Kenyan female basketballers are sexually abused by coaches – former player reveals

Saturday, September 25th, 2021 09:02 |

A former basketball player in Kenya has revealed to BBC Sports Africa that sexual abuse has plagued the nation's women’s game “for many, many years”.

Speaking to BBC on condition of anonymity, the former lioness, who is now in her 30s, claimed she was sexually abused by one of her coaches as she started out in the game.

Her revelation come in the backdrop of a publication of an official report that showcased how “institutionalised sexual abuse” has been for decades in Mali. The damning revelations in the report put the African women’s basketball on the spotlight.

"Everywhere in Kenya, basketball players know these things but people have been quiet. Many girls have been used but they don’t want to say anything. There were so many girls I see, even in big teams here, but they are all quiet. I think people have been afraid. In Kenya, people have been used," she told BBC Sport Africa.

She further revealed that the sex predators would approach young ins in the game, with a promise to help them advance their career.

Asked about what inspired her to lift the lid on the sexual manipulation cases, she claimed that the recent sexual abuse reports rekindled memories of her abuse.

"If it is something that is going to set Kenyan basketball free, why not? I need to save others, and I need to save myself. I am doing something that is taking me through a healing process," she posed.

She says she did not make a report at the time as she did not think she would be believed, while opining that many others have also failed to do so because they fear victimization and losing their places in their teams.

BBC revealed that it has since received testimonies from three other women who say they suffered either abuse or attempted abuse while in their teens.

"We were so young that you could not explain yourself – nobody would listen to you at that time. They would think you are lying," said one.

Former Kenya women's junior team coach, Phillip Onyango, was adversely mentioned in the report following a sexual abuse allegation lodged against him in July 2021. The overly successful tactician was relieved of his duties pending investigations into the allegations levelled against him by one of his players.

Onyango strongly denied the allegations and was let off the hook after police threw out the case citing insufficient evidence. The Kenya Basketball Federation is however yet to reinstate him.

When contacted by the BBC, Onyango's accusser, a 22-year-old junior team player, expressed her dissatisfaction with the police investigation report.

"The case was closed because there was no evidence. I was so disappointed," she said.

The case was brought to the fore after a friend of the 22-year-old secretly recorded a conversation as the latter detailed the allegations. The audio recording was shared to Kenya's basketball governing body, KBF, as well as other relevant bodies and personalities in the basketball community.

In a bid to address the sexual abuse cases, the Kenyan government constituted the Committee on Gender Welfare in Sports. The committee was tasked with providing appropriate support to female athletes in the country’s national teams.

The Sports Ministry also called upon athletes who may be affected to report incidents of abuse or harassment to the committee, whose findings are yet to be made public.

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