How WhatsApp exposed Muhangi’s abuse of boxing body’s constitution

Saturday April 17 2021
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Making his way. Muhangi has controversially amended the constitution to gain more power at UBF. Photo | Ismail Kezaala

By Abdul-Nasser Ssemugabi

The Uganda boxing family might not remain the same following leaked audios that exposed how Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) president Moses Muhangi influenced the unconstitutional amendment of the federation constitution.

In an April 5 meeting, Muhangi issued copies of the amended constitution and told club delegates and the media that the old constitution is “now history.”

The amendment process started with the March 6 general assembly, through another meeting on March 31.
Muhangi was voted UBF president January 20, 2018, and in his final year of his first term, he presided over constitutional amendments his rivals deem “unconstitutional” and intended to stifle competition.

The changes, the opinions
Among the changes that stirred debate are the minimum qualifications for those seeking UBF executive positions which demand: being a certified National Technical Officer; having served as a senior or executive member of a club in good standing with the federation for five consecutive years; being a member of the outgoing UBF excom for four consecutive years, among others.

The amendments also removed the general assembly’s mandate to directly vote for all executive positions, and allowed the president to appoint the first and second vice presidents, the general secretary, publicity secretary, and regional coordinators.
Opinions sharply differed. Emmanuel Mwesigwa, a professional boxing promoter and staunch Muhangi critic, was following keenly, though remotely, recording his phone calls with the ‘framers’ of the new constitution.

And his reaction was both a shrewd detective job and deadly betrayal of his sources. Barely a week after the amended constitution was adopted, Mwesigwa leaked the revealing audios detailing the amendment process, in a WhatsApp group.
Those implicated retorted, not denying any audios, rather faulting Mwesigwa for exposing them and betraying their trust.

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Muhangi’s answers about the amendments were political and defensive. But these 13 audios of whistle blowers speaking freely affirm everyone’s suspicions on the process and spirit behind the amendments.
Tony Ssekabira, a former heavyweight boxer, was one of the five-man team that amended the UBF Constitution.
Others were national coaches Patrick Lihanda and Mercy Mukankusi, events MC Juma Nsubuga, and Sam Lukanga of Lukanga Boxing Club as chairman.

Cracks emerge
Many doubted that team’s academic credentials and ability to deal with legal matters, especially compared to the committee that drafted the 2013 constitution – that included three men well versed in law and sports management.

In the audios, Ssekabira said the illegalities begun in the selection of the amendment committee, observing that all the names were Muhangi’s choice, neither voted for nor vetted by the assembly.
“Initially, Muhangi suggested three names. But when people suggested my name, he added me to the team and Mercy [Mukankusi] to represent the women,” he says. “That was wrong.”

Ssekabira, attached to UPDF Boxing Club, said the process abrogated Article 13(12) of the 2013 constitution
“A valid ballot to adopt or amend this constitution is obtained when two-thirds of the valid votes are recorded in favour,” he said.

Article 13 (3), Ssekabira added, says “voting at both the annual general assembly and the extraordinary general assembly shall be by secret ballot.”
In another audio, Lukanga said he was a powerless chairman. “I can’t be chair yet I’m not in control of the discussions; I might not even attend tomorrow’s meeting,” Lukanga told Mwesigwa.

“So Muhangi is simply using you like a straw,” Mwesigwa prodded.
“But the boxing fraternity has become very cheap…,” Lukanga added, with audible dejection.
Ssekabira added that there is no documentary evidence that members voted for the amendments.
After receiving the new constitution, Ssekabira’s UPDF fellow Simon Mugagga told the media that “we’re not contented; all delegates’ suggestions were ignored in the new document.”

One committee member could not even pronounce the word “consecutively,” and confessed to us, off-record, that some of the provisions were smuggled into the document by Muhangi’s lawyers.
In an earlier conversation, Ssekabira, who admitted to playing spy, said he could not do much to stop the illegalities, but advised Mwesigwa, that to salvage the situation, someone “clever” must challenge the amendment in court, before the process is concluded.

“I can’t wait for a legal suit against this process,” he said.
Muhangi defence
But Muhangi insists that voting, in whatever format, is useless when matters are agreed on in unison.
Worth noting, when the UBF trustees announced intentions to suspend Muhangi’s executive for “mismanaging the federation resources” on April 1, they chose Ssekabira, Mukankusi, Nsubuga and Lukanga among the interim committee that will replace Muhangi’s executive.

Muhangi called it Fools’Day foolery.
“Now are you willing to come to our meeting? Or we leave there watching behind the curtain?” Mwesigwa asked on the phone.
“I don’t need to come there because whenever you meet we get to know it,” Ssekabira replied, also warning Mwesigwa against open meetings “because spies are many.”

The solution, he suggested, is hiring a lawyer to file an injunction [against the amendment] as soon as possible.
“It’s already late,” he added.
When Stephen Ssembuya, Mwesigwa’s preferred candidate against Muhangi in the forthcoming elections, attempted to attend the March 31 meeting as chairman Zzana Boxing Club, Muhangi’s bodyguards blocked him and beat up his guards.

To avoid a recurrence, Ssekabira advised Mwesigwa’s allies to storm the April 5 meeting at Lugogo, accompanied by heavyweight boxers. However, Mwesigwa’s team did not appear.

In another audio, Ssekabira called asking Mwesigwa to tell Lukanga, the committee chair, to hide such that he does not sign against the new constitution.

Lukanga dodged the April meeting. But he, Ssekabira, Lihanda and Nsusbuga signed, except Mukankusi, who was also absent.
After the audios leaked, Ssekabira apologised to the boxing family and insisted: “I remain Team Muhangi; no turning back.”
Muhangi has promised to forgive the ‘traitors.’

The issue

What’s happening at UBF?

In just three weeks of March, Uganda Boxing Federation president Moses Muhangi had the 2013 constitution amended by a five-member committee of former boxer Tony Ssekabira, coaches Patrick Lihanda and Mercy Mukankusi, events MC Juma Nsubuga and Sam Lukanga of Lukanga Boxing Club. None of them are of legal mind but their qualification appear to have been closeness to Muhangi.

The amendments mainly sought to restrict challengers to Muhangi’s presidency by locking out anyone who has not been in boxing administration for a specified period of time. Ironically, Muhangi himself came in through the window in 2018.
Details of the controversial amendments has been exposed in WhatsApp recordings.

assemugabi@ug.nationmedia.com

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