KIGALI, Rwanda, May 18 – First Lady Margaret Kenyatta will on Sunday join her counterpart in Rwanda, Jeanette Kagame, during the Kigali International Peace Marathon that is expected to draw thousands of athletes from across the world, including Kenyans.
An estimated 6,000 athletes, diplomats and peace enthusiasts from various countries are expected to take part in the annual peace marathon, a national event now in its 13th year running.
Although the Kigali event incorporates the 42 km full marathon and the 21km races, the two First Ladies are scheduled to run a symbolic and non-competition seven km special “run for peace” race after flagging off the other two events.
The Sunday event marks the second time that both First Ladies from Kenya and Rwanda will be running together after the Beyond Zero Half marathon in Nairobi on March 6, last year.
During the Nairobi event, Mrs Kagame joined thousands of Kenyans including Deputy President William Ruto, Diplomats, top corporate leaders and renowned elite athletes to complete the 21 km half marathon for which the Kenyan First Lady is known for in her campaigns to mobilise resources for the Beyond Zero initiative.
Over the last four and half years, the First Lady has run four successful Half Marathons in Nairobi and London and also trained for the events in Japan, Ethiopia and various parts of Kenya. She has set a global record for her commitment and participation in running the marathons.
The three concurrent events in Kigali are scheduled to start and end at the Amahoro National Stadium where the two First Ladies will also preside over the awards to the winners.
The top winner of the 41 km marathon will take home Rwandese Franc 2 million (approximately Sh240,000) while the winner of the 21km race takes home Rwandese Franc 1 million (about Sh120,000).
The marathons will be preceded by a Peace Torch rely on Saturday that starts from Rwanda’s memorial site in Nyanza region and end at the Amahoro Stadium.
Adults, the youth and children will take part in the Saturday event according to the President of the Rwanda Athletics Federation, Jean Paul Munyandamutsa.
All the previous events of the Kigali peace marathon have been dominated by Kenyans including last year where men and women from Nairobi scooped all the first top positions in both 42km and 21 km races.
The annual Kigali Peace Marathon plays an important part in the country’s journey towards peace, healing and reconciliation after the Rwanda mass slaughter of some of its populations in 1994 where over 800,000 people lost their lives within 100 days of senseless ethnic cleansing as the rest of the world watched helplessly.
The Kigali peace marathon takes place within the Country’s Kwibuka 23 (that marks 23 years since the 1994 genocide) period that spreads between April 7 to July 3 ahead of the country’s Liberation Day on July 4.
Despite that dark spot in its history, Rwanda has now become a model of peace in Africa characterized by vibrant growth and development and a deliberate effort towards nationhood that collectively detests profiling its citizens by their ethnic identification.