Controversy Surrounds President Kagame’s Attendance at Football Match During Genocide Commemoration Week

In a move that has sparked significant criticism, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame attended a football match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich in the opening week of the genocide commemoration period. This period is typically observed in Rwanda with solemn remembrance activities to honor the victims of the 1994 genocide.

President Kagame, a well-known Arsenal supporter, expressed his disappointment on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) following Arsenal’s elimination from the Champions League quarter-finals by Bayern Munich. His post read, “Despite the loss, this is still my team. #Arsenal.”

The match took place at Emirates Stadium in North London, where President Kagame was seen after reportedly meeting with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The leaders discussed ongoing agreements between their nations, including the controversial deal concerning the relocation of migrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The Guardian reported that the attendance of the Rwandan president at the game, which coincided with the first week of April dedicated to genocide commemoration, raised eyebrows. During this week, entertainment and public sports events are customarily halted in Rwanda as a sign of respect. Indeed, the Rwandan police’s website reiterated that all public celebrations and sports competitions should cease during this period, from April 7 to April 13.

However, a government spokesperson dismissed the criticism, suggesting that the police website’s statement was an error and that it did not reflect the current policy stance of the Rwandan government. The spokesperson argued that the police might have relied on outdated instructions that have since been revised.

Insiders from the UK Home Office revealed that the President’s visit was known five days before the match, with sources from the Prime Minister’s office hinting that the primary purpose of Kagame’s trip was to watch the football game, with the meeting with Prime Minister Sunak arranged subsequently to discuss various bilateral issues.

This incident has sparked a debate about the appropriateness of the President’s actions during a week meant for solemn remembrance, with “The Guardian” critiquing the decision to prioritize attendance at a football game over observing the nation’s mourning practices.