Rwanda deny bribing referee for AFCON qualifier against Ivory Coast

Frank Kessie of Ivory Coast takes on Muhadjili Hakizmana of Rwanda Julius Ntare/BackpagePix

The Rwanda Football Federation have denied allegations that they bribed a referee who handled their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match against Ivory Coast on September 9 in Kigali.

Namibian referee Jackson Pavaza, who handled the match that Ivory Coast won 2-1, reportedly communicated to CAF that he had been offered a bribe and told the Namibian media about the story.

"We are shocked by the remarks made by Namibian CAF Referee Jackson Pavaza claiming to have been bribed to manipulate the result of the 2019 AFCON qualifier between Rwanda and Cote d'Ivoire held on September 9, 2018 at Stade de Kigali," FERWAFA communicated on September 12.

Pavaza made the bribery allegations on September 11, where he claimed Rwanda tried to bribe him and other officials, who were also Namibian.

The Rwanda Football body explained that on September 7, after the Match Coordination Meeting chaired by Match Commissioner Mike Letti from Uganda, the four Namibian match officials were paid $247 as extra expenses incurred by the quartet as confirmed by the Namibian Football Association (NFA) as mandated by article 36 & 37 of the 2019 CAF Africa Cup of Nations Qualifying Regulations.

"However, the referees claimed that there were other extras that were incurred on their flight to Kigali which needed to be paid also," the statement continued.

"Later, the FERWAFA Commissioner of Competitions Eric Ruhamiriza was informed by Referee Pavaza verbally and through a whatsapp message about the remaining unpaid extra receipts amounting to $237 on September 9 and Ruhamiriza thought this amount of money was for each referee."

Rwanda explained that Ruhamiriza, alongside General Secretary Uwayezu Francois Regis, prepared a total of $948 to be shared among the four officials with each set to be reimbursed $237. The officials went to Hotel des Milles Collines where the match officials were staying and gave them their extras as they had requested.

"It was at this moment that Pavaza brought to the attention of FERWAFA officials that the money which was requested for the extra expenses incurred amounted to a total of US$237 not a US$948 as FERWAFA had prepared. Upon departing for Kigali International Airport on Sunday night, Pavaza was given and signed the receipt of US$237 in presence of match commissioner Mr. Mike Letti," explained the Rwanda FA.

The Rwanda FA has further stated that what really happened was miscommunication on the exact amount of money that was demanded by Pavaza in his initial communication to Ruhamiriza, which should not be taken as form of bribery as alleged by the referee.

"With extensive knowledge of CAF Regulations, FERWAFA can never and will never be indulged in any form of corruption that goes along the way in jeopardizing the high level of integrity and professionalism of the game," added the FERWAFA communication.

When contacted about the matter, FERWAFA Communications Manager, Bonnie Mugabe told KweséESPN that they did not try to bribe any official.

"CAF has not contacted us yet over the matter," he concluded.

Rwanda are bottom of Group H in the qualifiers after losing 2-1 away to Central Africa Republic and at home against the Ivory Coast. Guinea top the group with six points from two games.