KAMPALA. Athletics coach Peter Wemali is in Police custody on charges of defilement and rape. Wemali, who has been grappling with accusations of sexual harassment for over a year, was arrested on Wednesday afternoon at Kibuli Police Training School.
Sipi Region Regional Police Commander (RPC) James Ruhweza ordered Wemali’s arrest after medical examinations on three under-age national runners, who accused the coach of sexually assaulting them, indicated they were defiled.
The runners, all attached to Police Athletics Camp in Kapchorwa, are aged 15, 16 and 17 respectively. The age of consent in Uganda is 18. Wemali was until recently the head coach of the Police Camp in Kapchorwa and it is suspected he defiled the girls between 2013 and 2014.
Rape and defilement are capital offences, which attract a death sentence. Court, however, has the discretion to give a lighter sentence depending on the circumstances.
“We carried out examinations with our Police surgeon in Mbale on Monday and the report indicates that all the girls lost their virginity. Since they accused the coach, we had to arrest him. He is the prime suspect. There is no smoke without fire. We have preferred charges of defilement and rape against him. Let him prove his innocence in court,” Ruhweza told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Wemali spent several hours incarcerated at Jinja Road Police before being transferred to Kapchorwa last night.
Ruhweza said he will be produced in the Kapchorwa Chief Magistrate’s Court today. By press time, the Police were making arrangements to put the coach through the necessary medical check-ups. Wemali has been the biggest newsmaker in Uganda’s athletics since last March when female junior national team runners accused him of sexually harassing them during a training camp in Bukwo ahead of the Africa Cross-country Championships.
The Kipsiro cry
The girls confided in national team captain, Moses Kipsiro, revealing to him that Wemali advised them to get pregnant and abort after three months in order to run better. Others claimed he physically assaulted them.
Kipsiro demanded that the coach is fired and investigated but that put the star runner at loggerheads with Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF).
The Commonwealth Games gold medallist was dropped from the team that represented Uganda at the World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark. UAF later said they cleared Wemali after thorough investigations but a Police report indicated he made sexual advances on a female athlete and used vulgar language during training sessions.
Accusations against the coach resurrected last month after Kipsiro claimed he sent him a life-threatening phone message.
Last week, a stakeholders meeting was held in Kapchorwa and the three girls made confessions that the coach defiled them. Ruhweza, only in Sebei Region for two months, said he was moved by the girls’ confessions during the meeting and promised to arrest the coach after investigations.
“We were told there is another young girl, who he impregnated and forced to abort. We are still trying to trace her,” Ruhweza said on Wednesday.
Olympic and world marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, who hails from Kapchorwa, told Daily Monitor in a recent interview that Wemali has ruined several careers by fathering children with promising runners.
“I don’t know why UAF is shielding him because he is a wrong character. The people in Kapchorwa don’t like him,” Kiprotich said.