Ababu Namwamba should clean house to revive sports

Former Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba during a Kenya Kwanza manifesto team press conference in Nairobi on July 6 2022. [Esther Jeruto, Standard]

Sports Cabinet Secretary nominee Ababu Namwamba is no stranger to the hugely potential docket and behind-the-scenes shenanigans. The intrigues before the show on the pitch, the track and even pool will not surprise him.

At the danger of pre-emptying Parliament’s vetting of Mr Namwamba’s suitability to hold the office, it is safe to say that his brief stint as Sports minister during the Mwai Kibaki administration between 2012 and 2013, gives him the requisite experience to help President William Ruto fulfill his lofty campaign pledges.

The president promised myriad changes in sports within 100 days. He pledged an expert task force to identify sustainable sources of sports funding, with consideration of a national lottery, tax incentives for corporate sponsorship, a dedicated or ring-fenced tax, and a public-private partnership structure for infrastructure development.

He also promised sports tourism promotion to attract international sporting events and an improved sports kitty. Ruto committed to leverage the country’s international athletics brand, develop a domestic sports attire manufacturing cluster and build a garment industry. There is a huge sports in-tray for Mr Namwamba, federations and other stakeholders. The lost shine, fame and money across all sports disciplines must be restored.

From the mess in football, doping in athletics to poor funding in hockey and volleyball, there’s enough house-cleaning to do. The sports industry has remained at a crossroads and on the periphery for far too long. And because of this, there has been no serious money after potential sponsors pulled out.

Today, most disciplines have been on a downside spiral due to the wastage of raw talent. We should also be cautious on the doping menace. In 2015 and 2019 World Championships, some of our athletes failed dope tests shortly before competitions and were dropped from start lists.

There are also infrastructure challenges. Currently, there is no usable stadium in North Rift and South Rift, the high-altitude areas where world-beating stars conduct pre-Olympic camps.

There is also nothing to write home about in football. Ironically, former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration enacted the Sports Act 2013 and the Anti-Doping Act 2020. Indeed, Mr Namwamba helped fast-track the law. However, they were not fully implemented.

We hope he will resolve these bottlenecks once and for all. He must get rid of cartels. While doing so, the media should also shun some rogue sports journalists reaping where they have not sown in exchange for positive publicity.

The new CS must ensure all federations comply with Sports Act. Sadly, some have not held elections for close to a decade. We must instill professionalism in sports management.