ENTEBBE-President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has pledged to pay allowances for the Commonwealth Games-bound athletes by today.
Speaking at State House Entebbe during Team Uganda’s flag off ceremony on Saturday, Museveni rebuked Ministry of Sports officials for failing to find Shs800million for the Games getting underway July 23 in Glasgow, Scotland.
“These people are sleeping on their jobs,” Museveni said. “The Basoga call it ‘kulambala’ and the Acholi say ‘niro matek’ or say sleeping too much,” he added in a mixture of Lusoga and Acholi.
When told that the ministry had no money by the Sports Minister Charles Bakabulindi, Museveni said he would sell his cows to fund the Ugandan team for the Commonwealth Games.
“How do you fail to get that money and resort to fundraising? That is rubbish,” Museveni replied. “By Monday (today) you will get the money,” he promised the athletes.
The Commonwealth team had a budget of Shs869,307,000 but the Ministry of Finance cut it to Shs400m.
Of that money, Shs254m was meant for preparations but National Council of Sports (NCS), who received it from the ministry, only released it to federations late last week.
The team now needs Shs347million for allowances, which Museveni has promised to take care of. The team consists of 62 athletes, 20 coaches and 16 other officials.
The first batch of 60 flew out last evening. The other lot, dominated by long distance runners, leaves on July 24. Museveni, however, challenged the athletes to perform well in Glasgow, if they are to continue getting more financial support from him.
He told the athletes to emulate Kenyans like Kipchoge Keino who won the mile at the 1968 Mexico Olympics among other Kenyan winners whom he followed when he was still a young man.
Museveni also mentioned Tom Kawere (silver medal in 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales) and John Akii-Bua (athletics gold in Munich Olympics in 1972) among the Ugandan athletes the Commonwealth team should seek to emulate.
“I am very happy to flag you off because I love sports but your country was mismanaged so I stopped following as I went for real work. But I really follow sports and if you perform well, I will definitely follow you up.”
The President also cautioned the athletes against alcohol and smoking. He, however, advised them to continue indulging in sports as it is a form of entertainment, discipline and good for their fitness.
Museveni said that sport is good for the publicity of the country. “You are now on the frontline and we are behind you,” Museveni said in his concluding remarks.
Meanwhile, Bakabulindi presented Ivan Byekwaso to the President for a handshake and consideration for the presidential monthly package of Shs2million given to top performing athletes in international events.
Byekwaso won silver at the World Bodybuilding Championships in Slovakia last month. Museveni contributed to his trip to Slovakia.