The launch of Rwanda’s first ever cricket stadium and its continuing efforts to use sport as part of the reconciliation process have been praised by the Commonwealth Secretary-General.
The Gahanga Cricket Stadium, built just a short distance from one of the 1994 genocide’s killing fields, will unite people of all backgrounds in addition to giving a much-needed boost to the sport. Previously the national team had to play its matches in Uganda.
The ground was officially opened by President Kagame, alongside Alby Shale, whose father Christopher established the Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation before his death in 2011.
Speaking following the launch, which is the culmination of six years of planning and construction by the foundation, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said, “I think it’s the most phenomenal achievement to have created a centre for peace because that is, in effect, what the national cricket stadium is.
“You have people involved, who were either directly or indirectly affected by the genocide, coming together and playing in the same teams. It is a wonderful, emblematic moment, because it just demonstrates how sport can bring divided peoples together and really make a difference.”
The Secretary-General added, “It’s a phenomenal example and a very proud moment for Christopher Shale’s son, Alby, and those who have, together with the fantastic Rwandans brought this dream into a reality.”
The pitch was christened by a match between teams led by former England captain Michael Vaughan, and South African batsman Herschelle Gibbs, in front of a hundreds of excited spectators and visiting dignitaries.
President Kagame said, “We are very happy to have this cricket pavilion and ground. It’s a great pleasure for us in Rwanda to have this facility. We have partners and friends from the UK who have made this happen and they have introduced and brought the challenge of playing cricket in Rwanda for the first time. And we remember Christopher Shale, in whose memory this has been built.”
Through its Sport for Peace and Development programme, the Commonwealth Secretariat advocates for sport to be used as a vehicle for peace and development. It assists member countries to develop policies and frameworks that link sport to outcomes in areas such as health, education, gender equality and social cohesion. Technical assistance is available to member countries to develop national policies and strategies to maximise the contribution of sport to national development objectives.
Secretary-General Scotland added, “It was truly inspirational that Rwanda has welcomed the sport of cricket; a team game that will now be played by men, women, boys and girls in the name of peace.”