Since November 4, when Taarifa published a story after a month-long investigation into the misdemeanor of Rwanda Cycling Federation (Ferwacy) top management, reactions have been overwhelming from all corners of the world, including its management.
To set the record straight, Taarifa does not solicit for bribes to publish any story nor does any person, organization or group compromise our editorial standards as alleged by the Federation’s President Amiable Bayingana in his defense.
We don’t make any trade offs at all, radical as it might sound or seem. Taarifa is only guided by journalistic principles and ethics.
It is not the first time Taarifa assigns its reporters to conduct complex investigations and it won’t stop. It is our duty to the public.
As a professional requirement, senior management of Ferwacy was contacted by Taarifa and given time to respond to six important issues discovered during this investigation and publication of the story was after a rigorous fact checking exercise.
The Federation’s President deliberately refused to respond to any questions, and has instead been attacking and blackmaling our management, particularly our Chief Editor, Magnus Mazimpaka, on social media platforms.
We have received part of his messages in WhatsApp Groups abusing and tarnishing our image.
He accused us of taking bribes and acting unprofessional. He is free to produce evidence for such disgraceful allegations. He is a weak man and clearly lacks values and respect.
We have seen his hawgwish published in local tabloids such as Igihe and Rwanda Express, something like that, yet he has the right to respond on this same platforms.
We at Taarifa are a group of young professionals with ambitious plans to build a reputable media house.
We have strong values and we are guided by journalistic principles. If need be, we can share all our bank accounts and sources of our revenues. We live a humble and decent life. We, and in strong terms, denounce Baingana’s behavior.
We have no political or business affiliation that compromises our editorial standards. We are are a breed of Rwandans who are surviving in a country with a leveled field created by the new Rwanda which allows for anyone to have an opportunity to prosperity.
The intimidation, threats, and blackmail that we have received do not shake us at all. Not in this country. They make us stronger. If he feels he has unfairly been reported about, he has a right of response on this platform.
The story on the cycling federation, which deserved to be covered, resulted into a 5-page Press Release by the federation in which Team Africa Rising and its founders are mentioned.
They are professional and understanding. They have written a letter to the Editor. Amiable Bayingana, respectable as he is in his own world, chose to use crude and demeaning tactics to cover up his misgivings. It’s not our fault nor do we wish him ill.
He had the opportunity to respond to all queries sent to him. He arrogantly and ignorantly chose to delegate his junior to handle a matter beyond his jurisdiction. It is not in our practice to extort information from sources.
In contrast, the response from Team Africa Rising has been received. We have reshaped it to fit within our standards and below is an excerpt.
We are choosing at this point to not go public because the true issues are not being addressed, sexual abuse and corruption, but rather this press release is a personal attack against Jock and Kimberly Coats via Team Africa Rising.
FERWACY: When they went back to USA, they continued to use the name “Team Rwanda” during Fundraisings and in the end, funds were never sent to the intended beneficiaries.
Team Rwanda Cycling legally changed its name to Team Africa Rising in 2014 per USA IRS Regulations (see attached document) to better reflect the work we were doing at the time and currently.
Ride for Rwanda was a fundraising event started in 2006 and over the years donated over $1 million dollars to the Rwandan Cycling Team.
These funds helped the renovations at ARCC and paid for staff during our tenure. The Ride for Rwanda is being rebranded to the Good Dirt Ride beginning in 2020 due to our work throughout the continent.
All funds from the 2018 Ride for Rwanda (fundraiser recap attached) were spent in and directly for Rwanda (see attached document). These funds paid for staff, travel, and various other expenses.
The 2019 Ride for Rwanda funds have not been spent and they total $80,000 (fundraiser recap attached). These funds are earmarked for Qhubeka bicycles into Rwanda and support of Rwanda’s only UCI Continental Team Benediction Cycling.
TAR currently publishes all of our audited financials on Guidestar.org (https://www.guidestar.org/profile/27-3113955) a nonprofit website dedicated to the integrity and transparency of all nonprofits based in the US.
