What you need to know:
- A leaf from politics proper. Many sports federation chiefs appear to glean wisdom from the mainstream politics and now have no qualms amending legal frameworks in ways that favour their incumbency while stifling potential challengers.
When Dominic Otucet was announced unopposed as president of Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) for the fourth straight term on January 29, Moses Muhangi posted in a WhatsApp group: “In other federations being unopposed is okay but in UBF, it’s a crime.”
One journalist responded: “Unopposed is okay when others are content.”
Muhangi, the outspoken Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) boss, who was due to be announced unopposed for a second straight term in a week, retorted: “Even in heaven Satan was not content.”
The journalist called that heaven-federation comparison “sacrilegious,” adding, rather sarcastically, that all the five UBF electable members returning unopposed – while the other five are appointed by the president, as per the 2021 amended constitution – implies that everyone is content.
“I’ve never seen it anywhere,” she said. “But for unity and development, congratulations to everyone. Let boxing become the number one sport in Uganda.”
While Muhangi’s rivals did not make it to the ballot paper, they are challenging him for manipulating the system to lock out any potential opponents.
Yet Muhangi is just a young bird learning from the big ones in the system.
Changing the law
It was not surprising that no one stood against Lawrence Mulindwa in the 2009 Fufa elections. Having invested heavily in the Uganda Cranes brand in his first term, the wealthy educationist looked simply unbeatable.
But quietly, trouble started to build after Fufa took over management of the league to clubs in 2011. Led by then-Express boss Kavuma Kabenge, clubs sought to assert their power.
The peak of this power struggle was the emergency of parallel leagues – one by Fufa, the other by the Uganda Super League Limited.
Somehow, it affected the progress of the national team which was Mulindwa’s obsession.
Then former Vision Group chief executive Robert Kabushenga launched the Uganda Cranes Initiative (UCI) purportedly to save the national team brand. But Fufa was suspicious and Kabushenga would later use the platform to launch his own bid for the Fufa presidency.
Meanwhile, Fifa, football’s world governing body, designed new statutes to guide its members on who can lead them.
In 2012 Fufa passed its own electoral code – designed by executive members Moses Magogo, Rogers Byamukama, Mujib Kasule and Fufa lawyer Alex Luganda, among others – to align with Fifa.
Among the clauses that effectively locked out ‘outsiders’ was that for one to vie for presidency, they must have served in positions of football administration for at least seven of the last 10 years.
One also had to be an executive committee member of Cecafa, Caf, Fifa or Fufa; the CEO of Fufa; a Fifa Accredited Administration Instructor or a chairman of a member of Fufa.
In 2013, Mulindwa refused to seek a third term, leaving the stage for Magogo, his vice president (administration). The most qualified of all, Magogo won his first term easily.
And eight years later, despite coming in without Mulindwa’s wealth and generosity, Magogo is the most powerful man in Ugandan football.
From food donor to the top
Muhangi’s profile is different. By 2018, he was a novice, whose introduction to boxing circles had been in early 2017 as a food donor to the national boxing team camp in Lugogo.
That was an automatic disqualification but with the majority of the outgoing UBF executive on his side, it was easy to manipulate the system and sell him as a legit candidate.
In late 2017, the UBF general secretary, the organising secretary, the publicity secretary and the patron in Kenneth Gimugu’s executive, connived to back Muhangi, despite his ineligibility.
When Gimugu petitioned the high court to block the election, Muhangi’s accomplices, who were also the registered trustees of the federation alongside Gimugu, somehow convinced the court that Muhangi was fit for a vote.
And coincidentally, the court gave the trustees the mandate to organise the polls. Talk of lions guarding an antelope.
January 20, Muhangi was declared president, unopposed, in an assembly at Kati-Kati Restaurant in Lugogo. Meanwhile, Gimugu was declared president, also unopposed, in an assembly at the tennis court in Lugogo.
Court battles ensued but February 28, High Court Justice Lydia Mugambe decided that Muhangi was the legitimately elected UBF president – Gimugu was knocked out.
Hard for opponents
In 2013, Kasule, the proprietor of Proline, and Makindye West MP Allan Ssewanyana tried to vie for Fufa presidency but failed the minimum requirements test as Magogo strolled to victory, unchallenged.
Last August, history repeated itself as Kasule again failed to meet the minimum requirements. Ssewanyana, of Katwe United, simply lacked administrative experience.
Again, Magogo, also Budiope East MP, was announced Fufa president, unopposed, for the third term.
Kasule and co. say the process was unfair and ring-fenced for the incumbent, yet, many of the current executive members, including first vice president Justus Mugisha, a sports administrator for more than 20 years, second vice president Darius Mugoye, Kitara region chairman Rogers Byamukama are eligible, but none dared their boss.
But Kasule has a point. Besides the Shs10m nomination fee, he knew it was nearly impossible for him to raise three signatures from one of the eight Fufa regions, a Special Interest Group (SIGs) and a Uganda Premier League club, within just 48 hours and return the duly filled forms.
It didn’t help matters that only the chairmen or the CEOs can append their signature for the regions and SIGs. These delegates are on Fufa’s payroll and endorsing their boss’ rival was just unthinkable.
“This is a way of frustrating those interested in challenging Magogo,” Kasule said, stating the obvious on May 25.
