Kenya runs the risk of an Olympic ban, thanks to boardroom power games

Kenya topped the Africa medals table at the Rio Olympics last year. But this outstanding performance was overshadowed by the incompetence and corruption of its team management. The problems are so deep-rooted that the International Olympic Committee recently threatened to suspend the country after national affiliate officials voted against reform. Wycliffe W. Njororai Simiyu, explains the background The Conversation

What ails the Kenya national Olympic committee?

The National Olympic Committee of Kenya’s inherent problems are not new. What’s new is the alarming decline, which burst into view during the Rio Olympics last year. Numerous instances of gross mismanagement came to the surface during the games involving accreditation, accommodation, travel and allowances. Corruption was also evident in the disappearance of official team kit and theft of cash.

What we are seeing today is a long-drawn fallout from Rio which set in with the arrest of several senior Olympic team officials soon after the games. These officials now face charges of using their positions to procure fraudulently Team Kenya kit provided under contract and stealing cash and uniforms meant for athletes.

Not even Kenyan athletes’sterling performances on the track were enough to mask the hurdles they had to overcome. The athletes had to endure haphazard travel arrangements, inadequate training gear and questionable allocation of places in the Olympic Village.

On top of this, a Kenyan official was ejected from the games on doping-related bribery allegations. And a senior athletics coach, who arrived in Rio unaccredited, was expelled from the games for using an athlete’s pass.

What is at the root of the current crisis?

The crisis in Kenya’s Olympic committee’s stems from the questionable integrity of its long-serving office holders. The officials seem to have perfected the art of misusing the resources to the detriment of sport and the athletes.

Unfortunately, change will not come easily. The current constitution gives incumbent officials disproportionate power in any general assembly vote – which they often deploy as a bloc to retain their positions.

But it’s clear that IOC wants to see change in the governance structure of the Kenyan committee. It would like to see a new constitution adopted that would bar incumbent officials from casting their vote at the general assemblies. This would change the current arrangement where the incumbents are virtually guaranteed retaining their seats during elections.

There have been reports that Kenya could be suspended from the Olympic movement. What’s the background.

The national outrage that greeted the Rio 2016 scandal led the sports minister to dissolve the national Olympic committee. He also set up a team to investigate the Rio affair. The IOC, which frowns on any official interference, threatened to suspend Kenya.

This dissolution was popular at the time. A cabinet secretary accused Olympic officials of “living large in Brazil” and being “a law unto themselves”. But a judge quickly overturned the government’s action after the national Olympic committee head Kipchoge Keino took the matter to court.

As a compromise, a tripartite group was convened, bringing together the national committee, the sports minister and the IOC. Its aim was to improve governance through a new constitution that would allow for change in the membership of the national committee. As things stand, the incumbent officials outnumber the rest of the delegates.

But because the old constitution was used to convene the special general meeting called to ratify the new regulations, current officials used their superior numbers to defeat it.

One of the key consequences of not passing the new constitution has been the swift withholding of funds by the IOC. More sanctions could follow if a new constitution is not put in place.

What would the impact of such a suspension be on Kenyan sport?

A suspension would put Kenya in the company of oil-rich Kuwait, which was sidelined for passing a law that ran counter to the mission of the Olympic movement.

A suspended nation loses money to develop sports programmes and infrastructure. It also loses representation in IOC sanctioned events at the international level. But athletes can participate in events as individuals under the Olympic banner, similar to political refugees.

Is the IOC’s interest in Kenya warranted? Are there other countries on its radar?

I think the push for improved governance in sport is a worldwide phenomenon and not just a Kenyan issue. At the global level, there was worldwide attention when FIFA officials were in the spotlight in 2015. The then powerful FIFA president Sepp Blatter was forced out of office following allegations of bribery, corruption and general mismanagement.

These high profile scandals elicited international outrage and unprecedented action. US law enforcement led the way in arresting FIFA officials that were suspected of engaging in questionable deals.

The Rio fiasco presented the IOC with a good opportunity to intervene and demand action for long-term reform. This was better than responding with a suspension for political interference. The IOC’s collaboration with the government and the national committee to create a more responsive, transparent and responsible organisation is commendable.

And if the stalemate continues, the IOC may suspend Kenya due to a lack of goodwill and desire for change in governance by its own affiliate.

