21 February 2019

Kenya: Sh50 Million Pledge to Harambee Stars Haunts William Ruto

Photo: Chris Omollo/Nairobi News
Harambee Stars players line up before facing Ethiopia in an Africa Cup of Nation qualifying match (file photo).

The Sh50 million promised to the national football team, Harambee Stars, as a gift if they qualified for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) has returned to haunt Deputy President William Ruto with a committee of the National Assembly demanding that the promise be honoured.

The Committee on Sports, Culture and Tourism is concerned that failure to honour the promise may demoralise the team even as it emerged that the government has formally shelved the 2013 Jubilee Party pre-election pledge to construct three grand stadiums in Nairobi, Mombasa and Eldoret.

The matter came up on Tuesday when the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Sports James Kaberia appeared before the committee to discuss the Department of sports budget proposal for the 2019/20 financial year.

The country will participate in five major international assignments which Kaberia said the ministry requires the support of the National Treasury to ensure the participation and success of the Kenyans teams.

Apart from the Afcon, which has been allocated Sh244 million to facilitate Harambee Stars' participation, other tournaments are the Safari Rally World Rally Championships (WRC) candidate event, which has been allocated Sh450 million, Kenya Open Golf tournament, which has been allocated Sh55 million, and another Sh66 million to facilitate the preparation for the hosting the 2020 IAAF World Under-20 Championships.

Personal contribution

However, it was the Sh50 million that members of the committee were concerned with, demanding an explanation from the PS on whether it had been honoured since December, 2017, after Ruto made the promise after Kenya won the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Machakos.

Ruto repeated the promise when he visited the team's training camp at Moi Sports Centre, Kasarani just a day to Stars' Afcon qualifier against Ethiopia where he also promised the team a bus.

"The money has not been paid and I am not aware of its whereabouts," the PS told the committee chaired by Machakos Town MP Victor Munyaka, hinting that the money could be part of the Sh244 million Afcon budget.

Kaberia told the committee that he was not present when the promise was made and thus, he couldn't explain whether it was an official government position or a personal contribution from the Deputy President.

But Munyaka curtly rejected this, warning that the promise was not an official government position and, therefore, it could not be factored in the Ministry's budget.

"It cannot be in the budget because it was not an official government promise," Munyaka told the PS on Tuesday, suggesting that if the Sh50 million is part of the Sh244 million, then it should be separated because the gift was a pledge tied on the performance of the team on the road to qualifying for the tournament.

He added: "The promise must be honoured because failure to do so will trigger a hue and cry in the team and puncture the morale of the boys ahead of the tournament."

Development catalysts

In the run up to the 2013 General Election, candidate Uhuru Kenyatta had promised to construct five ultra-modern stadiums in Nairobi, Garissa, Kisumu, Eldoret and Mombasa, all that were to cost the taxpayer a total of Sh35 billion.

In April 2017, President Kenyatta reiterated his government's pledge to construct new stadiums while receiving the Queen's Baton for the 2018 Commonwealth Games

While little has been heard of the promise six years later, the MPs wanted to know the implementation status and an explanation why it has taken too long for the projects, which many consider important catalysts in cementing the place of youths in national development, to take off the ground.

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