Nairobi — In the absence of his boss, Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario, Sports Principal Secretary Peter Kaberia was put on the firing line in a packed room on Monday afternoon to explain why Kenya was stripped of rights to host next year's African Nations Championship (CHAN).
Wario has been a missing figure in the most crucial moments as Kenya sought to convince the Confederation of African Football (CAF) that it would successfully host the biennial championship despite half of the venues being behind schedule, less than five months to the event.
And on Monday, with anger still fresh among Kenyans after CAF stripped the country of the rights during an Executive Committee meeting in Accra, Ghana, Kaberia was hard pressed to explain why the government approved budgets late.
"I don't think the ministry has failed Kenyans. The people in the ministry have worked hard and I would be unfair to water down the efforts to blame game and I can't sit here and blame my boss, because of what he did or did not do," Kaberia said when asked whether the Sports Ministry has failed Kenyans.
The country won the rights to host the tournament in 2014.
On February 7, 2016 in Kigali, Rwanda, Wario accompanied by former Football Kenya Federation boss Sam Nyamweya, his deputy Robert Asembo, Secretary General Michael Esakwa and Sports Kenya boss Fred Muteti were handed over the instruments by former CAF boss Issa Hayatou.
However, it was not until September 21, 2017 that the Cabinet finally approved a Sh4.2bn budget for the games, something that the Ministry has failed to explain.
"Yes, we could have done it earlier. I am not running away from anything and I am taking full responsibility. I will commit to follow it up (renovations) and make sure we finish it because I am sure we have a good chance of putting up good facilities for the future," Kaberia further explained.
According to both Kaberia and FKF boss Nick Mwendwa, Kenya hugely lost the opportunity to host the biennial championship reserved for home based players due to an 'uncertain political atmosphere'.
But CAF, while listing its reasons for taking away the tournament from Kenya also cited the slow progress of renovations as one of the reasons they failed to give Kenya the thumbs up as they felt most of the work would not be completed by December, a month to the championship.
Speaking separately to Capital Sport, Harambee Stars first coach Stanley Okumbi registered his disappointment that the preparation he had put in over the last one year with local based players will go down the drain.
"It is disappointing for the players because we worked so hard for this and we were hoping to use this chance to show the amount of talent we have in the game. But unlucky for us we cannot host," Okumbi said.
Meanwhile, FKF now says they are exploring options of having Kenya participate in the event that the new host will have already qualified.
"If the country that wins the bid has qualified, then one of the things we want to do is to as CAF whether we can have a play off with the number two from that group and the winner qualifies," Mwendwa said.
The federation boss has also said Kenya will not be meted with any kind of sanctions from CAF but instead, the continental body said they will support Kenya's bid to host one of the youth FIFA World Cup events in 2019.
According to Mwendwa, FIFA are set to revise some of its ruled which will see the next two tournaments ate Under-17 and Under-20 level staged in Africa and Kenya is set to bid for either of them.
The country is bidding their hope on the current stadia construction which will hopefully be complete by February before the bidding process opens.
Kaberia has confirmed that the Sh4.2bn will not be returned to government coffers and reiterated work will continue at the four venues; Nyayo, Kasarani, Kip Keino and Kinoru to be completed with the initial timelines.
"The government has committed resources and we will continue with construction as planned with or without CHAN. The commitment to build these stadia is on. The money has been given and contracts already issued out which are binding," Kaberia assured.
The PS has assured he will personally oversee the construction work to ensure it does not lag behind while Mwendwa has said it is a blessing in disguise that finally, the country will have proper sporting facilities.
"We have to move forward because the decision is made; CHAN will not be in Kenya. We have to build the stadia and we want to ask every county to have one stadium. We will continue work with government and ministry to make sure these things are done," Mwendwa further added.
-Mwendwa not resigning-
Meanwhile, the FKF boss has gone back on his word that he would resign if Kenya lost the chance to host CHAN, saying he would have done so if it was the Federation's host.
"I know many people want me out, but I will not resign. There is an election in 2020 and they should wait till then to have their names on the ballot. I made it clear that if we missed CHAN because of a mistake by FKF then I would resign. But it's not," he posed.
This is the second time that Kenya has the pie of hosting a continental football showpiece taken away right on its mouth. In 1996, Kenya had won the bid to host the African Cup of Nations, but for over the same reasons the tourney was moved to South Africa.