Letter to the Kenyan Sports CS:
Dear Mr. Rashid Mohamed Echesa,
Allow me to congratulate you for your Nomination and Appointment as Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Sports and Heritage. This is indeed a great honor and privilege to be recognized as the men to head this docket with the responsibility of giving the President counsel as required by law and custom. It is no doubt that you are competent enough, humble, self-driven with the ability to show accountability and transparency. Taken from President Kenyatta’s mouth, “to whom much is given, much is expected”. These are the expectations of a president- who is seeking to leave a legacy-, Kenyans who play and love sports and ultimately all Kenyans whom through the President have bestowed on to you in trust, the duty to lead them in the area of sports and heritage.
I must remind you that you are taking over this ministry at a time when it has witnessed massive failure and disproval from all corners. You must take note that a major private sector sponsor- Sportpesa, who have been massively funding sports in the country have reduced their funding due to disagreements with the National Government. This withdrawal of financial support has a trickle-down effect on all sports activities-football, boxing, rugby, etc. To illuminate the point properly, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards-Kenyan clubs who are both in continental championships may not have funds to prepare and honor fixtures let alone do well. Keeping with the beautiful game, you must remember that Kenya lost the bid to host the CHAN championships due to an apparent lack of infrastructure and unpreparedness. This is despite the Jubilee Government’s promise of world class stadia. You are getting into a ministry that is traditionally marred with corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement of funds, scandals, wrangles and politics in the various sports federations and disillusionment.
I am therefore writing to you to tell you why we need to get sports right as a country. Why you need to do things differently and why sports may be one of the solutions for Kenya.
The Nature of the Sports docket
The first thing to get right is to understand the nature of the Sports Ministry. The “false start” we always have is the thought that sports is a “small” ministry. There is therefore a tendency by the leadership to allocate relatively less money to the ministry and to treat is as a token docket. This is the ministry where things like regional balance and gender equality may be looked at. I do not blame the political class but understand that this attitude is cultural and is carried on from a society that believes in white collar jobs as opposed to sports. This is a challenge that you need to take seriously. If you assert yourself properly, understand your working environment, instill discipline; you may just help in making a difference
The Ministry requires a delicate balance between international, regional and municipal interests. It requires a comprehensive knowledge on the working of federations, negotiation skills and a grasp of the law. By nature, sports is dovetailed by different sectors which require knowledge in sports management and governance. It is very hard for the Government to convince people that they care about the youth when they perform horribly in sports and before I conclude this part, take note that if properly managed and actualized, it may be the gold that Government needs. This is because success in sports translates to success in other areas.
Sports have huge economic benefits if you think of it as a business. It means selling sports and merchandise through contractual obligations. The ministry should therefore step up in terms of sponsorship deals and endorsements. I urge you to have the capacity to negotiate and grow sponsorship for our sports. Sports create job opportunities and lastly, hosting tournaments such as CHAN have huge economic benefits that have been taken for granted. Development of roads and infrastructure also leads to economic growth. If you want to know the extent to which Kenya is losing just take a look at countries that take sports seriously, you will notice the kind of money that changes hands and what it does to the economy. Sports is also connected to areas such as trade, foreign affairs and tourism which indirectly help to spur economic growth. All I am saying is; Kenya needs to stop the myopic thinking that we’re currently stuck with regarding issues sports.
Kenyans are traditionally and culturally known for long distance running. The country is also earning the status of a world power house in Sevens Rugby. Through these, our beautiful culture and way of life gets out in the world. More importantly however, is the role that sports plays in shaping our society. It is an effective medium of advocating for good in the society and eradicating what’s bad.
Scientific research has proven that participation in sports is a very effective way of keeping young boys and girls from drugs and substance abuse. It is also used for mentorship and gaining a better perspective in life. All these are affected when Sportpesa quits sponsorship and the Government is unable to allocate funds to sports activities. You may also recognize the role that sports plays in keeping people healthy and as they say…health is wealth.
Politics & Sports
I am sure we all have noticed that sports is one of the things that always takes “tribe” and negative ethnicity from Kenyans. It is at the moment when the Shujaa are running towards the try-box that Kenyans always feel most patriotic. Sports is one medium to national cohesion and unity. It has always been used to fight discrimination and negative politics as it is used to advocate for good politics. Sports bring people together. So, I know you will agree with me that getting sports right is in fact part of the Jubilee government’s Big Four Agenda.
Sports as a Human Right
As a lawyer I need to also inform you of sports as a human right. This mostly applies to children but it extends into building sports academies, parks and areas where children can play and nurture talent. The Sports Act provides for the creation and development of Sports Academies for development of talent. These require coordination, management and proper governance.
In conclusion, these are very important reasons why we need to fix Kenya sports and get it right. We need to develop our institutions and invest in our talent.
Wish you the very best, Waziri!
Ouma Kizito Ajuong’
Advocate of the High Court of Kenya