Like Magogo fell out with Kasule, with whom they drafted the airtight electoral code, so did Muhangi with Fred Kavuma and Godfrey Nyakana, who smuggled him into UBF presidency.
Muhangi also quickly moved to acquire what he lacked in 2018. He befriended Aiba (recently IBA), the boxing equivalent of Fifa.
He also boasts as the only Ugandan International Technical Officer (ITO), though his rivals doubt its validity.
What’s more, last year, Muhangi amended the 2013 UBF constitution “for the good of boxing,” though many insist it was a selfish move to lock out potential rivals, right from club level.
According to the new constitution, one seeking an executive position must: be a certified National Technical Officer (NTO); having served as a senior or executive member of a club in good standing with the federation for five consecutive years, or being a member of the outgoing UBF executive for four consecutive years, among others.
If those were the requirements four years ago, neither Muhangi nor his executive members would have qualified for the positions they hold. Asked about this irony, he said “that was my luck.”
The amended constitution also gives the president mandate to appoint five of the 10 executive committee members.
At all costs
The amendments coincided with the rise of Stephen Ssembuya, who expressed his interest in challenging his ex-friend Muhangi for the UBF top seat.
Last April, Ssembuya and allies, including Nyakana, petitioned the National Council of Sports citing the unconstitutional process in which the constitution was amended, but 10 months later NCS is still mute on the matter.
Again, Muhangi was unopposed in abusing the UBF constitution as the purported members of the review committee confessed to his detractors in recorded phone conversations that leaked.
That renders the amended document null yet Bruno Sserunkuuma, the lawyer who was returning officer and announced Muhangi, his secretary and treasurer unopposed, insists the process was guided by the new constitution.
Muhangi, who posted a congratulatory letter from the IBA president on February 9, has never shared proof of IBA ratifying the new constitution.
Opponents insist the electoral process was illegal. Sulaiman Ssenyonjo, the outgoing publicity secretary, allegedly showed interest in contesting against his boss Muhangi but he was the only one among the 25 who failed the requisite NTO course where Muhangi was the instructor and examiner.
But Ssenyonjo denies nursing such interests, saying he only wanted to be the organising secretary, a position the president is now mandated to handpick.
Meanwhile, Akram Yiga, a member of the five clubs challenging the election in the court, tried his luck against Muhangi.
“The election was so unclear to us because as UBF members we didn’t have a chance to sit up with a general elective assembly to draw an election roadmap and elect an electoral committee as per the 2013 UBF constitution,” Yiga told us.
But, he says, his representative was denied nomination forms at the UBF secretariat and phone calls to follow up the matter were also futile, until the January 15 deadline passed.
But Sserunkuuma, the returning officer, denies the allegations.He also denies the claims that he was illegally appointed, insisting that it was the December 4, 2021 assembly that gave the UBF executive mandate to appoint him.
On January 18, Muhangi posted in a WhatsApp group “International Boxing Association loves the fact that I’m unopposed for UBF presidency 2022-2026.”
The February 5 elective assembly, meant to be at Kati-Kati Restaurant, haphazardly happened inside the gym at Lugogo. Muhangi said on a WhatsApp group that the change of venue was due to security reasons.
On why there were no observers from NCS, Olympic committee, or the international federation, according to the constitution, Sserunkuuma was inconsistent.
First, he said such observers could have attended, though he did not name any. Delegates who attended saw no observers. But after reading the clause in the new constitution, Sserunkuuma found defence in another amendment that makes observers’ attendance optional.
No one sued Otucet. Kasule’s cries against Magogo died out. But Muhangi will have to submit his defence to the High Court no later than Monday.
When change really happens…
Last year, Suzan Anek was forced to aside after heading the Uganda Netball Federation for 14 years, paving way for new office bearers.
What followed was something unusual, by Ugandan democratic standards. In the protracted elections in June 2021, Anek’s executive members looked the more likely candidates to take over.
But they were trounced by a team of newcomers led by Sarah Babirye Kityo, a former Member of Parliament. Never mind Babirye is accusing Anek of clandestinely creeping back into netball administration.
There are other federations where transition is as seamless as day follows night.
After Shaban Muziransa Nkuutu perished in a motor accident in September 2020, Annet Nakamya took over as president Uganda Badminton Association, though Simon Mugabi, the CEO seems to be the de facto head.
After heading the Uganda Volleyball Federation from 2008-2016, Sadiq Nasiwu left office. Hadija Namanda won the election to lead the federation until 2021. Nasiwu bounced back after defeating the incumbent in the lost the February 2021 elections.
The same sanity prevails in rugby, golf, and cricket.
Then there’s the mess in cycling spearheaded by a ‘dinosaur’ called Sam Muwonge, aka Mahaba. Critics say he is capable of doing anything to keep himself in power. In 2017 Mathias Lukwago formed a rival cycling body, but it died almost at birth.
Mahaba is no different from Salim Musoke, who has led the Uganda Weightlifting Federation for donkey years, more or less like Twaha Dungu in bodybuilding.
Then there’s a joke that if you are not a Mungoma, you cannot lead shooting or archery. That family has customised those disciplines, albeit with much opposition.
But does anyone care if Richard Asiimwe, Ibrahim Makanda or Eddie Gombya rule sport climbing, lacrosse, and zurkhaneh for as long as they live?