Because cycling in Rwanda is handled by someone with connections leading to the corridors of power, he is allegedly using this privilege to do anything as he wishes in running the affairs of the cycling federation.
Sexual abuse, internal disagreements, abuse of power, fraud in broad day light and resource mismanagement are the septic wounds that are crippling the Rwanda Cycling Federation (FERWACY).
Federation members are terrified and believe that their supreme boss taps their phones.
He has created a sense of fear and regularly reminds them that the Federation is his. He says all cyclists are his properties and nobody should dare question him about how he runs the affairs of the federation.
Our sources said the federation boss, Aimable Bayingana, who also holds a sensitive post in the ruling party, RPF, has been reported to some of his seniors and it is when he began making a few changes in the federation.
He was apparently told that failure to make proper changes within the federation as cautioned by an intervention from the ruling party has caused two Vice Presidents of the federation to seek for another conflict management committee.
A reliable source has also told Taarifa that in September 2019 when President Paul Kagame flew to New York to attend the 74th Session of the General Assembly and later attending an event at Saddleback church in California, he was informed about the problems at Ferwacy.
“One of our big supporters over the decade was the one who met with Kagame after talking to us,” the source said without revealing the identity of this person.
Taarifa has seen an internal memo written and signed on October 22, by Benoit Munyankindi 1st Vice-President and Francois Karangwa 2nd Vice-President. They jointly want to address disturbing challenges that have engulfed the federation and intentionally ignored for ten years.
“Please, we are begging you as a committee to bring us together and help solve disagreements between us and prevent further conflicts in the organization,” reads part of the three-page letter (translated from Kinyarwanda).
Details of this letter also indicate that Karangwa and Munyankindi would want the committee to summon Aimable Bayingana as the Ferwacy President so that they jointly discuss six major concerns as outlined.
Foremost, there has been lack of implementation of recommendations from the general assembly and usually minutes of the meetings are never shared after.
Another concern is that procurement procedures are not respected while tenders are awarded in violation of the federation’s regulations.
These two officials have also reported to us that there is need to clearly separate the roles and duties of the Secretary General (SG) from the Managing Director (MD), believed to be Bayingana’s planted sycophant, because his overlapping positions have failed decision making.
In particular, these men are questioning the rationale of the appointment of the MD, Touissant Nosisi, holding both positions.
As a result of this dredging problem, cyclists have drastically lost morale, because they currently can spend more than four months without any facilitation even when the money is available.
Cyclists have at some point gone on strike because for failure to receive Frais de mission from races throughout the year.
The institution is also entangled with illegal procurement of items with no connection to cycling. Taarifa can confirm that there has been procurement of some items without consulting other managers who run the federation.
Sexually Harassing Female Cyclists
Taarifa has also reliably learnt that Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) is conducting detailed investigations within the federation after whistleblowers clandestinely leaked information about repeated sexual abuse against female cyclists.
Female cyclists and the lower ranking staff of the federation have been living in fear of exposing sexual predators in the federation because, according to them, these are highly connected individuals.
Unfortunately, information of sexual molestation has remained an internal tightly guarded secret.
“No RIB investigations at Ferwacy as far as I know,” Bayingana told Taarifa through the MD.
However, a federation staff on condition of anonymity told Taarifa that she would never keep quiet about the abuse, “I would never let any injustice happen under my face without me doing anything. I really think it’s best to handle this internally.”
On May16, 2017, Richard Mutabazi, the Director of Africa Rising Cycling Centre(ARCC) sent an email to FERWACY President informing him that Cycling coach Straton Mbazumutima was behaving inappropriately towards female cyclists.
“Reference made to the recent case where one of the coaches, Straton misbehaved vis-à-vis our girl riders. We have developed a policy that will protect athletes from any sort of sexual abuse, at the same time protecting coaches and staff from being wrongly indicted for such an improper conduct…,” Mutabazi said in the mail.
The concern from the riders is that although Mbazumutima admitted his behavior to Mutabazi with the full knowledge of Ferwacy President, they continued to allow him to work at clubs.
Later, concerned staff alerted the Police. Mbazumutima was banned from engaging in any cycling coaching.
