REPORT CARD: Rashid Echesa’s impact yet to be felt
When Rashid Echesa Mohammed was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Sports early last year, the entire sports fraternity was keen to see how he handles a docket whose previous occupiers have been anything but successful.
The former Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) youth leader in Kakamega whose vetting left many wondering about his academic credentials, still has a long way to go to clear his overflowing in-tray. This is his one-year score card:
The ministry of Sports, through Sports Kenya, is the manager of the country’s premier stadiums - Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani and Nyayo National Stadium.
With Echesa at the helm, these facilities have remained in a sorry state. Nyayo was closed for renovation early 2018, with the promise that works will only take 60 days. That was not to be, and the stadium was only temporarily opened 12 months later for Jamhuri Day celebrations in December. There is nothing to indicate that the stadium will be ready for matches any time soon.
Sporting activities, especially football, have therefore suffered greatly. Premier League matches that were previously held at the stadium had to be rescheduled, while some were moved to even worse venues across the country.
Kasarani Stadium, on the other hand, seems to be fine. It hosted a number of local and international matches in 2018. Sports Kenya and the ministry must get a pat on the back here for making sure that the facility retained its reputation - thanks to the 2017 IAAF World U18 Championships which prompted its timely renovation and facelift.
But in July 2018, a flip of the coin revealed the filthy side of the stadium. Garage and plastics had clogged trenches at the facility and most toilets were in unimaginable conditions. Filthy.
The National Sports Fund was established under the Sports Act 2013 to fund Kenyan sports and federations, especially when preparing for international competitions.
The cash is sourced from proceeds of sports betting and sports lottery.
But one year in into his tenure, CS Echesa is yet to get the fund off the ground and operational.
National teams have become beggars whenever they’re preparing for competitive events. The worst case was the Kenya national amputees football team, which almost missed their opportunity to represent the country at the World Cup for lack of funds. They would later don Sonko-branded jerseys, having failed to secure national jerseys. That was shameful.
In an earlier interview with The Nairobian, Echesa told off detractors on the sports fund, advising federations to seek other avenues to raise money.
“We don’t have their budget (budget for sports federations). That’s why we’re pushing for the National Sports Fund to become operational so that we can easily fund the federations. But the federations must also not just bank on the government; watafute corporate companies ziwasaidie pia,” he advised.
“The sports fund will not be disbanded. We’re very serious and keen on ensuring that the kitty becomes operational,” he insisted.
But towards the end of the year (2018), there was a debate whether the fund should remain in his docket or move to the Treasury. Echesa, who is otherwise outspoken, has remained mum on this.
The Sports ministry is not expected to interfere in the operations of federations and other sports management bodies. But when things seem to be getting out of hand, the Cabinet secretary can step in to restore order, even if that attracts sanctions by respective international federations.
It is also the mandate of the ministry, through Registrar of Sports, to ensure that all federations and clubs operate within the law.
In 2018, Cricket Kenya was hit by wrangles over leadership positions, with the matter ending up in court. In an application filed in September, David Obuya, Tariq Iqbai, Kennedy Otieno and Edward Odumbe among others, cited among other things, the need to register the federation in line with the Sports Act 2013. This exposed the ministry, in the sense that it has not been able to align all sports associations and federations with the law, meaning that some were operating illegally.
The Boxing Association of Kenya (BAK) was another den of wrangles. Two factions emerged ahead of the upcoming elections and Echesa has been accused of interference. Outgoing BAK chairman John Kamata claimed that the CS has shown favouritism and weakened the federation.
“He has created a faction and is publicly endorsing it for the upcoming elections. He has interfered with our day-to-day operations, including our tournaments. This is very wrong. To me, I think he is the reason boxing never impressed in 2018, even at the 2018 Commonwealth Games,” Kameta told The Nairobian.
He added that, I’ve heard some people say he is a former boxer. That is a big lie. According to our records, Echesa has never been a boxer. If he really was once a boxer, he would have had the interest of the sport at heart.”
Harambee Stars coach
Traditionally, the government, of course through the ministry of Sports, pays salaries of the Kenya national football team, Harambee Stars, coach.
In 2018, the year Harambee Stars qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals, head coach Sebastien Migne had to go for months without his salary.
At some point, the French coach almost called it quits. It would have been a huge shame had he resigned for lack of payment after registering a historic achievement with the team. Why would Migne beg for his salary, that’s the question many would want CS Echesa to respond to.
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