Cretinous In Kigali

Emma Nsekanabo
Kigali Dec 2005

Every four years, the multi-sport Francophone Games bring together young athletes and artists from French-speaking countries around the world for a week of competition and revelry.

The 5th edition of the just concluded Francophone Games was this month held in Niamey in the West African state of Niger.

Athletes from 37 countries took part in the track and field competition where Rwanda’s ace athlete Disi Dieudonne scooped a gold medal in the 10,000-metre race and a bronze medal in the 5,000-metre race.

But the 24-year-old’s flurry of excitement suffered a not so easy knock when the organizers told the gold medalist that they did not have the Rwandese national anthem as he was ascending to the podium.

The organizers, contentedly taking Rwanda for granted, proposed that the general Francophone countries’ anthem be instead played with the Rwandese athlete adorned in his 10,000-meter gold medal.

But Disi, fully taken aback, gave an emphatic ‘No’ to the organizers, who further insisted he should not protest their ruling. The athlete apparently viewed this as a persistent thorn in the organizer’s flesh by the event’s protocol; he asked them to avail him a microphone or megaphone for him to sing the national anthem.

Even after showing he was ready to sing the national anthem before a mammoth crowd in a gigantic stadium, one of the organizers questioned him why he was bothering himself yet he was Kenyan not Rwandese.

“One of the organizers approached and told me why I was bothersome; after all I was Kenyan not Rwandese. I told him I am 100% Rwandese and I can sing my national anthem,” Disi, who has served in the Rwanda Defense Force before, narrated to this writer.

He added that they told him he could not manage to sing and he retorted that it never called for a scintillating voice.

Apparently winning the battle amidst a solemn feeling, the athlete was permitted to sing his own country’s anthem. He only sang the first stanza, poignantly stirring the crowd that gave him a round of applause.

As if that was not enough, Rwanda’s subjugation persisted. When Disi rose up again to receive the bronze medal he had won in the 5,000-metre race, the organizers raised the Burundian national flag instead of the Rwandan one. Disi had no option but to surrender his own flag to bring down the Burundian flag. The organizers claimed they did not have the national flag yet they had used it at the commencement of the games when Disi scooped the gold medal in the 10,000-metre race.

“I took it to be disrespecting Rwandese people who have a national pride to protect. It does not make sense to say that they were able to find Disi as an athlete and unable find Rwanda’s anthem. Rwanda is bigger than Disi,” he observed.

Meanwhile, Epiphany Nyirabarame also won a bronze medal in the female marathon.


  1. Dieudonné Disi RWA 29:17.11

  2. Abderrahim Goumri MAR 29:18.05

  3. Ahmed Baday MAR 29:18.06