Dear Mr. President,
A fool is described as someone who does something in the same way, every time, yet they expect different results. While this definition may not have customary acceptance, it carries with it a lot of scientific and logical sense which Kenya needs to listen to. I am not talking about the numerous scandals and headlines on corruption that colour our dailies. I am not also referring to the huge number of unemployed Kenyan youth. I am in no way talking about the inadequate education system that has turned out to be a train wreck. I am not talking of the nightmares of a poor public health system. Today, I am talking about sports. I seek to interrogate the question of sports in Kenya. As Mr. Rashid Echesa leaves office and Amb. Amina Muhammed takes over; I can’t help but wonder whether Kenya is still doing the same thing in the same manner and expecting a different outcome. What, therefore, do sports mean anything for Kenya? And what can it do for Kenya?
Sports mean different things to different people in Kenya. There is however no escaping the reality that Kenya is a global powerhouse in sports. As much as she is historically known to produce the best long distance runners (Athletics), she has quickly curved out a niche for herself in the world of Rugby. Kenya has something to say with regards to continental club championship as the home of football powerhouse- Gor Mahia. She can always be ever so proud of the likes of Wangila Napunyi who paid the ultimate prize in the ring while representing Kenya at the Olympics. This is just a glimpse of both the historical and present cluster of talent that makes the red, white green and black colours ride high. Unfortunately sports in Kenya go through a number of challenges top among these: lack of infrastructure, resources, poorly organized federation, mismanagement and lack of political support.
Like many of the challenges Kenya faces today, the rain started beating Kenya from the beginning. While sports associations were formed to help grow sports, in Kenya many people with political aspirations found them a fertile ground to mobilize political support. This left the federations hollow with no structures, system or sustainability. The previous regimes have not also taken sports seriously. There has always been very little in terms of budgetary allocation for the ministry and perhaps it is one of the ministries not seen to be important enough to be a loan ministry. Is it true that the sports ministry is one of those “small” ministries that is always given as a reward for political chorines or as a redemption platform for CSs who have failed elsewhere? If this is true Kenya need not expect different results.
I must insist that managing sports in Kenya is not a walk in the park. It is perhaps one of the toughest ministries as it brings together different aspects and interests of Kenya. This therefore needs people with the right qualifications, skills, drive and perhaps ideas. If done right, this is what sports could do for Kenya.
Sportsmen and women play a big role as Ambassadors for Kenya. As they put on the national colours and play their hearts out or run it down, they showcase the people, the character and culture of Kenya. As a result of this, Kenya is able to get tourists and investors who are willing hence spur economic growth. Sports business in terms of endorsements and sponsorships play a big part in generating money for the economy. It is not a secret that sports betting companies make a lot of money but as they do, the exchequer gets the tax and sponsorship to a number of sports and club. I must also state that there are a number of people who get their livelihood from sports hence the need to grow the industry. Today unlike the past, sport is a career that a young man or a woman can take on and build their lives. I bet a little more effort in developing sports in Kenya may go a long way in reducing youth unemployment but that’s just a thought. What if Kenya was ambitious enough to build infrastructure and host the next Afcon?
Sport brings people together. It is never about gender, race or tribe but values of hard work, fortitude, belief and patriotism. Kenyans cannot deny that it is afflicted by tribalism and hatred for the minority and therefore what better way to eradicate this than with sports. The building bridges initiative which is part of your legacy as President can be best driven by sports. In addition to this, sports demonstrate Kenya’s culture. It brings people together to celebrate. Think of the fun, joy, pomp and colour that always accompanies Mashemeji derby in Nairobi and replicate that in the other 46 counties.
There are other benefits such as impacting values and skills and keeping the youth off drugs and other vices. This is because it often gives them an alternative way of life. I have heard of many inspirational stories of sports personalities who used sports to shield themselves from the life in the slums and made it out!
Lastly Mr. President think of the sports model as the model for politics in Kenya, here we walk in as friends, play our hearts out, compete so hard yet walk out as friends; perhaps it is what you desire for Kenya. I therefore urge you to put more thoughts into sports, get more personnel and demand more from your team
Ouma Kizito Ajuong- Advocate of the High Court of Kenya
& Gor Mahia Fan