When mourners gathered to pay their last respects to the late Charles Nderitu Mukora at his Ngaini home near Marua town in Nyeri County on January 10, it was obvious many would have wanted to talk about what they had achieved through the man they were about to bury. Given the many years Mukora was involved in sports both as an active sportsman and an administrator of local and international fame and later as a politician, he had many admirers all over.
Both President Uhuru Kenyatta and his predecessor Mwai Kibaki eulogised Mukora - a man they have been associated with in different roles for nation building over the years.
In his message of condolences to the family, relatives and friends read on his behalf by Sports Principal Secretary Peter Kaberia, Kenyatta said Mukora was a great Kenyan who played a big role in promoting the country's sports industry, adding that he was a brilliant sports administrator and a pioneer football and athletics coach in Kenya. Indeed, he coached some of our greatest athletes among them the legendary Kipchoge Keino and Naftali Temu.
Mukora enjoyed the rare distinction of having been an athlete, coach and administrator, representing Kenya in both football and athletics at regional competitions.
He was one of the founding pillars of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) and his tenure saw Kenya firmly established in the global Olympic movement.
"With other sports leaders, Mzee Charles Mukora encouraged sports personalities to venture into politics and advocate for sports development in the country through the passing of appropriate legislation in Parliament. Indeed, he has been very instrumental to the development of key policies regarding sports in the country, a move that greatly encouraged the growth of the sector," said Kenyatta.
In remembering, Mukora, Kibaki in a message read on his behalf by Nyeri County Commissioner Frederick Shisia noted that besides being a loyal political party lieutenant and an outstanding Member of Parliament for Laikipia East, Mukora demonstrated rare insights in his work in the world of sports and athletics in particular. It is not common to be sought after to provide leadership in any given arena for virtually one's entire active life. Mukora easily achieved that.
"The passion and commitment Mukora had for every assignment he undertook positioned him for leadership in virtually every public role he served. His eye for detail and enthusiasm to nurture talent remain, by far, the emblematic attributes of his legacy,” said Kibaki.
Trials and tribulations are part of human life. In sports, many things happen which can easily destroy one's reputation without justification and more so when an allegation is given more prominence. Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games scandal is a matter of public interest, given the manner it was handled.
To understand how Mukora got caught up in the scandal that was to expel him and five of his colleagues in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) if they did not resign, one needs to go back in time.
The scandal is said to have broken on November 24, 1998 when a report came out showing a letter directed to a child of an IOC member indicating the Salt Lake Organising Committee (SLOC) was paying the child's tuition. Swiss IOC member Marc Hodler, head of coordination committee overseeing the organisation of the 2002 games, made the accusation that a group of members of IOC had taken bribes since the start of the bidding process in 1990 for the 1996 Olympic games. Soon four independent investigations were underway, by the IOC, the USOC, the SLOC and the US Department of Justice.
Before any of the investigations could get underway, both Tom Welch (former president) and Dave Johnson (senior vice-president) resigned their posts as the head of SLOC. Many others soon followed. The Department of Justice filed charges against the two: fifteen charges of bribery and fraud. Johnson and Welch were eventually acquitted of all criminal charges in December 2003.
As part of the investigation, the IOC recommended expelling six IOC members, while continuing the investigation on several others. Apart from Mukora, there were Augustin Arroyo of Ecuador, Zein El Abdin Ahmed Abdel Gadir of Sudan, Jean-Claude Ganga of the Republic of Congo, Lamine Keita of Mali, Sergio Santander Fantini of Chile and David Sikhulumi Sibendze of Swaziland, though he resigned during the investigation.
Each person was accused of receiving money from SLOC, either in direct payment, land purchase agreements, tuition assistance, political campaign donations or charitable donations for a local cause.
All in all, 10 members of IOC were expelled and another 10 sanctioned. This was the first expulsion or sanction for corruption in more than 100 years of IOC’s existence. Although nothing strictly illegal had been done, it was felt that the acceptance of the gifts was morally dubious. Stricter rules were adopted for future bids, and ceilings were put into place as to how much IOC members could accept from the bid cities. Additionally, new term and age limits were put into place for IOC membership, and 15 former Olympic athletes were added to the committee.
According to online sources, in 2006, a report ordered by the Nagono regions governor said the Japanese city provided millions of dollars in an "illegitimate and excessive level of hospitality" to the IOC members, including US$4.4 million spent on entertainment alone.
The report issued by IOC's inquiry panel states that Mukora accepted direct payments totalling $34,650 from the Salt Lake City committees "for his personal benefit" and "has been unworthy of and jeopardised the interest of the IOC in a manner incompatible with the duties and obligations pertaining to his membership."
In an interview with reporters in Nairobi, Mukora denied any wrongdoing saying that he was an innocent victim of circumstances.
Said Mukora: "However, IOC president has advised us to tender our resignations before March 17-18 in order to put these allegations to rest. I have decided, therefore, to accept his advice on principle."
In his defence, Mukora, an IOC member since 1990 and chairman, Kenya Olympic Committee, said he had told the IOC inquiry panel that he had taken no money personally and that he had used the payments to finance sports development in Kenya and world youth sports activities.
"I have never been party to any improper dealings in the last 40 years I have been involved as a volunteer or as an IOC member," said Mukora.
"The moneys that I am alleged to have received as regards to Salt Lake City were moneys paid towards the establishment of high-altitude training camps and I have not used the moneys for my personal use or personal purposes."
Seven African IOC members had been implicated in the scandal, which had led to charges of IOC bias and unfairness by several African sports officials.
Jean Claude Ndalla who was former sports minister of the Republic of Congo, had told the Associated Press that the IOC investigation "smacks of a conspiracy against Africans." Robert Magagula, vice president of the Swaziland Olympic Committee, added that "lavish gifts were presented to all IOC members not just African members."
Magagula had said the IOC's $ 150 limit on gifts was all but ignored by bid committees courting IOC votes. Once the limit was adopted by the IOC, he added, gifts were presented secretly to the IOC members after midnight by bid committees " instead of being rolled on a trolley through a hotel lobby at noon. That happened to all IOC members, not just African members."