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October 11, 2005
A ray of hope

Mrs. Nawal El Moutawakel and Frankie Fredericks, members of IOC and the athletes’ commission, respectively, visiting the venues in the company of the BSJA President

At last, a ray of hope has appeared after more than twelve years of war, a war which has left behind tens of thousands of victims, material destruction, and forced entire populations to move within and without the frontiers of Burundi. Thousands of men, women and children all over the country have suffered and are still suffering from the serious trauma caused by this raving madness, which has affected sports life as well.

In this particular domain, the crisis has brought about regression in several areas. With regards to football, for instance, the country has fallen behind significantly, and it hardly ever participates in the African competitions. This problem is not entirely due to the crisis shattering the country, but rather to an internal crisis affecting the Federation. As a result of the latter, FIFA made a severe decision to suspend the aid provided for Burundian football.

Currently, the Burundian Football Federation presided by Lydia Nsekera, the second African woman at the head of a football federation, gives reason for optimism for the FIFA officials. Visiting Burundi between 13-14 April, President Joseph Blatter laid the foundation stone of the "House of Football", the new headquarters of the federation. The FIFA President also announced at a press conference that FIFA would finance a Technical Centre for the Youth in the near future in the framework of the "Goal Project".

A press commission was set up in order to prepare this visit. It was the BSJA that had drawn up the list of the journalists to be accredited for the Football Federation as well as the "media plan" to be implemented later on. The event was covered by more than a hundred journalists, press organs, agencies, and audiovisual and electronic media.

Joseph Blatter’s visit and the restoration of the cooperation with the FIFA have put the Burundian Football back on track. The new BFF leaders hope to repeat the feats of the junior national selection becoming a finalist in the African Nations Cup in 1995 as well as that of

the Club Vital’O finishing in the finals of the Cup Winners’ African Cup in 1992.

The Burundian Sports Journalists’ Association also took part in the organization and the coverage of the African Athletic Confederation held in Bujumbura between 25-27 April. The "Press Commission" was presided over by the BSJA: by its Secretary General and our colleague Venant Nimpagaritse. A media plan was also suggested and approved by the Organizing Committee.

This event was quite significant, as shown by the presence of Lamine Diack, IAAF President, Mrs. Nawal Moutawakil, IOC member and IAAF Council member and the renowned Namibian athlete, Frankie Frederick, also IAAF Council member. The IAAF President promised at a press conference that his institution would finance the construction of a synthetic track in Burundi, the first such in the country’s history.

Burundi that produced talents like Venuste NIYONGABO, Olympic champion on 5000m (Atlanta 1996) and Arthemon HATUNGIMANA, second in the world championships (Göteborg 1995) is suffering from a severe lack of infrastructure, so this gesture is considered to be a donation of friendship and hope. This track will allow our athletes to train but also the organization of regional competitions lacking so far.

During this Congress, Mr. Tharcisse HARERIMANA, the President of our Association, was nominated President of the Press Commission of the African Athletic Confederation.

Let us not forget about the distribution of the "Sport and Media Trophy 2004" of the IOC, which was also given to our President. The official award ceremony took place at the Ordinary General Assembly of the NOC of Burundi on 2 April.

This award, which is given to a person who has contributed greatly to the diffusion of the Olympic values and the promotion of sport in his country and in the world, is an honour for our Association. Apart from his activities as a journalist specialized in Olympism and as National Director of Sports Administration Training, Tharcisse Harerimana has been the initiator of several pacification and development projects with the help of sport. In Gihanga, his hometown, for example, he created "the tournament of hope", a football championship between the various socio-professional categories in the 11 villages of the locality, and the "Union of the Villages", cycling race and football championship for the same villages. More recently, he and his friends voluntarily repaired a drinkable water well dating from the colonial age (1953).

Thus, the reparation of this well brought relief to the inhabitants of this region, which is seriously in need of drinkable water. Up until then, one single well provided water for a population estimated around 8000 people.

At present, the BSJA is also participating in the organization of all the activities held in the framework of the International Year of Sport and Physical Education (cultural and sports activities, conferences and seminars).

Finally, thanks to some well-meaning partners at national and international levels, our Association could send two delegates to the AIPS Congress for the first time. The 68th Congress, which was held not long ago in Marrakech, was very important for our Association, which took part actively in the relaunch of the African Sports Journalists’ Union (ASJU), the Continental Section of the AIPS. We would like to thank everybody who has given us a helping hand.

Venant Nimpagaritse

General Secretary

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