Roller skating in Burundi

Roller skating can be a fun leisure activity, a competitive sport, or a mode of transportation. While it is practised by numerous young people, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture doesn’t recognize it.-By Diane Uwimana

Young roller skaters in their exercise ©Iwacu

Young roller skaters in their exercise ©Iwacu

It seems dangerous and unbelievable. How those young people learn the proper stance to glide and stop in the roads full of busses, bikes, motorcycles and passengers. If drivers do not pay attention, the young roller skaters can cause many accidents.
They often use National Road No. 1, which is often called “Bujumbura-Bugarama”. “We often use the Bujumbura-Bugarama road because there the speed is high. Surely, accidents may occur. Some of us are found in the bushes alive or dead”, says one of them at the bus stop ‘Gare du Nord’ when practising his sport.

“When my son began skating, I feared for his life”, a mother of one of the skaters complains. “I forbade him many times to run through those roads full of buses and passengers. But in vain, he loves his sport.” She indicates that sometimes her son comes back injured due to an accident that occurred during his exercise. “This sport is very dangerous, he has already lost his teeth”, she regrets.
It is worth noting that most roller skaters do not have sufficient equipment such as a helmet, knee pads and wrist guards. Another skater says that it is difficult to quit practicing once you begin. “Once you learn the proper stance and how to glide and stop, you feel so good and nothing can stop you”, he says.
He indicates that he learnt the roller skating techniques through internet and TV. The first time he hit the streets, he felt he didn’t have control over the skates and lost his balance. He tried a couple of times before he felt comfortable.

“We can’t do anything for them”

While roller skating has been practised in Burundi for a few years, it is still not recognized by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
Patrick Ndayisenga, Director General of Sports and Leisure in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture indicates that nothing can be done to help them. “Normally, if there is a new sport, the members create their own structure, statute and leaders. Then, they may present their statute at the Ministry in charge of Sports. We only help those federations and associations which are in conformity with the law”, Ndayisenga states. Ndayisenga sees roller skating as a mode of transportation. “There are those who know very well how to glide and those who are really beginners.”