people with no right to live. As we begin our Kwibuka22 please take a moment and reflect on what the past 22 years means to you as a survivor of Genocide. Why did this happen to me, to you, to us or to them?”
During the Genocide, he lost 35 members of his family. He is brother to former Mukura, APR and Amavubi goalie Claude Ishimwe and young brother Lambert ‘Poko’ Niyindorera who played for La Jeunesse all passed away.
His fellow players protected him from the killings and today Murangwa runs an organisation which uses football to promote tolerance, unity and reconciliation among Rwandan youth.
Murangwa added that as much as today's date brings sorrow and sadness in our hearts and souls it is a day and period which should remind us how strong and remarkable for the people of Rwanda.
“Let's look at Kwibuka22 as a true picture of how we Rwandans chose love over fear, hope over despair, forgiveness and reconciliation over revenge and violence and progress and development over corruption and futility. These values have indeed become the pillars of our recovery from a basket case nation to a beacon and leading nation on the African continent and beyond.
“As we continue to keep the memories alive it is the same Rwandan spirit of resilience and sacrifice which made the impossible possible that will continue to keep us on our path and help us to defeat and destroy any form of Genocide ideology home and away,” he concluded.
The commemoration of the 22nd anniversary of the genocide was held from 7-13 April 2016 with vigils across the country.
Meanwhile, the Rwanda Football Federation (FERWAFA) will organise the ‘Genocide Memorial Football Tournament’ in June the climax the remembrance, as the Rwandan football family was a major victim of the unfortunate incident losing several players, coaches and administrators.
“We lost many people in sports and sports has been key to reunite people so we have to continue with that spirit which will change the mind of some people who still harbour Genocide ideology.
“Our aim is to continue to be united and spread love to all Rwandans through sports. We need to build strong relationships between Rwandans, which will help us to build a stronger and more prosperous country,” remarked FERWAFA president, Vincent Nzamwita.