It is arguably the most popular football club in Rwanda with hordes of fans scattered all over the country but Rayon Sport Football Club never stops being in the news, mostly for the wrong reasons.
The last three months have been the most tumultuous ones for the club in recent years -from a player exodus to infighting and divisions within the club which saw the president of the executive committee Sadate Munyakazi, who was presumably ousted along with his committee, appealing to President Paul Kagame to intervene in the wrangles which have tone apart the club.
The month of May was dominated by the drama in the club which is now torn apart by disagreements between two sides -one side backing the young and aggressive Munyakazi while the other rallied behind the old-timers including Charles Ngarambe and Paul Muvunyi.
However, over the weekend, Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) seemed to restore order after it confirmed that Munyakazi and his committee were still the legal representatives of the club, in a way, confirming that the embattled Club president is still in charge despite recent efforts to remove him.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RGB, Dr Usta Kayitesi confirmed to KT Press that Munyakazi, who through his letter to the President opened a can of worms, is still the legal head of the club, ending weeks of ups and downs in the ranks of the embattled club.
“Him [Munyakazi] and the current executive committee are the legally elected leaders. We responded to a letter from someone called Charles Ngarambe, who thought he was a legal representative since 2013 yet their constitutional mandate is 2 years,”
“The current president and his committee were legally elected. There is a legal process of removing and electing new leaders and competent organs. We have given the current team a period to give us a proposal of harmonised legal documents, structure of the organisations and financial accountability,” Dr Kayitesi told KT Press.
The feedback from RGB ended days of speculation on who the legitimate leaders of the club were, rendering the new committee led by Charles Ngarambe which was elected on May 25 null and void.
The committee, led by Ngarambe, was also made up of Paul Muvunyi, Dr Claude Rwagacondo, Théogène Ntampaka, Chance Denis Gacinya, Prosper Muhirwa and Paul Ruhamyambuga. They had convened a meeting of fan clubs, which on May 27 moved a vote of no confidence in Munyakazi and his team.
Ngarambe and co. had wanted RGB to confirm that the President of the fan club association was the legal representative, which would automatically render Munyakazi and his executive committee powerless but RGB could not do so. With the intervention of RGB, Munyakazi was confirmed the legitimate head of the club and its associated bodies, swaying decision-making power back to him. He now has a task of reuniting the club torn apart by internal wrangles.
Embattled Munyakazi, who awaits a ruling on his appeal filed against the football federation FERWAFA protesting a six months ban from participating in any club or football-related activities, says he is ready to lead the process to put the Rayon Sport house back in order.
Munyakazi says that in 3 days, beginning from Monday, the issues that have bogged down the much-revered club will have been given direction. As the bickering went on, Rayon Sport’s leading players left the club, signing for competitors such as SC Kiyovu and Police FC among others.
“As I promised you last Tuesday, we are going to resolve the problems affecting our club and association. We ask for more patience, in three days we will have a clear direction of all the challenges we are facing and focus our efforts on rebuilding the club we all love,” Munyakazi promised the Rayon Sport loyalists.
The youthful president is facing an uphill task to win back the confidence of the players and the fans at the same time, after some of the key players left including the skipper Eric Rutanga and compatriot Eric Iradukunda who both joined Police FC while goalkeeper Yves Kimenyi and left-back Eric Irambona signed for SC Kiyovu.
Rallying for support
The developments have left the club in tatters with Munyakazi backed by at least 10 fan clubs while more than 20 had sided with the new committee of old timers. Both sides have been peddling accusations against each other but vocal Munyakazi maintains that he is still in charge.
“For those who have been asking many questions regarding the player’s salaries and other issues relating to money raised from selling players, all these issues will be addressed in 3 days, resolving 60 percent of the challenges we are facing, after which we will forge ahead to resolve the remaining problems,”
“The last few days saw us getting lost in bickering. The energy we have used in these fights should be redirected towards rebuilding the club. At this point we are all required to come together and unite, share constructive ideas and offer all kinds of support to the club,” Munyakazi said, rallying fans to back him.
Munyakazi said that whatever was said and done should be put behind and redirect energies to restoring parity in the club but he will have to convince the other party, including the former club honcho and alleged former backer, businessman Muvuyi and his charges, who have since fallen out with the young and ambitious president.
However, with FERWAFA set to decide on his fate on June 5, Munyakazi could be handicapped by the six months ban which some insiders say is likely to be upheld.
It also could be too late for Munyakazi to get the house in order after Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) said it was investigating some of the serious allegations he made in his letter to President Kagame, including corruption and embezzlement, where he says over Rwf1bn was embezzled from the club coffers between 2014 and 2019.
He also alleged that the club leadership he succeeded evaded tax up to the tune of Rwf239m which he said was embezzled as well as other serious allegations like match-fixing and some top officials in the club working with anti-government groups including Rwanda National Congress (RNC).
Observers say that the allegations made by Munyakazi against the same group of people who plotted to oust him will leave the club divided, whether they are found to be true or not.
A source within the club ranks told KT Press that Munyakazi could have come up with some of the allegations as a final attempt to weaken and discredit his adversaries. The RIB Spokesperson Marie Michelle Umuhoza confirmed that the allegations are under investigation.
Though the investigative body is yet to release its findings, observers have predicted that several individuals will be held accountable while Munyakazi could also be reprimanded if it is found that he concocted the allegations to put his opposition in trouble.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Rayon Sports has been in the news for the wrong reasons -from failure to pay players and abandoning them at the time of need, to players like Ghanaian Michael Sarpong openly criticizing Munyakazi for allegedly being incompetent to run club affairs.
The Ghanaian striker, one of the fan’s favourite players, was booted out of the club for disrespecting Munyakazi in an interview but the new temporary committee, now rendered null and void, was planning to re-sign him.
Earlier in May, local media reported that Akagera Business Group had repossessed the club bus after Rayon Sport failed to pay the remaining balance of Rwf36m to the company, the remaining amount on the Rwf100m which the club bought the white and blue bus.
Munyakazi is expected to convene a general assembly to decide on some of the key issues the club is faced with. According to the statute, a third of the recognised fan clubs can also call for the general assembly to discuss outstanding issues.
Founded in 1965, Rayon Sport, commonly known as ‘Gikundiro’ boasts of a huge fanbase, but over the years the club has been bogged down by internal wrangles, financial mismanagement and administrative challenges, often leading to sponsors pulling out.