What's next for Kenyan football after SDT ruling?

Tuesday March 24 2020
ohagaa_pix

Sports Disputes Tribunal chairman John Ohaga delivers the ruling on December 2, 2019 in Nairobi. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

By CELLESTINE OLILO

Exactly one month ago, Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa accused his opponents of being scared of elections, and said that they were either courting a ban from world governing body Fifa, or seeking intervention from the body.

On Tuesday, Sports Tribunal chairman John Ohaga made Mwendwa look like a fortune teller as he delivered a ground-breaking ruling via video stream as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

In the ruling that lasted close to two hours, Ohaga nullified the FKF elections that had already been held up to the county level, disbanded the National Executive Committee, and asked Fifa to step in and put in place a normalisation committee within the next 30 days.

Ohaga said that he will write to Fifa to make them aware of the new development, but Mwendwa appeared dissatisfied and said that he was uncomfortable with the decision, specifically the part on a normalisation committee.

“I will consult with Fifa because I am not okay with some bits of the ruling,” he old Nation Sport.

The ruling now spells doom for Mwendwa and members of his #TeamBlue faction who were gunning for a second term at Kandanda House.

It now means that Mwendwa, whose term of office expired on February 10, cannot make any binding decisions regarding football in Kenya until the normalisation committee is established.

The upcoming elections are also out of his hands, as he will not be able to make any appointments or decisions unless in consultation with the yet-to-be-formed committee. The normalisation committee will be constituted by Fifa, and is likely to include Mwendwa’s fiercest critics, including former FKF president Sam Nyamweya, London-based businessman Steve Mburu and Gor Mahia chairman Lordvick Aduda.

However, it is important to note that anyone who will join the normalisation committee will not be allowed to vie for any elective post in the upcoming elections.

Fifa may refuse to acknowledge Ohaga’s request and opt to continue working under the status quo but, if this happens, Sports Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed could invoke Section 54 (1) of the Sports Act which grants her powers to “appoint any person or committee to assume the management, control and conduct of the affairs of a sports organisation …”

The Sports Act also allows Amina “to exercise the powers and functions of the sports organisation to the exclusion of its officials, including the use of its corporate seal, where the sports organisation concerned has been unable to conduct its affairs in a proper manner.”

Any such action, however, will require the input of Fifa -- a scenario that could lead to a long-drawn legal battle.

After the dismissal of his powerful NEC members such as Nabea Muriithi and Chris Amimo, as well as his deputy Doris Petra, Mwendwa will now head back to the drawing board to contemplate his next course of action.

Key among the issues he will have to deal with are questions about the Outside Broadcasting (OB) van that was procured using funds from the Fifa Forward plan, and the Sh244 million in public funds that were expended during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

He will also need to think deeply about the fact that Kenya is staring at a ban from Fifa for failure to pay former national team coaches Adel Amrouche and Bobby Williamson. The two cases have brought about a Sh160 million debt at Mwendwa’s office.

In his ruling, Ohaga granted FKF all their prayers but one. He ruled that the sports Registrar, whom FKF had cited as a stumbling block in their quest to hold credible elections, indeed had a narrow interpretation of the Sports Act, and that FKF had not violated any clause in the Act.

He also ruled that the Special General Meeting that was held two months ago was legally constituted, and that there was no need to register branches separately as required in the Sports Act. In fact, he suggested a review of the Sports Act.

However, Mwendwa was felled by improper eligibility rules, and Ohaga specifically quoted section 4A of the FKF electoral code which requires presidential candidates to be endorsed by the sub-branches. Mwendwa had received overwhelming support from almost all sub-branches that were eligible to vote.

Ohaga also faulted Mwendwa and his team for appearing to defy the government’s directive barring social gatherings by organising elections last Saturday.