An open letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta

Tuesday November 28 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta (second right) is welcomed at Kasarani by IAAF President Sebastian Coe prior to the IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships opening ceremony on July 12, 2017 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

President Uhuru Kenyatta (second right) is welcomed at Kasarani by IAAF President Sebastian Coe prior to the IAAF World Under-18 Athletics Championships opening ceremony on July 12, 2017 at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NAION MEDIA GROUP

By ELIAS MAKORI
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Greetings, Your Excellency, and congratulations on your swearing in for a second term on Tuesday.

I wish to grab this early opportunity to wish you well in the gargantuan task that awaits you at State House, as you seek to sew together our tattered national fabric, unify a highly polarised populace and embark on knocking our stuttering economy firmly back into coherence.

Painfully navigating through social media, one endures the hatred Kenyans continue to spew out against one another, thanks to the endless, election-related political differences that split us right in the middle.

Our economy is on life support and it will take a herculean effort to get it out of the woods, but I’m confident you are equal to the task.

Thankfully, Your Excellency, the serial victories our sportsmen and women relentlessly conjure up on the international stage continue to unite a highly political nation.

This weekend, we will rally behind our gallant rugby team at the Dubai Sevens, and I’m sure, having been described as a “fleet-footed flanker” in your rugby-playing school days, you will take some time off to sample the tries and conversions from Dubai.

And this as the iconic Kenya Airways Safari Classic Rally continues to showcase the magical side of Kenya.

Ndugu Rais, as you begin your legacy term, sport is an area that will hold you in good stead as you fashion out your retirement plans.

It is one sector in which you can leave an indelible mark, by creating an environment that will help our talented youths thrive.

Reining in bad governance in sport should be at the back of your mind as you craft your Cabinet and appoint senior civil servants to drive your agenda through the next five years.

Your Excellency, you still owe us action against officials adversely mentioned by the committee that investigated management inefficiencies during Kenya’s participation in last year’s Rio Olympics.

In your New Year’s address to the nation, you promised action and even tasked the Director of Public Prosecutions to move with speed and fish out those culpable.

Move with speed the DPP did, but no sooner had he recommended prosecution than the files disappeared into the backburner.

Typically Kenyan fashion.

This hardly offers hope to our sportsmen and women who were denied suitable conditions to perform by these unscrupulous officials who continue to place self before country.

With no whip cracked, we are likely to witness bigger shame in five months’ time when our teams travel to Gold Coast, Australia, for the Commonwealth Games.

Having been a member of the investigating team, my heart bleeds at the prospects of these culpable officials let loose, scot-free to visit further damage on Kenyan sport.

Commander-in-Chief sir, Kenyans are still waiting to see your dream of developing sports infrastructure transform into reality.

Your Jubilee team pledged new world-class stadiums, but the shame of Kenya being stripped of hosting right for next year’s Africa Nations Championships football tournament for, inter alia, lack of facilities is an indictment of the terrible status on the ground.

The huge success of this year’s IAAF World Under-18 Championships, of which Her Excellency the First Lady was Patron, is indicative of the potential we hold in sports event management.

Sadly, sir, the ineptitude of some recalcitrant individuals in the State Department of Sport has seen some suppliers go for months without pay despite delivering an outstanding championship last July.

For instance, it is shameful that the South African consultant who ensured lighting at Kasarani was compliant to global broadcast standards is still chasing payment in excess of Sh10 million, with other suppliers also ignored in their pleas to secure their dues.

“The TV directors, IAAF TV representatives the local Organising Committee and affiliated people were full of praise that we had achieved so much in such a short time, contributing to the success of the TV coverage of the event,” the lighting consultant, Angus Clarke, wrote in one of his numerous futile correspondences pleading for payment.

“Despite the assurances that we would be paid on completion of the event, we are are all still awaiting payment,” he lamented.

We hope your new officers taking residence at Kencom House will bring Clarke’s agony to a happy ending, along with the pain endured by other long-suffering service providers and professionals contracted for the championships.

Ndugu Rais, we also hope that even as you vote funds to crucial areas such as public health, education and security, provision of world class sports infrastructure will find a place in your estimates.

After all, it cannot be gainsaid that sport and increased physical activity trigger reduced expenditure on healthcare. Furthermore, key state agencies like the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (Adak) need good budgets to succeed in the fight against the use of banned substances.

We commend you, Sir, for fast-tracking the Anti-Doping Act that helped ease pressure from international sports federations that felt Kenya wasn’t doing enough in the fight against banned performance-enhancing substances.

As you are aware, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Sunday said Kenya remains on its anti-doping watch list until water tight measures are employed to ensure a fully functional anti-doping programme.

Finally, Sir, through your CS at Treasury and Interior, kindly create an enabling environment that would allow the funding of sport to thrive.

The punitive taxes on sports betting companies will shut the doors on the financing of Kenyan sport and make us lose the huge gains we have achieved thanks to the contribution of these gaming concerns to Kenyan sport. We ought to regulate, rather than punish.

These are just brief thoughts, sir, as Kenyan sport is quite broad and it would take an entire afternoon of high tea (or a beer or two) on your well-manicured State House lawns to complete my comprehensive wish list.

I wish you well in your final term, and we all look forward to celebrating sporting gains in this period. Kindly pass my regards to Her Excellency the First Lady and the First Family. Thank you sir.