Kenya: Why FKF Elections Is Just a Waste of Time and Money

19 September 2020

So the elections of Football Kenya Federation (FKF) are being held starting Saturday? What a colossal waste of time and money.

This is not an exercise in futility; it is worse. It is the funeral ceremony for the Kenya Premier League, once the gold standard of best practices in football management in the country, property of the clubs that play the game, an organization of the clubs by the clubs and for the clubs.

KPL is a meritocracy which is led by the chairman of whoever is chairman of the reigning national football champions.

His deputy is the chairman of the club that finishes as runners-up in the league. Its officers are appointed on their merits.

FKF is a democracy where politics is the main job, side hustle and hobby of its officials. The electorate is a mere pawn in a game of smoke and mirrors where the alleged people's representatives earnestly appear to be working on their behalf while in fact swindling them at every turn.

Scandal and incompetence are the bywords of their work. Scandal is manufactured at a rate that is too fast to keep up with and attempting to fight this corruption is like trying to drink water from a fire hose; a bit will get in while the force of the rest will throw you in the air before you fall to the ground in an untidy heap.

So these elections are going to deliver us from our status as one of the world's football backwaters at position 107 in the Fifa rankings? Fat chance. They have nothing to do with that. They are all about acquisition and maintenance of power and control of the public money that goes with it.

Policy platforms

Don't be fooled by any policy platforms. They are cut and paste jobs from one campaign to another. Don't especially be fooled by the incumbent's platform whose demolition job of the KPL is nearing completion.

What is written on those manifestos has been there since 1963. It is a mantra about improving football while the plight of the players gets ever so dire.

It doesn't change, only the people do.

This is nothing but a vanity contest to see which man's biceps are the biggest. And pitiful is the lot of hardworking Kenyans whose money must be spent in millions towards so low an end.

On top of all their demerits, football elections in Kenya rarely produce clear cut winners. It is rare for their endings not to be acrimonious.

Their outcomes generate deep animosities that produce a continuous need to undermine and revenge. Malevolent politics is a way of life.

The cost of guarding against cheating keeps rising; it seems as if it is impossible to hold an election where people are not trying to cheat.

The practice is so deeply ingrained in the psyche of both electors and candidates that it is all but forgotten that the core activity of an election represents the simplest of all mathematical problems - addition.

Not subtraction, not division, not multiplication, just a simple one-plus-one-plus-one until you arrive at the total. It is like adding up one's fingers.

(This, by the way, reminds me of the story of the 10-year-old boy who asked his father what the problem was as Kenya started deconstructing itself following the 2007 General Election. The father told him the dispute was to do with vote counting. To which the boy replied: "Only that? I can help.").

Unfortunately, when it comes to adding up votes in Kenya, a certain psychosis is unleashed so that even people who can calculate the weight of the earth don't understand any of those numbers. Of course, we have gone many notches higher in the dark art of rigging.

Now you can count and the numbers will add up because the manipulation job, the underhand activities that thwart any attempt at fairness will be complete before votes are cast.

Won elections

Many elections are won before they are held and knowingly or unknowingly, the work of electors is to put their seal on an outcome that was pre-determined.

Anyway, on Saturday FKF is going to the polls. If you are unsure about how things will turn out when all is done, be guided by this abridged history of how Kenya football has been administered since independence:

1963: John Kasyoka is elected as the first indigenous chairman of the Kenya Football Association.

1968: KFA is dissolved by the government and replaced by KFA Caretaker Committee chaired by Jonathan Njenga.

1969: Martin Shikuku is elected as KFA Chairman.

1970: KFA is dissolved by the government and replaced by KFA Caretaker Committee chaired by Bill Martin. Later, Sam Ogembo is appointed by the government to replace Bill Martin as KFA Caretaker Committee Chairman.

1972: Williams Ngaah is elected as KFA chairman but is de-registered a few months later.

1974: KFA is replaced by Kenya Football Federation (KFF) with Kenneth Matiba elected as chairman.

1978: Matiba declines to defend his seat and Dan Owino is elected as KFF chairman.

1981: KFF is dissolved by the government and replaced by KFF Caretaker Committee chaired by Chris Obure.

1985: KFF is dissolved by the government. Later, Joab Omino is elected KFF chairman

1989: KFF is dissolved by the government and replaced by KFF Caretaker Committee chaired by Mathews Karauri.

2000: Eight top clubs form the Inter-Clubs Consultative Group (ICCG) and adopt 50 reform proposals.

2001: Five top clubs officially try to exercise their right to see KFF accounts but are refused.

