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How Hosea Kiplagat outwitted rivals in long sports career at Athletics Kenya (AK)

By JONATHAN KOMEN | August 28th 2016
Family Bank CEO Peter Munyiri presents a dummy cheque of Sh 10 million to the former Athletics kenya President Isaiah Kiplagat towards the family Bank Eldoret Half Marathon scheduled for October 4, 2015 in Eldoret. Kiplagat's peers and enemies remember him as a calculating, ruthless leader  (PHOTO: DENNIS OKEYO/ STANDARD)

In October 2014, 14 of Athletics Kenya’s 16 branch chairmen called for a Special General Meeting to oust Isaiah Kiplagat.

Since they had the numbers, the officials believed they had finally outmaneuvered Kiplagat, who took over the reins of the association in 1992. But Kiplagat had a card up his sleeve.

He used Abraham Mutahi, a bosom buddy and the AK Central Rift chairman, and five other respondents to file an application before Milimani High Court Judge Justice Joseph Sergon restraining the 14 Athletics Kenya (AK) affiliates from holding the Special General Meeting (SGM.)

Having served his rivals with the restraining orders that evening, an ebullient Kiplagat moved from office to office at Riadha House, the association's headquarters in Nairobi, shaking hands with staff members.

After that, the opposition petered out – some say because he had used Sh1.5 million to buy off his rivals. This was one of the many ways Kiplagat floored his rivals.

His peers and enemies remember him as a calculating, ruthless leader — even David Okeyo, who as AK secretary general, worked very closely with him, says so.

Mr Okeyo remembers one of the numerous occasions he crossed swords with his boss.

“One of our run-ins revolved around Kenya’s Olympics team to the 1992 Barcelona Games where I served as team manager and worked under Kiplagat who was the squad’s chef de mission.

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He had wanted to assemble athletes for a visit to State Lodge Nakuru to meet President Moi, but they had already left the airport, and I could not get them fast enough,” he said.

“I had not acted fast enough and he lectured me like a boy,” said Okeyo.

Kiplagat held no grudges, says Okeyo. “He called me after the meeting with President Moi and said ‘gentlemen must quarrel to agree. He took me to a hotel in town and bought me coffee. This is how I gained insight into who he was.”

Other officials saw Kipalgat differently. Francis Afundi, the Western Kenya AK chairman, said he was indomitable. “This old man will not leave this office. We will use a wheelbarrow to take him out by force,” Mr Afundi said.

Athletes were familiar with Kiplagat’s humour. On one occasion after naming the Kenya team to the IAAF World Athletics Championships, he set off a firestorm. He told the husbands of the female athletes present to forego their conjugal rights for a while.

“We now have a strong team for the championship and the athletes will report for residential camp in Iten. We have competent coaches and I have a message for those who married these beautiful stars of ours....Please, allow me to say this. I think all of us are above 18 years here and you all know the duties that a husband performs to his wife...at night ehhh. Please allow coaches to do their jobs,” Kiplagat said amidst laughter.

Moses Tanui, the two-time Boston Marathon winner, had confrontations with Kiplagat in public several times.

“Our first confrontation was in 1994 when we opposed a cross country route he had chosen for training.

“Our second confrontation was after he had arrived late for competition and got annoyed that we had pushed for the race to be run before his arrival.

"Our relationship further soured in 2000 when I went to court after I was locked out of the team to Sydney Olympics,” said Tanui.

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