Saturday April 5 2014

Athletics bosses should resign

UAF president Dominic Otucet and his executive have handled

UAF president Dominic Otucet and his executive have handled the sex scandal casually even as they promised to institute a commission of inquiry last week. Photo by Ismail Kezaala 

By Moses Banturaki

The recent allegations of sex abuse in an athletics training camp in Eastern Uganda is one of many such dots that flicker on and off our moral radar screens before we can follow up the initial animated response to them with any meaningful action.

And that is the shocking bit, that there is a real possibility that this story of callous abuse is about to die off without us being any wiser.
It all started sometime in March when team captain Moses Kipsiro broke the story to the media after some of the girls had complained to him about the rather ungodly ‘training methods’ of their coach. There was a collective gasp of disbelief even in this country that seems to have been immunized from shock by incessant scandal.

The thing is that sexual assault and its extreme cousin rape are crimes of power and it is almost instinctive to empathize with the underdog. In this case the court of public opinion and one in which I am a juror is inclined to believe the vulnerable girls because what chance do they stand when faced by an amorous old man who is not only dominating but also in charge of their careers and therefore professional destiny?

This makes these allegations the kinds that need immediate attention because they allude to a crime that calls for serious punishment.

But first a crime must be established and instead the police seem to have been encouraged into selective prioritization by the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) that comes off as being overly protective of the coach.
All this is further dramatized by the fact that the accused appears to have ‘friends’ in all the right places being an employee of the Uganda Police Athletics team and quite influential in the UAF politics of Eastern Uganda.

I must also add that the whistleblower Moses Kipsiro was recently dropped from a team traveling to Copenhagen under very dubious circumstances. The rumour is that UAF is punishing him for stepping out of line and also sending out a power message.

It can’t be said with certainty that UAF condones such behavior but all the dilly dallying doesn’t do them any good. Right now we don’t know whether the girls are being denied justice or whether the coach is being wrongfully accused.
We also don’t know whether UAF is capable of managing this situation at all or are letting it suffer death by diminishing public interest because they realize the coach needs ‘help’. In any case the net-effect is gross negligence
And I know of places where such carelessness would lead to mass resignations and retribution. Even if I don’t expect them to, that is what the UAF executive should consider.

By not offering enough protection as the girls allege or by not possessing the drive to clear or condemn one of their own, they have demonstrated an inability to lead. And that is the point where the decent thing for the UAF executive to do would be to hand in their notice.

In fact, in such circumstances, there ought to be an overseeing body like the Sports Ministry that aides the culprit federation executive fall on its own sword at the first hint of hesitation.