Kenya: NOC-K Elections Wide-Open Affair With Incumbents Not Certain of Clean Sweep

27 October 2021

The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) will hold elections on November 16, and boy, do they not look open.

The elections were originally to take place four days earlier, but NOC-K acting secretary general Francis Mutuku announced last week that the D-Day had been rescheduled because some of the committee's Executive Board members would be attending an IOC meeting on November 12.

No matter, be assured that the campaigns, lobbying, alignments and realignments are already in gear, albeit quietly, evenly secretly, and with the usual dose of subterfuge and slander.

Meetings are taking place in hotel rooms, boardrooms, darkened bars and restaurants and in residential premises as the people who want to lead NOC-K for the next four years plead their case and their vision.

Thanks to the new NOC-K constitution, the field has been considerably levelled, and an outsider with good ideas and strategy has a realistically chance of bumping off an incumbent official.

This was amply demonstrated in the last election in 2017 under the new laws that robbed sitting members of the executive from having a vote in the polls. Good riddance to that bad piece of NOC-K statute that was obviously meant to perpetuate an office till death did them apart.

And what do you know! The 2017 polls proved to be a killing field. The sitting executive committee members were all kicked out save for FK Paul aka Francis Paul Kangili, who retained his secretary general post, but only just.

He garnered nine votes, one more than his closest challenger Andrew Mudibo, who felt he would have won had the assembly not declined to allow taekwondo, cycling, rowing and canoe, and weightlifting to vote. The four sporting disciplines had cases in court and were thus considered ineligible to cast their vote.

The incumbent president Kipchoge Keino did not seek to be re-elected and fellow long distance running legend Paul Tergat was voted in unopposed.

Tergat became the eighth NOC-K head since Reginald Alexander served as the first chairman from 1963 to 1964 when the body was called Kenya Olympic Association (KOA).

In fact, Sir Evelyne Baring, could be considered the first head of KOA. The association was formed on February 14, 1955 under his presidency, until June 17 of that year when the first elections were conducted. Baring was then the Governor of Kenya.

Back to the 2017 elections, all the other serving officials, Ben Ekumbo (first vice President), James Chacha (deputy secretary general), Fridah Shiroya (treasurer), Stephen K. Soi (deputy treasurer) were unceremoniously kicked out by the delegates who were looking for a new beginning.

To be fair, the officials rejected by the assembly carried the heavy burden of the Rio financial scandal that has so far seen Soi and former Sports SC Hassan Wario convicted in a court of law.

There is no whiff of scandal from the current executive under the leadership of Tergat. Many sports administrators I have spoken to have said that there is more transparency in the committee compared to previous ones, and more open interactions within the Olympic family.

I only wish they would give more details on the Nike contract, signed in 2018. Personally, I cannot pick any notable achievements from this NOC-K office that would make me shout "tano tena" - another term, to them.

So, all aspirants with ideas to sell, have a fighting chance to win a seat in the executive, whose members have declared they will be defending their posts.

So far, no one has declared interest in unseating Tergat, who will be running for his second and last term.

The second most powerful position, secretary general, is currently held by Francis Mutuku, in an acting capacity. Nothing much to say about him other than the off-hand observation he seems more busy loading pictures of himself on social media.

Well-travelled, experienced administrator Mudibo, who is the Kenya Table Tennis Association chairman, deputy president of International Table Tennis Federation-Africa and ITTF Board of Directors member, may sense blood here, and has already declared his candidature.

I also hear that FK Paul wants his secretary job back. He took leave of absence in November 2018 in the midst of court appearances over the Rio Olympics fiasco.

Four discernible camps have formed. One is of course the team in office that obviously want, to borrow a common expression by serving political leaders in Kenya, "to finish the job I have started".

The second is the "class of 2017". In this group are FK Paul, Chacha (taekwondo), Shiroya, Ann Njambi and others, plotting a return to the five rings.

Moses Mbuthia (Kenya Volleyball Federation), who has declared his interest in the treasurer post, appears to have another group aggregating around him.

The last group is that of the presumed independents, who hugely fancy their chances in the new dispensations.

They include Mudibo (secretary), John Kilonzo from rugby, who wants the first deputy president post, Nashon Randiek, from hockey, gunning for first deputy, Boxing Association of Kenya treasurer and national coach Musa Benjamin and others.

Athletics Kenya, who lost in 2017, will certainly, again, want a seat in the executive. After all, they are Kenya's most successful sport at the Olympics.

It is difficult to see the entire NOC-K executive returning en masse as was the case in previous years.

Come November 16, delegates will decide.

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