Presidency should take sport more seriously

Tuesday January 2 2018

President Uhuru Kenyatta with the Kenya Under-19 cricket team

President Uhuru Kenyatta with the Kenya Under-19 cricket team when he presented them with the national flag at State House, Nairobi on December 23, 2017. PHOTO | PSCU |  

Happy New Year!

With the folks at Tononoka and other fireworks retailers gleefully counting their profits following the merry-making season, it’s time for a reality check as 2018 gets off the blocks.

Dissecting President Uhuru Kenyatta’s New Year’s address to Kenyans on Sunday evening, my heart continues to bleed for our sport.

Speaking at State House, Mombasa, some 365 days earlier as he ushered in 2017, the President had assured that he would act decisively to bring to book crooks who stole from Kenya’s 2016 Rio Olympic Games kitty.

“One pending matter from 2016 concerns the management of our team at the Rio Olympics. I have received the findings, which have two sets of recommendations. One is reform of Sport, including with criteria for team selection for major events,” the President told us.

“Secondly, the Director of Public Prosecutions is reviewing the file in order to decide whether evidence exists to take further action on the top leadership of the Sports ministry. We promised accountability and someone will be held to account,” he assured.

CORRUPTION

“What I have learned this year, ladies and gentlemen, is that there is no silver bullet for corruption. Efforts must be sustained and undertaken in multiple sectors and levels. Rooting out this crime will not come overnight, just as it did not rise overnight but has been with us for many years,” he continued.

“I have also learnt that progress is delayed when the fight against corruption is politicized and cynical lies and smears utilized for narrow political interests,” he added.

Sadly, a year later, the DPP seems to still be reviewing the files.

No one has been held to account and progress continues to be delayed as the fight against corruption has, indeed, been politicized, with the Kenyatta administration more eager to bag votes in 2017 than antagonize communities by prosecuting “one of their own” caught with hand in Rio till.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

On Sunday, the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces trained his 2018 sights on his administration’s “Big Four” legacy agenda that focuses on affordable housing, universal healthcare, increased jobs through industrialization and food security.

The closest he came to touching on sport was to urge Kenyans to emulate the global triumphs of our athletes.

“Make sure to remember that your fellow Kenyans in multiple fields, from athletics to entertainment and scholarship are world leaders.

“Emulate their example in your own work, and you will find that you too have immense potential that can be realised in 2018,” he said.

While the “Big Four” agenda no doubt bodes well for the country’s socio-economic future, sport is too big a sector to be ignored by the Presidency.

The Jubilee’s administration’s numerous promises to Kenyan sportsmen and women are slowly turning into a mirage.

MODERN STADIA

From the outset of their first term, the “UhuRuto” team pledged five new modern stadiums, and just last week, President Kenyatta’s administration promised that it would add two more — rugby and cricket ­— stadiums before their second term runs out.

How can one trust such promises when the same administration cannot do a simple thing as prosecute the Rio thieves? It’s akin to promising candy to kids, and not delivering…

Kenyan sports enthusiasts hope the incoming Cabinet will take sport more seriously, and which should start with the appointment of a sports professional to head the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts.

But it would be unfair to condemn the entire team at Kencom House because a few individuals in that ministry stood out for their positive contribution to sports and the arts, and here I have the two, well-meaning Principal Secretaries, Kirimi Kaberia (Sports) and Joe Okudo (the Arts), in mind.

BOUNCING BACK

I hope the Kenyatta administration will prove me wrong by taking decisive action on the Rio thieves and crafting a sober administration of sport.

Statecraft aside, 2018 will be yet another busy year for Kenyan sport as the season kicks off pretty early with the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, from April 4-15.

Then there is the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England, from March 2 to 4 and the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia, Spain, on March 24.

In football, new man Paul Put and the Harambee Stars will be looking forward to bouncing back in the race for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon with a must-win match against Ghana’s “Black Stars” in the final week of March.

Our women’s volleyball team makes yet another appearance at the FIVB World Championships in Japan from September 29 to October 20.

I hope to see less politics in squad selections as I wish Kenya’s sportsmen and women a brilliant and rewarding 2018.