Rwanda: Viateur Kalinda – Honoring the Late Celebrated Football Commentator

The Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA), formerly Office Rwandais d’ Information (ORINFOR), will Thursday, April 11, observe a moment to honor former journalists killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The public broadcaster lost a number of journalists including Viateur Kalinda who many describe as the best football commentator in Rwanda of all time.

There are many ways to describe a match, but very few have done it the way Kalinda did.

He was a well-known man who delighted football fans in Rwanda as a commentator of football matches in the mother language [Kinyarwanda] during his time at for Office Rwandais d’Information (ORINFOR)/Radio Rwanda from 1978 until 1994 when he was killed during the Genocide against the Tutsi.

“His football commentaries brought me goosebumps,” said 64-year-old Vianney Murenzi who closely followed Kalinda during his days as a football commentator.

“His commentaries gave me goosebumps; they always make me miss him. I really have no words to describe the way he was doing it. His skills were unmatched,” he added.

Who is Viateur Kalinda?

Viateur Kalinda was born in 1953 in the former Rutare commune, Murehe sector in Byumba prefecture.

He did his secondary studies at the “Minor Seminary of Saint Dominique Savio” in Rwesero, then he continued at the Major Seminary of Nyakibanda.

He was later admitted by National University of Rwanda in Butare in 1975 where he spent three years pursuing languages until 1977.

As soon as he graduated, he was hired by then national media agency “ORINFOR”. Kalinda once again specialized in languages while attending the “Institut Supérieur Catholique Pédagogique Appliqué” in Nkumba where he obtained his second diploma.

He later did a nine-month training course in Belgium in the media. In 1989, Kalinda became a sports journalist at Radio Rwanda. At the end of 1993, he was appointed representative of ORINFOR in Byumba.

Thanks to his electric voice and entertaining football jargons, Kalinda established himself as a legend for football fans in Rwanda. He had his own way of commenting on the match. At every game, people across the country flocked to radios in groups to follow the game through Kalinda’s voice.

He invented his own vocabularies to spice up his match commentaries, leaving football fans entertained and eager to listen to every second of his commentary session.

Some famous vocabularies that he will be remembered for include ‘Rwanyeganyeze’ (that’s the goal!), Imana y’ibitego (best goal scorer), Kwamurura inyoni (the ball thrown very high) … rwari ruhiye (that was almost the goal), Kurengura umupira (throw in), Urubuga rw’amahina (the penalty area) and Ruhago (football) to mention a few.

He even wrote a book titled “Rwanyeganyeze” which explains the rules of the game for football. It was the late Kalinda who founded the ORINFOR sports show “Imboni” which aired on Radio Rwanda. Kalinda died during the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994.

Kalinda will forever remain the master of describing a match, although many football commentators do a good job. Some journalists tried to imitate such his style of football commenting but he remains irreplaceable in the field.

Veteran journalist Jean Lambert Gatare was one of many people who loved Kalinda’s commentaries. He was luck to see him doing commentaries live. Drawing inspiration from him, Gatare would go one to follow his footsteps and become a famous sports commentator as well.

“I used to tell him that he was my role model because he inspired me to the idea of becoming a journalist and that I would try to imitate him. He was a humble man who didn’t like to be shy, so you could hear him when players passed the ball. You would wonder if he was the one you knew.”

“Everywhere he was, he was discussing football.” “He is the person who inspired us to go into the media and try to do it like him. All I did, I was try to imitate him, but I didn’t do ¾. He was outstanding,” Gatare said of Kalinda.

“I loved his commentary. But, I also knew him personally. The day before he was killed, we had been together,” Gatare recalls.