The sports fraternity is in the middle of another worthless cold war between National Council of Sports (NCS) and Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC) over the latter’s elective general assembly.
Invoking articles from the NCS Statutory Instrument 38 gazette in April 2014, NCS stopped the sports associations running rugby, rowing, shooting, table tennis, weightlifting, fencing, gymnastics and equestrian from participating in UOC elections on January 28.
The regulations require all national sports associations to re-register with NCS, who are responsible for administration, regulation and coordination of sports on behalf of government.
Thirty one of 53 associations have fulfilled the requirements, albeit requiring leniency from NCS – the kind of compassion that could only escalate the ongoing impunity. Members from the other 22 were on February 2 called upon, if interested, to apply for the promotions of their respective associations.
NCS also claim that they advised leaders from Olympic sports federations that are yet to comply to speed up the process in a meeting held prior to January 28 and attended by UOC president William Blick.
It is against that background that an unsatisfied NCS eventually directed UOC to halt their electoral process until the assembly is fully constituted. Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) also sued UOC over the same issues but failed to secure a temporary injunction halting the election.
In the heat of the moment UOC – who argue NCS should play the role of enablers in the registration process rather than try to punish the federations through the law – wrote to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which gave them a go-ahead to conduct the elections.
This route UOC and these federations took echoes football governing body Fufa, took in trying to oppose the process of registration but Fifa, advised them to comply with NCS, which they duly did.
“The forthcoming assembly of your NOC should include all eligible national federations as recognised by their respective International Federations (IFs), in accordance with the Olympic Charter, your NOC Constitution, and the current register of members of your NOC.
“We understand that national federations have been required by the relevant government authorities to undergo a legal/registration process as per the laws of the land (which has been completed for some of them or is about to be completed for the others, if our understanding is correct). However, in the meantime, this should not affect their existence/activities, nor should it affect their affiliation to/membership of your NOC and their respective IFs,” the IOC wrote.
There is no legal requirement for federations that affiliate to UOC to be recognised by NCS but then where do these two bodies draw the line between government intervention and interference?
The widely quoted Olympic Charter is silent, perhaps conveniently, on how the two bodies can work together, but the IOC in their letter called for dialogue as way to harmonize the principle of autonomy of sport and the NCS mandate. The two local bodies have, however, gone on to scoff at each other.
“What has NCS done for federations?” Blick, who insists UOC is more appealing to sports federations than NCS, pondered. “As UOC we worked with all our members, providing them with services and education to manage better.”
He added that for NCS to expect federations – which have existed for over 10 years – to conform to its demands in six months, was unrealistic. Suffice it to note the process has dragged on from 2015 to-date.
NCS argue that their primary role is not to fund federations and any help they give is only out of goodwill. But who even risks doubting the allure of money in this era of presidential bailouts and handshakes?
While UOC could be guilty of overstepping their mandate and assuming the responsibility of NCS in endorsing as “national” federations that are, by law, still “non-compliant”, it is worth noting that 14 of the federations recognised by NCS participated in the “null and void” polls and it cannot be a coincidence that some candidates were either unopposed or won 17-0, in what seemed a protest vote. So is NCS a poor dad desperately craving respect, albeit in vain?
Largely, this is more a matter of benefits than legitimacy. The UOC assembly banned boxing representatives Godfrey Nyakana and Fred Kavuma from any Olympic activities for ignoring the conflict resolution mechanisms in body’s constitution opting to sue UOC and its member federations, regarding the polls.
But sources say the habitually cash-strapped boxing federation, itself sitting on an administrative landmine, finds NCS a more beneficial “parent,” than the UOC, who for instance, did not give boxing a single shilling in 2016, an Olympic year.
Meanwhile, some sports like rowing, tennis received funds from the NOC for over two years, even when their hopes qualifying athletes for the Olympics were a fantasy, hence questions on; where the priorities of our sports sector lie.
UOC argue these are management issues that can be always be looked into but they also raise concerns on whether these desperate federations, which have members that constitute the UOC assembly, can hold them to account not just for the money but what the money actually does.
UOC’s defiance, especially in holding the election, rubbed NCS the wrong way prompting general secretary Nicholas Muramagi, to evoke the memory of the dead – a clear indication that these wrangles date back to the 1980s.
“UOC has been a hub of non-existent, briefcase associations. They always ran there for refuge. They used to do that before the law came in place especially during the times of late Maj Gen (Francis) Nyangweso; because they are used to the past, they think they can continue like that,” Muramagi said in one press briefing.
“UOC by the way, doesn’t appear anywhere in the laws of Uganda. Check in the constitution or statutory instruments.” UOC, who NCS insist are just agent of IOC in Uganda, argue they are a voluntary organization promoting Olympic sports.
However, the phrase “briefcase associations,” is one used conveniently. NCS, who argue it’s entirely the role of federations to establish themselves, have admitted to letting federations that don’t have any physical addresses operate normally.
In the recent past, they have been funding activities of federations they claim not to recognize including paying for some of the rugby national team’s expenses at the World Series in South Africa and Dubai.
“We were sponsoring the national team not the federation,” Muramagi shot back when he was reminded of the incident but he did not answer when asked if he would seek for accountability of that money from the team or federation.
This begs the question; does NCS only come to bite when the occasion promises public interest like elections? Not that UOC are not guilty of playing to the gallery too; they are at their ‘warring best’ whenever there is a delay, from government’s side, in releasing funds for teams bound to compete at multi-disciplined games like the Olympics.
But given the circumstances, how does UOC expect government to support, even financially, Olympic programmes when NCS can’t look into UOC business?
If NCS and UOC – which have been arbiters to the habitually wrangling federations – cannot sort themselves outside court, it points to a serious managerial crisis and a general weakness (prevalent in most Ugandan institutions) regarding conflict resolution.
Perhaps, the solicitor general and the International Olympic Committee, from which NCS has sought answers, will quickly solve this impasse in a year awaiting the Islamic Solidarity Games and Commonwealth Youth Games. But the legacy of the current management teams in these two bodies largely lies in ending this bickering once and for all.
SPORTS BODIES AFFILIATED TO NCS
2. Uganda Hockey Association
3. Uganda Badminton Association
4. Uganda Tennis Association
5. Uganda Swimming Federation
6. Uganda Archery Federation
7. Uganda Boxing Federation
8. Uganda Table Tennis Association
9. Uganda Handball Federation
10. Uganda Cycling Association
11. Uganda Taekwondo Federation
13. Uganda Volleyball Federation
14. Uganda Athletics Federation
15. Federation of Motorsport Clubs of Uganda
16. Uganda Netball Federation
17. Association of Uganda University Sports
18. Uganda Paralympic Committee
19. Uganda Chess Federation’
20. Uganda Draughts Federation
21. Uganda Rollball Association
22. Uganda Kickboxing Federation
23. VX Uganda
24. Uganda Skating Association
25. Scrabble Association of Uganda
26. Uganda Woodball Federation
27. Pool Association of Uganda
28. Uganda Ultimate Frisbee Association
29. Uganda Ludo Association