March 6, 2019

Football Coach Accused of Homosexuality is Back in Court Again

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Grace Nyinawumuntu was awarded more than Rwf50m compensation by court

The legal troubles of Grace Nyinawumuntu, a football coach accused of homosexuality by her players, and then fired by her employer AS Kigali team, are not about to end soon. She is preparing to appear in an appeals court over the same cases.

Nyinawumuntu will be in the High Court in Kigali after AS Kigali appealed against a lower court verdict which ordered she is compensated Rwf40m ($47,000).

In the same case, her lawyers have also filed a counter appeal against the same verdict, this time raising new grounds. She had accepted the first verdict, and told The Chronicles today that the AS Kigali appeal made her change her mind.

The ghosts disturbing Grace Nyinawumuntu emerged in 2016, more than 8 years after she became the first female professional coach in Rwanda. She had undergone various international and local trainings. 

Rumours began circulating in local tabloids alleging that Nyinawumuntu had been promoting lesbianism in the women side of AS Kigali club, one of the top league teams in Rwanda.

At the time, she was also serving as couch of the Women National Team “She-Amavubi”.

In January 2017, AS Kigali dismissed Nyinawumuntu saying its internal investigation had uncovered gross misconduct on her part. They accused her of fomenting divisionism among players by extending favours to some.

For the weeks that followed saw a media frenzy as details of her alleged homosexuality were laid bare. One of the players Shadia Mahirwe even appeared on a local TV with a public “confession”.

The national football federation FERWAFA maintained her as She-Amavubi coach until recently. 

Unemployed, aggrieved and faced with a public that was vilifying her on radio talk shows and social media, Nyinawumuntu went to court.

She filed two cases; one against the accuser Shadia Mahirwe for defamation and another against AS Kigali for wrongful dismissal.

Nyinawumuntu, in her court filings against Mahirwe argued that the homosexuality allegations were fabricated. She said she was happily married.

As for the case against AS Kigali team, she argued that she was not given a fair hearing and was dismissed without due process.

In April the same year, a Kigali lower court issued its verdict in favour of Nyinawumuntu. She was awarded Rwf40m as compensation from AS Kigali team.

She was all jubilant. Her ordeal made her a darling of the local soccer supporters. The hostility that had risen in the early days of her case, suddenly faded away.

Then in December, court also cleared her of all the allegations from the players. The accuser Shadia Mahirwe was ordered to pay Rwf 10m damages.

Both Shadia and AS Kigali appealed. The cases are still pending.

However, AS Kigali appeals case is finally up for hearing on March 14 this year – many months from first verdict.

Back in the days when Grace Nyinawumuntu was a renowned women football coach (Photo by UMUSEKE)

AS Kigali Women Team boss Teddy Gacinya told The Chronicles that they appealed on many grounds, including that the Rwf40m was “too high”.

“We followed all the rules in the dismissal of [Nyinawumuntu]. The judge did not give us justice and that is what we are seeking from the High Court,” said Gacinya.

 She added that Nyinawumuntu was fired due to indiscipline and causing tensions in the team through acts like favouritism for some players that were resulting in divisionism.

The club had information of alleged homosexuality, but that was not the basis of her removal, said Gacinya.

For, Nyinawumuntu, feeling betrayed, she also filed an appeal as well, this time demanding even more.

“I accepted the first court decision even though there were some issues the court did not address. Now that the club appealed, I want everything to be looked into,” Nyinawumuntu, said in interview with The Chronicles.

She claims the club did not cover her health insurance in a period of five years. AS Kigali paid her maternity leave for only one month, yet the law stipulates several more months.

Nyinawumuntu also wants damages for the pain they made her endure through a defamation campaign in the media, citing specifically the team leader Gacinya.

“I want justice and to clear my name,” she told us.

Asked how much in cash she was expecting, the 35year old Nyinawumuntu said it was up to the High Court to determine.

“I will accept whaveter the law detemines I deserve,” she said.

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