In 1994, Rwanda was devastated by genocide. Over 800,000 people were killed over 100 days of violence between Hutus and Tutsis, the two main ethnic groups. Since then the country has moved on and undergone a period of reconstruction with astounding results. There is a role for sport and specifically rugby in building trust and fostering shared experiences between the Rwandan people. Rugby with its unique environment and its ability to form bonds between players provides an opportunity to facilitate the reconciliation process.
Having been initially introduced to schools in the Gitarama region by the charity’s founding member in 2001, Friends of Rwandan Rugby (FoRR) has concentrated its efforts on developing rugby in rural schools and youth groups for both boys and girls. Combined with the efforts of the Rwandan Rugby Federation who have established an adult club structure, rugby communities now exist in Kigali as well as the Northern, Eastern and Southern regions. FoRR maintains the development of rural grassroots rugby through the employment of rugby development officers.
FoRR is a charity that was initially set up in 2004 to support the development of rugby in rural communities and schools across Rwanda. Back in 2001 FoRR founding member Emma Rees travelled to the country as a VSO volunteer to teach English in the village of Shyogwe.Upon her arrival she discovered that the students had no previous knowledge or experience of the game called rugby so with equipment stocks consisting of 1 rugby ball and several socks filled with sand to use as markers she set about instructing an eager group of students in the fundamentals of the game.
Quickly a passion developed within the group and it was determined that the students would require a game to further enhance their understanding of the sport. To facilitate this process it was necessary for Emma to support the development of other teams such as the one in Ndera who had a Ugandan teacher introducing them to rugby, and by travelling to other schools who had a VSO volunteer to initiate teams for Shyogwe to compete against.
Upon having more equipment sent out from the UK, rugby began to take hold in small sections of participating schools across the region. Happily this passion continues strongly in the area over a decade later. These early games amongst the school population developed in parallel with a fledgling men’s club rugby community that existed at this same time based within Kigali around a sporting club called Cercle de Sportif. In 2002 representatives from the Kigali rugby community coupled with those developing school based initiatives approached the Ministry of Sport and were granted permission to form the Federation of Rwandan Rugby (FRR). This body gained recognition and is now an associate member of the International Rugby Board. It is responsible for the sport within Rwanda to this very day.
To read about the very early days of FoRR in Rwanda, take a look at our archived blogspot.