Thursday, 03 April 2014 00:00

April 6 – July 15, 1994

On April 6 Rwanda will mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide that saw one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu people slaughtered by Hutu soldiers and militia in just 100 days.

Time continues to play its part in healing the country's wounds but it is receiving a helping hand from an unlikely source – cricket.

The sport was introduced in Rwanda by exiles who fled the country to escape the atrocities and brought the game back from places like Kenya and Uganda.


From these small shoots it has blossomed thanks to the involvement of UK cricket development and HIV/AIDS charity Cricket Without Boundaries.

From these small shoots it has blossomed thanks to the involvement of UK cricket development and HIV/AIDS charity Cricket Without Boundaries.

Working in partnership with the Rwanda Cricket Association and the ICC, CWB has visited the country 11 times since 2007, coaching more than 18,000 children and training nearly 200 new coaches.

A large number of players in Rwanda's national senior and age group teams - male and female - were first introduced to the game by the charity. But the role cricket has played in the country's recent history extends far beyond the pursuit of sporting excellence.

As well as teaching cricket skills CWB also uses the sport as a way to introduce vital HIV/AIDS awareness messages. And the charity has also used the game to help unite people from all different tribal backgrounds.

CWB trustee Ed Williams said: "One of the main reasons we wanted to come to Rwanda was to use cricket to bring people together. As well as teaching people the basic skills we have tried to promote the values that are synonymous with the game, things like teamwork and respect for your fellow players.

"The game is now played by boys and girls and people from all sections of society. It has also been responsible for putting smiles back on the faces of people who have experienced the most unimaginable tragedy.

"Cricket in Rwanda is going from strength to strength and we are pleased to work with the RCA to play a part in its success."

One person who has benefited directly from CWB's work is Audifax Byiringiro. One of his first experiences of cricket was a coaching session run by the charity during a trip in 2008. He has since gone on to make the national squad.

In October 2013 he also became one of CWB's first ever ambassadors – a paid coach who teaches cricket and HIV/AIDS awareness in schools, orphanages and universities.

audi2Like the majority of Rwandans, Audifax has been deeply affected by the genocide. His father and two brothers were killed and his surviving brother lost a leg following a machete attack.

He says that as well as giving him a passion and a profession, cricket has given him something much greater.

He said: "After the genocide I was struggling with life. Bombs had destroyed our house so we had to move.

"The first time I met Cricket Without Boundaries was in 2008 and I really got involved from there. I went to one of their coaching sessions and everyone was enjoying it. Apart from cricket they were also giving messages on life. This showed that apart from the game they really cared about our personal issues and problems.

"It showed me that in cricket I might find a family and be involved in that family."

The reminders of the genocide are not just present in people like Audifax, there are scars wherever you look.

One of the main sites for CWB coaching sessions is the Kicukiro Oval at the Kicukiro College of Technology in Kigali. If you visited it today it would be likely to ring out with the voices of high-spirited young people enjoying a game of cricket.

kicikiroIn 1994 it was the scene of one of the genocide's most bloody massacres. More than 2,000 people were killed by Interhamwe militia after Belgian peacekeepers left the Ecole Technique Officiale school where hundreds of families had sought refuge. This was portrayed in the 2005 film Shooting Dogs.

Football goals on the field still bear bullet holes as a subtle but stark reminder of the horrors that took place there.

On a different site on the edge of Kigali another British charity is looking to do its bit to establish cricket in Rwanda. The Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation was formed in August 2011 to build and manage, on a not-for-profit basis, the first dedicated international cricket ground in Rwanda.

Development of a 4.5 hectare site that will eventually house two pitches began in January.

One of RCSF's ambassadors is England international Heather Knight. She visited Rwanda with the charity earlier this year and also joined forces with CWB to coach the national women's team.

She said: "The girls were very welcoming and really got stuck into the fielding circuit that I ran with them. Cricket has given me so many brilliant experiences over the years and it was great to see the girls out there enjoying their cricket and also enjoying each other's company. It's brilliant that they are being given the same chances as their male counterparts to get involved in the sport."



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