Zimbabwe Warriors soccer fan, Alvin Zhakata, has won admiration from many people for embarking on a grueling five-day journey alone by road to Rwanda to cheer his beloved national soccer team.
Rwanda is hosting the 2016 African Nations Championship and only players featuring in their country's own domestic league are eligible to compete in the competition.
The journey took him to Zambia, Tanzania and eventually his destination-Kigali.
But Zhakata says the African safari was not all that smooth as he encountered the familiar problems of civil war characteristic of some countries in the continent.
Accused of Terrorism
Tanzanian authorities grilled and vetted him thoroughly after he told the immigration officials that he was traveling by road to Rwanda via Burundi. “As soon as I mentioned Burundi they thought I wanted to engage in acts of terrorism.
"They started asking me questions and frisked me. But when they were satisfied that I posed no threat, they even provided me with a police escort to the bus station. The officials discouraged me from going through Burundi saying it was not safe.”
U.N. human rights officials warn Burundi is on the verge of civil war and the international community must take action to avert a looming catastrophe. The call came at a special day-long session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on the deteriorating Burundi situation.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, opened an emergency session of the council by describing escalating atrocities, intimidation, and hate speech in Burundi, saying it harked back to that country’s "deeply troubled, dark and horrendously violent" past.
“Burundi is at bursting point, on the very cusp of a civil war. The time for piecemeal responses and fiddling around the edges is over. The situation in Burundi demands a robust, decisive response from the international community,” Zeid said.
Burundi, which emerged from a 12-year civil war a decade ago, began spiraling into chaos in April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term, a move described as unconstitutional by his opponents. It sparked months of protests in the capital, Bujumbura, and a failed coup.
Nkruruziza won a disputed election in July 2015 by 69, 41%.
Burundi has seen 40 years of armed violence and civil war since gaining independence from Belgium in 1962. The conflicts, rooted in political and historical tensions between the ethnic Hutu majority and Tutsi minority populations, have killed more than 300, 000 people.
But Zhakata’s ordeal did not end in Tanzania. When he crossed the border in Rwanda, he also drew the attention of that country’s army after blowing his horn commonly known as vuvuzela.
South Africa popularized the vuvuzela during the 2010 World Cup. The horn is generally described as “a long, plastic horn that makes a loud, monotone sound”.
Zhakata said, “The Rwandan army was alarmed when I blew the vuvuzela in celebration of reaching my destination. They interrogated me and when they realized I was harmless they asked for a photo opportunity and they were asking me about President Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe.”
Alvin Zhakata and Zimbabwe soccer players in Rwanda
Zhakata says the Zimbabwean soccer players were excited, praised him for his dedication and promised to win the tournament and dedicate it to him.
Zimbabwe is the most consistent Southern African nation in the history of CHAN; they have featured in every edition of the biennial event. The Warriors' best outing in the tournament was in 2014 when they finished as the fourth best team, losing the third place to Nigeria.
The Warriors will begin their push for silverware with a game against the Chipolopolo of Zambia on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe is in Group D and will also battle against Mali and Uganda. The tournament ends February 7. The 16 competing nations are divided into four groups.