Open letter to First Lady: Sort out this U-18 mess

Tuesday October 3 2017

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta jogs on the track with former and current Kenyan athletes prior to the opening ceremony of the 2017 IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships on July 12, 2017 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATIOON MEDIA GROUP

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta jogs on the track with former and current Kenyan athletes prior to the opening ceremony of the 2017 IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships on July 12, 2017 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO | NATIOON MEDIA GROUP 

By ELIAS MAKORI
More by this Author

Greetings Your Excellency Margaret Kenyatta.

I hope this finds you well and in good health.

Your Excellency, let me start by congratulating you for the support you have accorded sports in the first term of the Jubilee presidency.

That you selflessly broke barriers, trained for and competed in the London Marathon in April, 2014, is still quite vivid in our memories, a selfless gesture that benefited many Kenyans through your ‘Beyond Zero’ charity.

Thanks to ‘Beyond Zero’, maternal and child deaths have reduced considerably because of the mobile clinics you helped purchase for the 47 counties.

Let’s hope the county governments will invest in maintaining and staffing these mobile units because remote areas can now be reached by these clinics that will be one of your most visible legacies.

Your Excellency, you also personally drove preparations for the successful hosting of the final IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi in July, a competition which broke athletics world records in as far as stadium attendance is concerned.

Along with astute leadership by the late Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, you made things happen.

Medical, media, accommodation and security arrangements were world class, and I can vouch for this having also attended the senior IAAF World Championships in London in August, where media operations and hospitality were a few levels behind what we saw in Nairobi.

Olaf Brockman, an experienced journalist, who was in charge of press operations at the Nairobi competition on behalf of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), can verify this as he was also at the London championships.

“In Nairobi, they built a perfect press tribune,” Brockmann said in one of his reports to the IAAF.

“If Nairobi is awarded the (senior) World Championships, it will be a fantastic success for the media,” he added.

However, despite these accolades, I regret to inform you that your good deeds ­­— as patron of the IAAF World Under-18 Championships — are being compromised by incompetent state officials that have mishandled patriotic men and women who burnt the midnight oil to make sure that the championships were a huge success.

Your Excellency, at this moment, committee members haven’t been paid outstanding allowances running over a period of several months.

Medics who were outstanding, along with transport, accommodation and communications teams, have made futile attempts to get their dues in a most unfortunate anti-climax to the brilliant week of competition we hosted.

By law, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) will have to wind up operations this month, subsequent to which dozens of Kenyans who rendered their services to the championships could go home empty-handed with no course for redress.

Already, lawsuits have been filed by some suppliers who have run out of patience and committees have declined to file their post-event reports to the LOC for onward transmission to the IAAF due to the impasse.

This paints a terrible picture of Kenya at the IAAF.

First Lady, the lack of coherence between the sports ministry, Sports Kenya and the championships’ LOC threatens to erode any gains the championships brought to Kenyan sport.

We are, meanwhile, reeling from the embarrassment of being stripped hosting rights for the 2018 African Nations Championships (Chan) due to recalcitrance and lack of seriousness by those charged with the huge responsibility of managing Kenyan sports.

It is acts like the failure to pay workers their hard-earned dues that mess Kenya’s image abroad, even as our athletes remain steadfast in placing us on the global sporting map.

It is such incompetence that will make it difficult for Kenya to win hosting rights even for an ajua regional championship.

Cash flows should not be an excuse because tidy sums were set aside for the championships, and we were even recently told that Sh4.2 billion was also made available for the ill-fated Chan competition.

Which means, Your Excellency, that the government, and LOC, simply don’t want to pay the loyal Kenyans who toiled for the IAAF showcase to succeed.

The solace these Kenyans seek is in your patronage and respect for patriotic citizens.

They look upon you to help sort out this mess that is yet another blot on Kenyan sports management.

Your Excellency, even as you engage in crucial final weeks of Jubilee re-election campaigns, kindly spare some time and inject sobriety into the post-event management of the youth championships and ensure all suppliers and those demanding unsettled dues are paid.

This will go a long way in indicating the Jubilee administration’s commitment to Kenyan sports development.

It will help shape your legacy.

On behalf of the suffering Kenyans, I wish you well, Your Excellency.