The federation is now being investigated for more sexual abuses, abuse of power and other leads.
“Ferwacy has written to every cycling body regarding this man [Mbazumutima] and can never be allowed in any sport,” a source told Taarifa.
Another source familiar with this incidence told Taarifa that Straton would have these female cyclists in the same house and ‘poach’ on each of them.
One of the girls was grossly impregnated. Sadly, the baby died after birth.
It is said this incidence brought to the attention of Ferwacy management and Police, but there were no charges against the errant coach because simply the girl did not file any complaint herself with the Police. The argument was that she is an adult and not a minor.
By 2013, Bayingana had been at the helm of the cycling federation for three years when something inexplicable happened.
Bayingana procured 40 sports bicycles from Scandola in Italy without the knowledge, negotiation and approval of the federation management members.
One of the former senior Federation officials, Bizimana Festus, told Taarifa that, “Federation members didn’t know about the container coming in with bikes. Didn’t know about “their bikes” coming with a private boat. Didn’t know about payments (price of the bikes, transport cost, who pays what at what proportion etc).”
While in Italy, the 40 bicycles were packed in a container and shipped to Dar-es-salaam port in neighbouring Tanzania.
Instead of directly delivering them to Kigali, Bayingana allegedly travelled to Dar es Salaam to clear the cargo container himself.
He reportedly argued that it was cheaper for him to ship the container from Dar-es-salaam to Kigali after its arrival from Italy.
It was not clear why Bayingana did not want the container to leave Italy and reach Dar-es-salaam then proceed to Kigali as a single delivery process.
The Ferwacy President, it is alleged, attempted to clear this container from Dar-es-salaam port, but didn’t have the money required. At this time, he requested the federation funders to chip in with cash help.
“He asked us for the money to get it to Kigali. We said “NO”, because we knew he had personal items in the container and we could have lost our US nonprofit status using donor funds to clear a container with his personal items,” one of the funders told Taarifa during this investigation.
However, Bayingana meticulously worked his way around and cleared the container with the federation’s funds.
Taarifa learnt that in 2012, donors primarily from US, had mobilized U$20,000 cash to help train cyclist Adrien Niyonshuti.
Our source says that Douglas Ryder spent another $30,000 in races, travel and other expenses for Adrien Niyonshuti.
“When we returned to Rwanda, after the Olympics, we submitted our reimbursement. We even took out all our expenses and submitted a reimbursement of $10,000 to Rwanda National Olympic Committee, the Sports Ministry and the Federation (RNOC/MINISPOC/ Ferwacy).”
“We never received the reimbursement. We followed up numerous times,” Kimberly Coats, one of the handlers said, adding that they have never been refunded the $10,000.
Kimberly explains that they found out that Rwanda National Olympic Committee had actually reimbursed MINISPOC and Ferwacy this money.
“Bayingana and Ferwacy kept telling us they never received the money. That was a lie as that money had been spent by Aimable to get his personal items in the container in Dar-es-salaam. Part of that money was to go to Adrien for his training. It was so bad,” a bitter Kimberly told Taarifa.
“I know nothing about $10,000 you talk about. We owe nothing Kimberly,” Bayingana assured Taarifa.
Following Tour du Rwanda Money
In June, Federation President Bayingana announced that the 2020 edition of Tour of Rwanda will be held from February 16-23rd.
This is a massive event that projects Rwanda to the international audience and government has particular interest in it.
Federation sources told Taarifa that in particular, government provides almost Rwf200million to facilitate the event.
Other funders including Skol Breweries and Cogebanque collectively provide almost Rwf600 million in sponsorship.
An inside source revealed that the Federation President single handedly hires two French Consultants to handle Tour du Rwanda and are paid an exorbitant Rwf100million at the end of the event.
However, the federation members do not know how these French guys are hired.
“Nobody knows how their contracts are negotiated. Such a contract requires a federation meeting to vet these consultants and negotiate their contract, but nothing of a kind has ever been done. It is between the Federation President and these men,” a source told Taarifa on condition of anonymity.
Our source also revealed that the French consultants are paid cash in Euro currency not local currency and this money is not taxed by Rwanda Revenue Authority since 2008 up to 2018.
