Following his demise, friends and Rwandans eulogized him as a man of peace who strived for everyone’s progress irrespective of their background.
Edouard Bamporiki, the State Minister in the Ministry of Youth and Culture has said that Amb. Habineza was a valuable person who had become an intimate friend apart from official duties.
Speaking to IGIHE, Bamporiki revealed that he sought advice from Amb. Habineza as a person who had long-standing experience.
“He is my minister. I knew him before when I was seeking his support to promote my artistic talent. It happens that a talented artiste might not have an opportunity to directly engage with the minister. I visited him for the first time being with an American called Lee Isaac Chung as we planned to produce Munyurangabo film,” he said.
“Joe was pleased to see a native from Nyamasheke being with an American talking about film projects. I later called him via provided phone number informing that our film had won an award. He helped us to get travel documents to receive the award in USA. This reflects his humility,” added Bamporiki.
He explained that Habineza continued to support his works of arts and enjoyed the privilege of becoming his intimate friend.
“The most important thing people can learn from him is humility. I know him as a humble person who assumed duties in difficult conditions. He particularly played a major role in sports where he brought foreign celebrities and worked hard to uphold culture in tough times,” he said.
Bamporiki revealed that he was saddened by the passing of Amb. Habineza as someone with whom they had built strong relationship.
“Hearing that Joe Habineza has died at such younger age is beyond imagination,” he said.
Bamporiki expressed optimism that Habineza’s kind heart and friendly interactions with members of the society give hope that he has gone to Heaven.
“His kind heart, compassion, love and humanity that characterized him gives us hope that we shall meet him again as believers because he has been granted seat in Heaven,” he noted.
Aimable Karirima Ngarambe, a journalist representing IGIHE in Europe and the United States knew Habineza since 1988.
At the time, both Karirima and Habineza were players of Electrogaz Volleyball Club and later played together in Amasata Volleyball Club between 1994 and 1995.
“I knew him as a professional and disciplined player who was always characterized by kind heart. He was friendly and interactive with everyone around. In fact, he was always charming” he stressed.
“He was a ardent player during exercises and matches. Such qualities continued to characterize him at work. I remember one day when he denied wearing the jersey of Electrogaz because it carried the names of Pepsi Cola which sponsored the team. Habineza was avoiding to promote products of a competitor because he was working with Bralirwa,” he added.
Karirima also highlighted that Habineza will always be remembered for his good attributes as a bright, amiable, disciplined and humble person.
Joseph Habineza was born in Kamonyi district in Southern Province on 3rd October 1964.
He served in various positions where he worked with Heineken in Kinshasa between1994-1998 and headed the digital power arm of Heineken in Nigeria between1998-2000.
Habineza started his political career in 2004 after returning from Nigeria. At the time, he was appointed the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture.
In 2008, the Ministry was split into the separate institutions where Habineza continued to assume duties as the Minister of Sports and Culture until 2011.
He was later appointed Rwanda’s ambassador to Nigeria and Ghana.
Habineza rejoined the cabinet in 2014 following his new appointment as the Minister of Sports and Culture. He held the position for 183 days and replaced on 24th February 2015.
In November 2016, Habineza started own businesses where he was involved in the wholesale of noodles produced from Egypt based firm known as Antoniou.
He was appointed the CEO of Radiant Yacu Ltd in 2019 and left the position in August 2020.
Contribution to Miss Rwanda, music industry
Ishimwe Dieudonné, the Managing Director of Rwanda Inspiration Back Up which organizes Miss Rwanda contest is among people with indelible memories to late Habineza.
“I knew him when he was re-appointed the Minister of Sports and Culture at a time when we were organizing Miss Rwanda. I had heard many people describing him as a kind person but I had not yet witnessed the reality until I worked with him and realized how he was friendly and social interactive to everyone,” he said.
“It is also important to mention his brilliance. He was clever and constantly worked hard to bring innovations. I remember some days when we would feel desperate saying that some works are beyond our capacity. He instead encouraged us to push through insisting that we can make it. We followed his tips and succeeded,” added Ishimwe.
He stressed that Habineza was honest and humble man who strived for positive development of everyone around him.
“He was a righteous man who always stood for the truth. It is hard to believe that he has died but one sure thing is that he was a blessing to everyone who met with him. Habineza leaves a good legacy. I also take this time to condole with his children and the bereaved family during these difficult times,” said Inshimwe.
Joseph Mushyoma [Boubou]; the CEO of East African Promoters (EAP), an event management company which organizes concerts including Iwacu Muzika Festival among others described Habineza as a great icon who contributed to the growth of music industry.
“If you remember well, he closely followed up artistes; he was enthusiastic about arts and music and warmly welcomed everyone seeking his support. He was a peaceful man who lived in harmony with others, valuing everyone’s views and offering advice where necessary. As he worked with Radiant, he was among EAP partners with whom we toured the country together. Our industry loses an important and experienced person,” he said.
Singer Mani Martin is also among artistes who are grateful for the support of late Habineza to the growth of music industry.
“Joe Habineza was an outstanding person to me. His higher ranking positions didn’t favor arrogance. He however, interacted with everyone. He played a big role to my career development and Rwandan music industry at large,” he said.
As he started Kesho Band in 2011, Mani Martin sought advice from Habineza introducing him to his engagement in live performances.
“He gave me a message of encouragement that paved the way for my success. I owe the current progress to him in no smaller part,” he revealed.
“His death is a great loss,” added Mani Martin.
Social media users mourn Habineza
Rwanda’s embassy in Germany has also sent condolences via Twitter handle notoing that Habineza will be missed.
" RIP Joe - you will be missed. It was a pleasure and honor to work with you, particularly in sports. Condolences to the family and loved ones left behind," reads the tweet.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Shema Maboko Didier also condoled with the bereaved family.
“I am saddened by the passing of Joe Habineza. May your soul Rest in Eternal peace. Sports fraternity will always remember you,” he tweeted.
The President of FERWAFA, Olivier Nizeyimana also wished him to rest in eternal peace.
"FERWAFA President, Olivier Nizeyimana and everyone at FERWAFA is saddened by the passing of former Sports Minister, Amb Joseph Habineza. The football fraternity stands with his family in these despairing times. Rest well Joe," the federation tweeted.
The Director-General of the National Rehabilitation Service (NRS), Fred Mufulukye also said that Habineza will always be membered for his humility and comforted the bereaved family.
"Heartfelt condolences to Joe Habineza’s family. We will always treasure the memories of your simplicity and warmth. Your gentle soul will always be in our hearts. RIP Joe," he tweeted.