Fifa promoting impunity in Kenyan football

Monday, July 20th, 2020 00:00 |
FKF president Nick Mwendwa. Photo/PD/RODGERS NDEGWA

John Rock Munai 

Given that the sports industry accounts for between three and six per cent of the world trade, it makes no surprise that disputes are expected within the fraternity and more so in the most loved global sport, football.

From times of yore, Fifa, the world football governing body, has advocated for sports disputes to be arbitrated by an independent arbitration process. In Kenya, that’s the work of the Sports Disputes Tribunal (SDT).

The tribunal is a product of the Sports Act 2013, whose role is sports arbitration.

It, therefore, makes no sense to take sports disputes in ordinary courts as this impedes the goal of ensuring the sports fraternity resolves their own issues according to Fifa rules. Surprisingly, Fifa seems to be making an exception in Kenya.

The outgoing Football Kenya Federation (FKF) national executive committee’s term ended on February 10, 2020, and what should have followed were elections.

During the term of FKF’s President Nick Mwendwa, he refused to comply with integrity tenets by making public audited accounts, thus giving credence to malfeasance and corruption allegations. 

Examples are the alleged misappropriation of Sh244 million allocated to Harambee Stars for the 2019 African Cup of Nations, claims of operating a dubious account under the Harambee Stars Management Board and the purchase of an Outside Broadcasting (OB) van by Fifa at Sh125 million that’s yet to be delivered, to mention a few cases that have attracted interest from the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI). 

Subsequently court cases were filed in three different parts of the country as a ploy to frustrate the tribunal’s jurisdiction over FKF.

The cases were filed in Mombasa, Kericho and Murang’a, but recently the High Court in Mombasa quashed the suit by FKF and returned the matter to Nairobi.

The tribunal was rightfully given the jurisdiction to perform its duties, one being determining sports matters and cases against the beleaguered FKF. 

In countries that have a bourgeoning presence of sports nationally, their cases are handled by a sports tribunal.

For instance, since famed South African 1,500 sprinter Caster Semenya made her debut in the track in 2009 as a 19-year-old and won, many questioned her sexual orientation.

Instead of going to ordinary courts in her home country, it was the Court of Arbitration in Sports which heard her case. 

Another example is the American sprinter Justin Gatlin who had served two doping bans in his sporting career and made a return in the 2017 World Championships.

His detractors took it up the issue with the Court of Arbitration in Sports and the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF), as opposed to taking it up in the justice system in the US.

Kenyan courts are already inundated with cases that date back decades and adding to that pile up is to be intentionally nefarious and frustrating to the sports fraternity for parochial and selfish reasons. 

The Sports Disputes Tribunal is qualified to handle the disputes with celerity. Denying it that opportunity is to take away the hopes, joys and elation that sports brings to millions of our citizens. 

Nearly seven months after the lapse of the FKF’s officials’ term and we still have no elections in sight.

Where else in the world is this acceptable? Why has Fifa tolerated and, in some instances, protected corruption and impunity in African countries? Why is our government seemingly scared of Fifa?

To the beleaguered FKF officials, you may feel infallible and protected by an anonymous cartel but there is a saying that, “The moral arc of the universe may be long but it bends towards justice.” 

You, too, will be brought to heel and account for every last thing you did during your tenure and to quote Heywood Broun, an American sports writer, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” — The writer is a media and communication consultant

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