There has never been a transfer of cash from Ferwacy to these consultants in Euros.
Last year, the federation contacted Rwanda Revenue Authority asking how they could start paying taxes.
Looking at their contracts of the previous Tour du Rwanda, for example, the consultants identified as Olivier Grand Jean and Jean-Claude Herault were paid 44,000 Euros.
One of these consultants acts as the Tour du Rwanda Manager and his contract provides that he gets 35,000 or 25000 Euros.
They also get 10% of the money collected from Skol and other sponsors.
“Cogebanque does not require these French guys to give money to Tour du Rwanda. Skol without any mediator provides almost Rwf150million cash to support the Tour du Rwanda. So why would it be viewed as if these French guys mobilized Cogebanque to support tour du Rwanda,” a source explained.
But more interestingly, some federation members confronted one of these French consultants specifically Olivier GrandJean and asked him what exactly he does to deserve Rwf100million.
He is said to have communicated through email denying having received such amount of money.
This means that the money reflected in the contracts (44,000 Euros and 35,000 Euros) is not actually what these consultants get. Someone else is getting a big fraction of this lump sum.
According to this contract written in French, of which Taarifa has seen copies, it is indicated that parties include Ferwacy which is the organizer of the Tour du Rwanda.
Olivier Grand Jean is indicated as the consultant, expert and general coordinator of this event while Jean-Claude Herault would deliver as an expert in marketing and organization that collaborates with Ferwacy.
Another clause dictates that the contractor has to ensure the overall benefit of this expertise, advice and general coordination of the organization and will receive from Ferwacy an annual indemnity of 35,000 Euros.
(Pour assurer l’ensemble de cette prestation d’expertise, de conseil et de coordination generale de l’organisation, Oliveir GrandJean percevra de la Ferwacy une indemnite annuelle d’une montant de 35,000 Euros)
The New Times Deletes FERWACY Article
This year, The New Times editorial team was preparing stories that would draw its readers into the Liberation mood ahead of the July 4 anniversary.
The publication through its journalist Richard Bishumba contacted Kimberly Coats, who is the founder member of Team Rwanda cycling to write an article that would present Rwanda’s healing through the cycling lenses.
Kimberly punched paragraphs together to assemble an article titled ‘Cycling: Team Rwanda’s pioneering legacy’ and was published on May 18.
Later, The New Times wanted more from Kimberly.
On June 22, Kimberly wrote another article titled ‘Ferwacy Needs Serious Evaluation and in-depth Scrutiny’.
This article was mysteriously pulled down from the publication’s website.
For the few minutes the story had been on the website, Ferwacy had commended author Kimberly for a very excellent article.
The Federation President, Bayingana, is said to have told some of his colleagues at the Federation, “Nibyo” in agreement with the issues addressed in the article.
“One of the reasons I wrote that article was that Ferwacy/ARCC was trying to cut employees and/or cut these employees’ salaries of the original riders who now work in the sport,” Kimberly told Taarifa on Sunday during one of the sessions of more than a month-long investigation.
However, the New Times later pulled down the article from the website, but did not explain to its readers the reasons behind this unusual conduct from a reputable institution.
“…I wrote the article, sent it to Richard and never thought he’d publish it. Well, he did and all hell broke loose! Aimable got so angry at me for raising questions that he called NT [The New Times] and got it pulled down immediately. Then a few weeks later he had TNT write that self-aggrandizing article about him, Ferwacy and cycling with no mention of Adrien,” Kimberly said during the investigation.
“We, as TNT, decide to pull it down until we can independently prove all the info ourselves. I’m sorry you must have got a ton of crap. I assume you’ll continue verifying it,” the reporter lambasted the benevolent founder and supporter of the much celebrated sport in Rwanda.
“What you are doing is not proper and one day your wrong doings and malpractices will be out in the media. That one who will bring the issues in the media will be a responsibility and I will make sure that he bears the consequences,” a source said of how the federation President reacted during a meeting at a pub in Kacyiru sometime in 2018.
Taarifa continues to dig into the matter. Further details shall be reported in another article soon.