In the past three weeks, Nation Sport has been running a follow-up series on the state of sports infrastructure in Kenya. At the outset, one common thread running across the stories detailing the sorry state of sports infrastructure in Kenya is lack of long-term planning on the part of our leaders at the national and county levels.
When President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were campaigning for office in 2013, they promised to build five state-of-the-art stadiums in Kisumu, Mombasa, Garissa, Nakuru and Eldoret.
But last year, some seven and a half years since the promise was made, Kirimi Kaberia, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sport at the time, publicly said what we have known all along known, that the Government would not build the five stadiums President Kenyatta and DP Ruto had promised.
Kaberia said the government would instead work round the clock to build one state-of-the–art stadium by the time President Kenyatta’s term of office ends in 2022.
To date, the government has not build a single stadium, and I mean from the ground up. What we have seen is renovation work at Nyayo National Stadium, and at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.
To its credit, the government has also revived construction work which had stalled at Kipchoge Keino Stadium in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, and Kamariny Stadium in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County. However, these last two were pre-existing stadiums.
On June 24, Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed toured Kisumu County and presided over the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of Sh1.4 billion Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium at the Agricultural Society of Kenya Showground at Mamboleo. The stadium, if constructed inside six months as had been promised, should be the first stadium constructed from the ground up by the government. The first phase will cost Sh350 million. As devolved units through which development was meant to trickle down to the common mwananchi, county governments are equally guilty of making false promises with regard to construction of sports stadiums. A common mistake among county governments has been lack of a clear policy in sports development. Most counties have sports policies that have been waiting for the approval of the county assembly for years. Those with policies that have been approved only have them on paper, with zero implementation. Counties also suffer from lack of continuity as far as development plans are concerned. Once elected, governors launch big plans for construction of stadiums but they fail to follow through on their promises.
Most governors who were first elected to office in the 2013 General Election were re-elected in 2017, but their sports blue prints remain unimplemented. This spells doom for young, talented players.
And some of the governors who were elected in 2013 and failed to be re-elected in 2017 left behind grand plans, which their successors promptly trashed. Their successors came up with new sports blue prints, which have a good chance of being trashed again in 2022 should they fail to be reelected.
I have one story for governors who were first elected in 2013 and were re-elected in 2017.
These are the big men of the counties who have done nothing for their sportsmen and women other than ruling with an iron fist. African is a land of surprises. We have leaders suffering from “big man” syndrome. These are who have overstayed their welcome and have earned themselves the dubious distinction of “strongmen leaders.” One ‘shining’ example of such African strongmen is former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe whose 37-year reign as president ended dramatically in November 2017 as he was forced to resign when parliament commenced impeachment proceedings against him just six days after the military took over the country and put the 93-year-old under house arrest.
Mugabe went toe to toe with Muamar Gaddafi, the self-styled ‘King of Kings’ who ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years until 2011 when the western-backed National Transitional Council rebels captured and killed him. Gabon’s former president Omar Bongo ruled for 42 until his death in 2009 and together with Gaddafi, they became the world's longest-ruling non-royal leaders.
Just like these leaders who have since left the scene, governors suffering from “big man” syndrome will leave the scene after serving their mandatory two terms, and they will be swiftly forgotten like a bad dream.
Mwamba is a Senior Sports Sub-editor at Nation Media Group. [email protected]