Wycliffe W. Njororai Simiyu, Professor, Health and Kinesiology, University of Texas at Tyler

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related Content

East African youth ready to step up in fight against Covid-19

Yesterday the findings of an East African Covid-19 Youth survey of over 400 young people from the region were released. The survey was conducted by youth leadership development program, YouLead in partnership with Restless Development and others; and among the findings it was revealed that at least 90 per cent of the participants would want to play an active role in their country’s response efforts if they were given the opportunity. CNBC Africa spoke to the Country Director of Restless Development Uganda, Catherine Rodgers and one of the participants in the survey, Patrick Karekezi for more.

Here’s how Invest In Africa is helping Kenyan SMEs survive Covid-19

With Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and the informal sector making up a vast majority of the businesses and job opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa, ensuring their survival is crucial to the continent’s economic recovery and growth post Covid-19. CNBC Africa spoke to Wangechi Muriuki, Country Manager of Invest In Africa Kenya to learn more about what’s being done to provide this necessary support.

Rwandan comic book shortlisted for continental prize

Rwandan comic book “Kami” is among the Best 2019-2020 Comics in Africa, and emerges a potential candidate to win a prize at the 2020 Nommo Awards. CNBC Africa spoke with the illustrator and writer Mika Twizerimana Hirwa, on his journey battling for the top prize in the category of Best Graphic Novel/Comic by Africans alongside seven other books.

Geoffrey Odundo on how the NSE is responding to COVID-19 crisis

The values of blue chip companies on the Nairobi Securities Exchange has increased despite the COVID-19 pandemic. CNBC Africa’s Arnold Kwizera spoke to the Chief Executive Officer at the Nairobi Securities Exchange, Geoffrey Odundo for more on this.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC AFRICA delivered to your inbox

More from CNBC Africa

Rebosis rolls out COVID-19 testing stations outside malls

Property Group Rebosis, has partnered with government to roll out testing stations for Covid-19 outside its shopping malls in Pretoria – South Africa’s capital. However, foot traffic into these malls is expected to have dived due to the virus lock-downs prevented non-essential stores from trading. Rebosis is yet to release its interim results. Rebosis CEO Sisa Ngebulana joins CNBC Africa for more.

Distell CEO: What the sale of alcohol under level 3 means for the industry

South Africans can look forward to popping their favourite bottle of bubbly or sipping on a glass of pinotage to warm up from the cold winter. That’s as alcohol sales, that were banned for over two months under the Covid-19 lock-down, will be lifted. Distell CEO Richard Rushton joins CNBC Africa for more.

This Rwandan publisher is creating buzz with new book App

After realising the challenges that come with publishing fellow African writers, home-grown publishing house, Imagine We Rwanda launched their very own mobile app, dubbed, Imagine Books. Fast forward 2 weeks and hundreds of titles have been purchased worldwide and the numbers are only going up. CNBC Africa spoke to the founder, Dominique Alonga for more.

COVID-19: This virtual concert campaign is bringing together African artists for charity

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected livelihoods across the continent and different initiatives have been instituted to support them. One of them is a campaign dubbed “We are one Africa” which aims to sustain various communities and groups through virtual concerts. Project Manager, Andrew Alovi joins CNBC Africa for more.

Partner Content

VIVO CEO is a dynamic leader for this innovative global brand

May 2020 -- Six months ago the vision for vivo in South Africa was just beginning to...

Building Africa’s Biggest Digital Classroom

An enduring lesson learnt throughout our 175-year existence is that, while things rapidly change around us, the things that truly matter don’t!...

Trending Now

How The Medical Device Supply Chain Failed During Covid-19

More than three months into the coronavirus pandemic, health-care workers on the front-lines of the battle against Covid-19 say they still face shortages of personal protective equipment. The personal protective shortage was one of the early flashpoi

Tsogo Sun Hotels FY profits plunge, COVID-19 lock-downs weigh

Hospitality Group Tsogo Sun Hotels reported a 31 per cent plunge in full year headline earnings per share, with Covid-19 resulting in demand from international tourist retracting in the fourth quarter, due to global lock-downs.

Nampak swings into H1 loss, suffers R3bn impairment

Nampak swung to a half year loss of R2.4 billion as revenue plunged and it impaired its Angola and Nigeria assets by R3 billion, which is four times its market value. The also warned that future profits were in South Africa were at risk from the ban on alcohol sales due to Covid-19 lock-downs. Nampak CEO, Erik Smuts joins CNBC Africa for more.

How COVID-19 impacts the health & well-being of children

Research shows that children have a lower rate of contracting the Coronavirus and bringing infections to the household. This should provide comfort to South African parents that are in two minds about sending their kids back to school next week, when physical teaching is set to resume. Epidemiologist, Dr Boshoff Steenekamp joins CNBC Africa for more.
- Advertisement -