2002: KFF is dissolved by the government and replaced by KFF Caretaker Committee chaired by Philip Kisia. Later, High Court of Kenya reinstates ousted Maina Kariuki as KFF chairman.

2003: Eleven top clubs resign as KFF members and launch the Kenyan Champions League. Kenyan Premier Football Group Ltd (KPFG) is registered as a private company owned by clubs. KPFG organizes the first Transparency Cup competition. KFF officials fail to hold elections before their term of office expires.

2004: Mike Boit is appointed by the government to chair the Stakeholders Transitional Committee. High Court of Kenya in Mombasa rules that KFF officials are no longer validly in office. Kenya is banned by Fifa on grounds of government interference. Constitutional Conference on Kenyan Football is held in Limuru.

Kipchoge Keino is appointed by Fifa to chair the Fifa/KFF Normalization Committee. Kenya's ban is lifted by Fifa after government supports the Fifa/KFF Normalization Committee. Kenya Premier Football Group Ltd (KPFG) name is changed to Kenya Premier League Ltd (KPL). New KFF Constitution is adopted and Alfred Sambu is elected KFF chairman.

2005: KFF agrees that KPL will manage the 2005-06 Premier League.

2006: Cairo Agreements with new roadmap concluded by Fifa, Caf, Government of Kenya, KFF and KPL representatives. Sports Minister Maina Kamanda dissolves KFF but is overruled by High Court of Kenya. KFF-KPL Joint Coordination Committee agrees that KPL owns and manages the Premier League. Kenya banned by Fifa on grounds of government interference by Minister Kamanda. Alfred Sambu is suspended by KFF National Executive Committee and is replaced by Mohamed Hatimy. Hatimy is appointed KFF chairman by the KFF National Executive Committee.

2007: Kenya's ban is lifted by Fifa with Fifa recognition of the Hatimy-led KFF. SuperSport International signs a four-year agreement with KPL on TV-rights.

2008: KFF Special General Meeting transforms KFF into Football Kenya Ltd (FKL).

2010: FKL transitions to FKF.

2015: FKF and KPL sign agreement for KPL to run the premier league.

2017: Premier League expanded from 16 to 18 teams. The unwieldy league forces SuperSport to withdraw sponsorship.

2018: Lack of sponsors means that many clubs cannot make ends meet. Some withdraw from the league, unable to honour even home matches.

So you see, in any of its mutations - KFA, KFF, FKL, FKF - the work of the elected national football association is to play politics. If you were to take into account the strides made by countries such as Togo, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Tanzania and many others during all these boardroom wars, you wouldn't want to hear the words FKF mentioned near you.

The Kenya Premier League was modelled on the world's best practices in football. For example, the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga are owned and managed by the clubs that play in them.

Nightmare

The same is true of the South African Premiership. Now Kenya is reverting to a Premier League owned and run by FKF. Let it be understood that this is our worst nightmare come true.

hen this arrangement is complete, in one to two years from now, we shall be back to the pre-2003 years. Clubs will need to form the KPL again.

Elections throw up a number of vexing problems. First, the competencies needed to win an election are not the ones needed to govern.

In fact, the two sets of competencies are at odds with each other. It is to the misery of many voters that they conflate these two mutually exclusive sets of skills.

The disappointment with their own choices puts them on a vote in-and-vote out treadmill that goes on for an eternity with very low returns.

Secondly, elections attract scoundrels because many people don't understand what they are voting for. They are attracted to form because substance is too hard to digest. Scoundrels understand this and maximize the drama while appealing to the worst instincts of people.

Fear and hate are the stock-in-trade of the likeliest election winners. If you think I am exaggerating, look who is ruling America, the country whose people have been to the moon and back. It is now a hotbed of hatred among its own people. But I digress.

Thirdly, the combination of manipulated elections and a grinding justice system produces overlords, not leaders. It is simply impossible to remove the people you have blundered into electing, however unbearable their excesses, unless they themselves, in power games of their own, turn on each other. Our democracy is the most inflexible system of governance we could ever bring upon ourselves.

Finally, since our elections are not about governance but power, they turn away good people. Kenya has an overflow of candidates who can turn our football into a world-class industry by building on the support of millions of people who love the game.

ut why won't they come forward? Re-read our history outlined in the foregoing paragraphs and ask yourself how many people you think are willing to get their heads banged in those rotating doors.

So in the polls that start today, a few good people with nerves of steel will slug it out with a big number of demagogues. I regret the coming death of the Kenya Premier League.

Roy Gachuhi, a former Nation Media Group sports reporter, is a writer with The Content House

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