Namwamba must not let sports and Kenya down

Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba  kicks the ball to officially open the county assemblies’ sports association 4th edition games at the Nakuru show ground on August 21,2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Once again, allegations of government officials mishandling national teams to global events have surfaced.

On Wednesday, Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba had a date with members of the National Assembly to shed light on the affairs of the ministry at a time when he is facing criticism over alleged mismanagement of his docket.

The Committee on Sports, which is chaired by Webuye West MP Daniel Wanyama, summoned the Cabinet Secretary to explain why he was not at the airport to welcome back 25 sportspersons who participated in the Special Olympics in Berlin, Germany, in June this year.

While that does not sound like a very serious crime, more accusations have been made against the Sports ministry that need to be investigated even beyond Parliament where Mr Namwamba appeared yesterday.

Among them is the claim by Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei that some of our athletes have been wearing fake uniforms and shoes from "River Road". An allegation by the same MP that some ministry officials have been flying Business Class and First Class to sports events, while athletes - who need more comfort and rest ahead of international contests, have been flying Economy Class. Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei has made a similar but more serious claim; that ministry officials travelled First Class to Budapest, Hungary, "with their girlfriends" while our athletes flew eEconomy Class.

While these allegations may sound outrageous, it would be imprudent to dismiss first-hand them as we have seen worse before.

During the 2012 Olympic Games in London and in Rio in 2016, the government set aside huge amounts of money for the events only to end up constituting commissions to investigate misappropriation of funds, mistreatment of athletes abroad, scandals over kits disbursement, among other vices.

There was also heated debate in Parliament after the 2021 Olympic Games and the World Championships in Eugene, USA, last year over claims of joyriders in the Kenyan teams and the poor team handling during the competitions.

Mr Namwamba is no stranger to what goes on in the sports sector, having had a brief stint as Minister for Sports between 2012 and 2013 during the late President Mwai Kibaki's administration. Many Kenyans believe that he acquired the requisite experience and understood well the workings of the ministry, including in the dark corners, to help President William Ruto fulfil his huge campaign promises on sports. A key mandate was to implement the Sports Act 2013 that was meant to streamline sports operations.

Most Kenyans believed - and still do - that Mr Namwamba was the right man for the job especially after he swiftly negotiated an end to the FIFA ban on Kenya weeks after he assumed office last year. 

Mr Namwamba must therefore rise to occasion and rid his ministry of any rotten apples out to taint his reputation. Meanwhile, the relevant investigative authorities should swing into action and establish the truth about the allegations of mismanagement in the ministry.

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