TAR currently holds a Gold Star Seal which is the second highest ranked designation of financial integrity and transparency. We do not have the highest ranking, Platinum; simply because the size of our organization is small and we do not qualify.
FERWACY: In more than 10 years after these Americans left, they have showed time and time again that Ferwacy is a role model in African Cycling Sport!
This is correct. TAR did show the success of the model in Rwanda as it ran under the financial transparency of TAR, however, TAR continues to distance itself from Ferwacy due to Ferwacy’s lack of financial accountability and transparency.
TAR’s reputation with donors and sponsors is due to the work TAR has done cultivating these decades-long relationships, TAR’s integrity and financial transparency.
FERWACY: But we were surprised how they quickly changed in a very short time! This shows us that they weren’t happy with our progress without their involvement. Anyone can see and understand this.
TAR spent a year in a transition plan to ensure the continued success of Ferwacy and Team Rwanda Cycling. TAR wanted nothing more than to walk away and see Ferwacy grow and flourish. That is every nonprofits long term goal – teach, guide and then release.
The challenge to this success from the beginning of the transition period was Ferwacy and thereby vis a vis Aimable Bayingana’s refusal to adopt business financial guidelines and transparency.
There are a string of attached documents highlighting TAR’s request for full audited financials and TAR’s concern with a continued lack of public audited financials produced by Ferwacy.
TAR’s concern with the 2018 official handover of assets was that TAR, its Board of Directors and donors could not be guaranteed there was a full system in place to account for financial integrity.
Ferwacy, to TAR’s knowledge, has never produced an audited financial statement. If this was incorrect and TAR was simply not given said document we stand corrected and this document should be made public to all Rwandans.
During the transition year, TAR documented repeatedly the poor performance of former Deputy Director Richard Mutabazi under the leadership of Ferwacy.
TAR’s Executive Director, Jonathan “Jock” Boyer, was Director of ARCC until Ruben Habarurema was hired in mid to late 2018 hence TAR’s involvement with ARCC.
TAR has engaged with ARCC employees from time to time to facilitate the answering of questions regarding sponsored gear and tourism questions.
TAR, up until November 4, 2019, referred all tourism requests generated by our TAR website directly to Blaise Jabo and Ruben Habarurema. TAR can produce numerous emails confirming this relationship.
Habarurema has reached out to TAR regarding employee issues when employees were not performing to their level of expectation and TAR has advised him accordingly.
TAR advised Blaise Jabo on website design and marketing questions in response to cycling tourism. These emails can also be produce to show no other agenda except for the growth of ARCC as a cycling tourism destination.
FERWACY: One of the things that hurt us the most, it was when one of National Cycling Team member Bonaventure Uwizeyimana fled to America where they had invited him to participate in fundraising championships and then after they spread rumors everywhere that he fled Rwanda because he didn’t have hope nor trust in his future as a professional bike rider.
TAR stands by its claim Bonaventure Uwizeyimana was fearful of the Federation and hopeless for the future of the sport. To leave one’s family and request asylum in the US is a bold and desperate decision especially in light of the USA’s current stance on immigration.
TAR immediately informed all parties (see attachment) of Bonaventure’s decision to leave TAR’s care while in the US. The US Ambassador was also made aware of the situation and TAR’s stance on not supporting or condoning defections.
During Bonaventure and Patrick’s stay in the US TAR was informed by Team BEX President, Felix Sempoma, that Aimable Bayingana had called him and was angry that Bona and Patrick were in the US.
Because Bona and Patrick were professional cyclists under Sempoma’s BEX Cycling he was the one TAR needed to request travel approval from, not Ferwacy.
Sempoma issued the travel approval. Aimable Bayingana stated to Mr. Sempoma that if he had known Bona and Patrick were traveling to the US and were going to be with TAR, he would have stopped them at the airport. Bona and Patrick were told this information.
