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The love relationship between FIBA, the NBA and Rwanda

After refusing to wear jerseys flocked with the slogan Visit Rwanda, the Burundian basketball club Dynamo BBC was eliminated from the Africa League by general forfeit. The case symbolizes the tensions in the Africa of the Great Lakes and the links between world basketball and the Rwandan regime.

Basketball Africa League. (Photo: BAL)

Designed to be the "showcase of African basketball", the Basketball Africa League (BAL) is currently playing its fourth edition. Funded by the NBA and organized jointly with FIBA, the Fédération Internationale de Basketball, this competition has significant media coverage thanks to an expensive public relations campaign. Usually smooth, the communication of the tournament was upset by the controversy surrounding Dynamo BBC, the Burundi champion, and one of the major sponsors of the BAL, Visit Rwanda.

Opposed to the Moroccans of FUS Rabat on March 10 in the Kalahari Conference, the Burundians received a package "for refusing to comply with the rules of the league governing the requirements for jersey and uniform" according to the statement of the president of the BAL, Amadou Gallo Fall.

In short: Dynamo refused to play with flocked jerseys of the slogan Visit Rwanda. A scenario that occurred on March 12 against the Angolans of the Petro de Luanda, pushing the league pronounced a general forfeit.

The friend of sports leaders

Commented on in the sports and political media, this case obviously symbolizes regional tensions in Central Africa, but also the extreme politicization of basketball bodies with in particular the influence of Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda since 2000. Skillful communicating, Kigali's strong man has seduced the leaders of international sport for a good decade, forging friendships with Gianni Infantino, re-elected by applause and without opponents in 2023 on the occasion of the 73rd FIFA congress held in the Rwandan capital, or David Lappartient, the president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), who publicly defended Rwanda's choice as the host of the UCI Road World Championships in 2025.

Kagame is also known for his close relationship with Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the the Emir of Qatar. Tamim's most famous football club, PSG, has meanwhile renewed its partnership with Visit Rwanda until 2025.

Constructive investigations – and what you can do
In THE INQUISITOR team, we are convinced that there can be no better constructive journalism than investigative research and the most detailed coverage possible – based on documents. For everything else, there are the ever-growing PR and propaganda departments of the Olympic organisations.

For Kagame, the objective was clear: attract a wealthy international clientele to develop luxury tourism; the price of a permit for an hour and a half with the gorillas is close to 1,500 dollars! For Qatar, the showcase provided by PSG opened the door to other deals: Qatar Airways became the 60% owner of the new Bugesera airport (40 kilometres south-east of the capital), valued at 1.3 billion dollars, phase 1 of which was due to be inaugurated in 2024. Qatar Airways negotiated a 49% stake in RwandAir, while Qatar Airways Cargo opened its first African hub in Kigali.

Kagame regularly appears at PR events organised by the Emir's troops that have a sporting connection. Funnily enough, he also appears at the so-called Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani International Anti-Corruption Excellence Award (ACE). The presentation of these anti-corruption awards with a world record-breakingly long name took place in Kigali in 2019. At the sixth award ceremony, in December 2022 during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Kagame sat in the front row alongside IOC members Tamim and Infantino and once again gave a speech.

Doha 2022: Paul Kagame, big spender Emir Tamim, Gianni Infantino. (Photo: ACE)

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