Eliud Kipchoge took Kenya and the world to the moon, chances are we may not be getting back down to earth soon. What he achieved on Saturday with the mind-boggling time of 1:59:40 was nothing short of superhuman, cementing Kenya’s dominance over long-distance athletics in the books of history. That wasn’t all, Kenya’s flag flew high on Sunday too with a double win on the Chicago Marathon course and a world record to top it all.
As most Kenyans online would say, Kenyans haven’t felt this Kenyan in recent times and indeed it was a feeling they planned to savor for a while. As praises were heaped on KINGChoge (as he’s since come to be referred to in the past two days) there was sharp criticism that followed politicians who had joined in on the frenzy. Kenyans did not take lightly the congratulatory messages from politicians who were accused of trying to steal Eliud’s moment. Deputy President William Ruto and Sports Cabinet Secretary took the most heat from Kenyans’ who were clearly vexed over the government’s unfulfilled promises on sports.
From five stadia, to financial support to nurturing talent through government programs; government has constantly fallen short of expectations. It should be remembered that the Jubilee manifesto pegged its success on youth and so far, six years down the line, it’s been a constant struggle. Athletes still have to deal with the embarrassment of sleeping at airports, getting late to tournaments over delay of tickets and delayed dues after giving breathtaking performances. This warrants the wrath that leaders are faced with. It makes no sense for leadership to do very little in investing in sports and then be quick to claim athletes’ successes despite all the challenging situations they face.
It’s within the past decade that we’ve seen proper legislation being put in place, explaining the shaky manner with which sports has been managed both at government and federation level. Legislatively, the journey for sports has been long and hard. Right after promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, then Sports Minister Paul Otuoma relaunched the Sports Policy, which was produced in 2002 and operationalized by the Sessional Paper No. 3 of 2005, in a bid to give sports a facelift. To give sports development a legal backing, he needed to move beyond the policy and sponsor a bill.
It wasn’t until 2012 that the Bill was moved, with the Sports Ministry under the new leadership of Ababu Namwamba following a cabinet reshuffle in 2012. Through the five bodies established under the Sports Bill there was hope that perhaps sports would finally be streamlined. The Bill became an act in 2013 and the biggest win from it was the National Sports Fund, commissioned under the Ministry of Sports, that would address the perennial lack of funds that Kenyan sports had battled with for ages.
Unfortunately, the Sports Ministry was stripped off the powers to manage funds accrued from betting taxes giving, which were then passed on to the Treasury through the Sports (Amendment) Bill 2018 that repealed Part 3 of the Sports Act 2013. As the Parliamentary Committee on Implementation noted in their report earlier this year, sports was bound to struggle without this fund that exclusively dealt with sports and related activities.
As it stands, sports only receives funding through the Sports, Arts and Development Fund that is established under the Public Finance Management (Sports, Arts and Development Fund) Regulations 2018. This fund may prove to be insufficient for an industry as vast as sports since it deals with not only sports but also include universal health care, arts and government strategic interventions. What is also unclear is the allocation of monies to sports in the 2019/2020 Budget that was read by the former Treasury CS Henry Rotich.
But like most ailing government services, what we need is proper oversight by Parliament to bring order to sports. The findings by the Committee on Implementation should not go to waste and should be used to put the Ministry to task. Parliament also has a responsibility to each of the constituencies they represent, to ensure that sports academies are established as stated in the Sports Act.
The Ministry and federations have to uphold values of integrity and transparency, it’s the least they can do to honor the men and women who give Kenya a reason to smile about, time and time again.