Bona was one of the most traveled and successful cyclists during the tenure of TAR with Team Rwanda Cycling. He was national champion twice, broke barriers by being the first Rwandan to win a stage at Tour of Amissa Bongo and was a proud advocate and spokesman for his country.
Rwanda should be asking why this young talent made such a desperate choice to leave his family and country and follow his compatriots Janvier Hadi and Valens Ndayisenga into an uncertain and potentially dangerous world as an asylum seeker. The biggest talents in Team Rwanda history left out of fear and lack of opportunity under the current leadership of Ferwacy.
One of these gentlemen, when asked to speak about the challenges they face responded with:
Hi mukecu I don’t think I can do that I still have more thing to do with my family I can not have time to talk about that. Journalists I know how they work I love my family sorry for that.
Today, November 5th Bonaventure received threats by Rwandans on his Facebook feed.
None of these cyclists are able to ever race again. They chose safety over the careers they loved.
FERWACY : TAR left Rwanda per our mutual agreement and both sides were in full agreement. But, some of the equipment that were used at Musanze Cycling Center, such as a Car, motorcycle and bikes were sold instead of leaving / donating the equipment to the center.
TAR spent a year during the transition plan compiling financial inventory and financials for MINISPOC and Ferwacy. TAR did not take any equipment out of Rwanda and left over $385,000 worth of equipment and supplies at ARCC (per handover document 2018 attached).
TAR sold the TAR Land Cruiser which was actually owned by Project Rwanda, the initial INGO. The sale of the Land Cruiser was due to the Deputy Director at the time, Richard Mutabazi, abusing the use of the vehicle. Mr. Mutabazi was told the vehicle was to only be used for official ARCC and Team Rwanda Cycling events.
In July 2017, Mr. Mutabazi used the vehicle for political party purposes directly in violation of our IRS non profit status. TAR has no involvement in any political events whether US, Rwanda or any country in which we work because, by law, TAR cannot in order to maintain our current IRS non profit standing.
Shortly thereafter, TAR sold the Land Cruiser to Team Benediction Cycling to assist in their development as their team was expanding and the vehicle was needed.
This vehicle can be seen at any RCC event and is still in use by Team Benediction Cycling thereby still benefitting Rwandan Cycling. Team Benediction Cycling paid full market value for the vehicle and those funds went into the continued support of ARCC during that transition year.
The BMW 1150 ADV motorcycle was Mr. Boyer’s personal motorcycle and was paid for by him. The motorcycle as a personally owned vehicle was later sold to Team Rwanda Cycling Assistant Coach, Abraham Ruhumuriza and can be seen being used as a training moto and its intended purpose.
Six SCOTT Mountain bikes were sold to Felix Sempoma in March 2018. TAR in finalizing all outstanding invoices in anticipation of the close out of the transition year and the handover of all equipment to MINISPOC and Ferwacy had an outstanding invoice from Pinarello of two frames and three forks for the Presidential national bikes. Payment for this invoice for over 6,000 Euros was requested numerous times over an 18 month period.
TAR has an over 30 year relationship with Pinarello and these were bikes ordered by Ferwacy as a back up to bikes broken in competition. His Excellency, President Kagame purchased the original bikes for the team in 2014.
These were replacement frames and forks. These bikes were directly associated with President Kagame’s support of his National Team and TAR did not want his reputation put in jeopardy with a sponsor.
TAR did not have funding to pay for these frames and forks as it wasn’t in TAR’s 2018 budget, however, the invoice needed to be paid. The bikes were sold to Sempoma to pay for Ferwacy’s 18 month overdue invoice.
Email documentation attached as well as MINISPOC reports for numerous months highlighting the need to pay the invoice along with additional information on the transition.
FERWACY has never received any reports of the 2018 & 2019 Fundraising efforts. Raised funds weren’t sent to the intended beneficiaries.
Aimable Bayingana was on TAR’s Board of Directors and at any time could have personally requested the information on the disbursement of funds and TAR would have immediately replied. He never elected to do so. TAR also emailed quarterly and annual financials out to all Board Members. Aimable received these emails.
