Police are to arrest athletics coach Peter Wemali after three teenage runners recorded statements in Kapchorwa yesterday accusing him of sexual harassment.
Accusations against Wemali came to light during a training camp in Bukwo ahead of the Africa Cross-country Championships last March but no action has been taken since.
However, following a stakeholders meeting involving leaders from the three Sebei Sub Region districts of Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo on Wednesday, police authorities were moved by the confessions of the assaulted girls and promised to act.
Kapchorwa District LC5 chairman and athletics enthusiast, Sam Cheptoris, chaired the meeting.
“Wemali is like any other person in this country and if he has committed rape, defilement and assault like these young girls are testifying we are going to have him arrested and charged,” Sipi Region Police Commander, James Ruhweza, said during the meeting amidst cheers.
The three girls, whose names we can’t reveal to avoid stigmatising them among their peers, made confessions that brought most of the elders in the meeting to tears.
“He (Wemali) lured me to his house one day and raped me. I feared to scream because there was a panga and knife in the house. He also had a pistol,” one of the girls, aged 15, said during the meeting.
Wemali, who organisers say was invited for the meeting, never attended as he is currently in Kampala. He dismissed the allegations calling them ‘a new Kipsiro project’.
Star runner Moses Kipsiro was the first to speak publicly about the sexual harassment allegations last year after the assaulted female junior runners complained to him as Team Uganda captain.
Kipsiro also recently claimed he received death threats and suggested Wemali could be behind them. The death threats forced Kipsiro to skip the World Cross-country Championships in Guiyang, China.
The runners have previously complained that police authorities in Sebei Region and Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) are shielding Wemali because he is their employee. However, Ruhweza, who was only transferred to the region in February, has now given them hope of getting justice. He also becomes the first high-profile police officer to suggest that Wemali can be arrested if found guilty.
“Sincerely, I was touched by the girls’ confessions. They vented out their outcry that they have never been helped. It is prudent upon us to help them. We have started fresh investigations and action will be taken as soon as possible,” Ruhweza later confirmed in an interview. The RPC said the case was recorded under reference number GEF1/2015.
During the meeting, it was also resolved that Wemali never steps in Sebei Region. The coach, whose house in Kapchorwa was torched recently, however said no one has the authority to chase him. “Kapchorwa is my home. I will go there anytime,” he said. “Anyone who wants will chase me but the law will catch up with them.”
Meeting chairman Cheptoris called the police athletics coach a sexual predator, who had taken three young athletes for his wives therby denying them a chance to exploit their talent.
The stakeholders resolved to petition the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, seeking the disbandment of UAF on grounds of corruption and failing to protect the athletes. Kadaga had earlier called on government to explain why the case hasn’t been resolved since last year.
WEMALI AND KIPSIRO STORY AS IT UNFOLDED