FERWACY: TAR tried to continue managing the Musanze Cycling Center remotely all the way from America and gave orders to Ferwacy’s employees without even informing Ferwacy’s leadership.
Already address in above comments along with information from 2017/18 transition year as Mr. Boyer was still acting Director of ARCC.
FERWACY : They are still using some of the people who have agreed to help to spread rumors on Ferwacy and they are working against its development. Their supporters are former Ferwacy ‘s employees who didn’t say anything about what transcended under their watch , because their ill-intention is only to destroy Ferwacy ‘s image as they continue to be bitter because of progress made while they weren’t there anymore.
TAR is continuing to focus on supporting cycling via clubs and teams in Rwanda per their individual requests, however, this is a small portion of the work TAR is currently engaging in. TAR works throughout Africa to raise the level of cycling on the continent.
TAR was recently asked by some unidentified person with Ferwacy’s twitter account to not engage any Ferwacy social media. TAR and its European entity immediately obliged as can be witnessed by our lack of promotion for anything Ferwacy related on social media. TAR promotes only clubs, sponsors, riders and teams in Rwanda and not FERWACY per their request.
Regarding the sport itself below are the facts as their currently related to the state of cycling in Rwanda.
In 2020, there will be no Rwandan cyclists on professional teams at the Continental level or higher. This is the first time since 2009 when Adrien was on MTN Energade a newly founded Continental team in South Africa. The only exception would be Felix Sempoma’s Team Benediction Cycling which TAR recently assisted in securing a $50,000 sponsor for this team.
Rwanda currently sits 5th in Africa Tour behind South Africa, Eritrea, Algeria and Morocco. TAR was adamant about setting Ferwacy and the team up for success upon transitioning in 2017.
TAR encouraged American coach, Sterling Magnell and American mechanic, Sean Belfast, to stay after the transition to continue shepherding the process. Team Rwanda Cycling rose to 4th in 2017 and 3rd in 2018 but now sits in 5th. Reasons for this include:
Lack of a consistent training and racing schedule
Lack of a consistent spare parts resupply program. Prior to Burkina Faso, TAR was informed by The Bike Shop Kigali that Ruben Habarurema had contacted them to purchase tubes for the Tour du Faso.
TAR had offered to send tubes back with Patrick Byukusenge when he returned to Rwanda from the US. The tubes were $1.92 per tube. ARCC/ Ferwacy never engaged and currently purchase tubes by the piece from Bike Shop Kigali for $10 each.
Fewer and fewer Presidential bikes sound enough to be raced at international competitions due to lack of parts and maintenance.
Poor morale amongst the cyclists – per the recent defections of Janvier, Valens and Bona
Women’s cycling continues to lag with little to no investment by Ferwacy. Without Benediction Cycling there would be no women’s cycling in Rwanda.
No women taken to the All African Games or World Championships
Jeanne d’arc Team Rwanda Cycling’s most successful female cyclist was dealing with a chronic injury TAR gave Ferwacy and Richard Mutabazi contacts in South Africa to have her seen by a professional. Ferwacy never followed up.
Jeanne d’arc “retired” out of frustration and asked Ferwacy to facilitate her bid to become a coach or soigneur and she never received a response. She reached out to TAR for assistance and TAR contacted Ruben Habarurema and enrolled her in a massage course at ARCC.
All African Games 2015
- One Gold – Janvier Hadi (first gold in Rwandan cycling history)
- One Bronze – Team Time Trial
- All African Games 2019
- One Bronze – Moise Mugisha (after his SKOL/Adrien Niyonsuti training in Belgium)
- One Bronze – Team Time Trial
NB: The views expressed in this letter are of the author and not Taarifa or its management.
Bayingana still has the right to come out and respond. But we at Taarifa will not keep silent if he continues tarnishing our hard earned reputation.
Even readers are free to share their views publically or anonymously through our email firstname.lastname@example.org