The Commander of Land Forces and First Son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Friday came to the rescue of the national basketball team, the Silverbacks, and cleared all their hotel bills in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Silverbacks have dominated the back pages of the Uganda information over the financial wherewithal as they played the Afrobasket championship entirely on credit.
“The national men’s basketball team would like to thank Gen Muhoozi for coming to the rescue of the Silverbacks in Kigali. Gen Kainerugaba has paid all our hotel bills and has personally ensured we leave Kigali with no credit,” Fuba president Nasser Sserunjogi tweeted Friday.
The tweet and other accompanying praises to Gen Muhoozi comes as the country’s failure to cater for the team in Rwanda was threatening to blow up in the face of the government.
On Thursday evening, word filtered through that Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a sports fan who was in attendance as the Silverbacks fell to Cape Verde 79-71 to exit the championship with their head held high, had authorised the payment by his government to clear the Ugandan team’s dues.
The team owed over Shs180m in hotel accommodation and attendant costs as well as Fiba dues that former Fuba president Ambrose Tashobya is said to have been keeping the international federation on whose council he sits throwing out the team.
In various responses to public queries on Twitter on Friday, Park Inn by Radisson, the hotel where the Ugandan team has been staying, appeared to confirm that the Rwandan basketball federation, Ferwaba, had cleared the bill.
“To confirm, it is Ferwaba that settled the bill,” the hotel said in a response to online sports site Kawowo photographer Baron Edgar’s query.
“In case of any more queries, we are listening and can discuss via Direct Message.”
The photographer, who has been covering the Afrobasket championship in Kigali, had earlier broken the news that the team was being detained in the hotel over outstanding bills.
He later said he had been threatened over the tweets and deleted some, including those on the hotel response.
“I feel unsafe! A lot of threatening DMs have been sent to me in regards to that issue. All in all, we thank God and concerned authorities that everything is sorted,” he tweeted.
PR and politics at play
Sources in Kigali say Kagame would not have directly settled the bills but used Ferwaba who were also the organizers of the championship to do the rest.
However, the Rwandan leader’s commitment to settle accounts of a Ugandan team at a time his diplomatic fallout with President Museveni has stretched to more than two and a half years, appears to have sent several heads into the kitchen last evening.
Sources say the Ugandan team was instructed to decline the Ferwaba offer and await for clearance from Kampala instead.
Daily Monitor has contacted Radisson for a clarification on whether a second payment for the Silverbacks had been channeled from Ugandan side.
Despite the financial challenges that shrouded their participation, the Silverbacks put up impressive showing in Kigali, including beating Africa’s heavyweight Nigeria in a dominant whistle to buzzer win to make the quarterfinals.
The Silverbacks, who had only won their second game in the Afrobasket history by defeating Cameroon last week, went on to fall to Cape Verde despite a spirited effort against the much fancied and superior archipelago and island country.
Ahead of the trip to Kigali, the Silverbacks lacked the funds and were only given Shs340m in a sack by National Council of Sports (NCS) general secretary Bernard Patrick Ogwel on August 16.
However, of the money, Sserunjogi opted to pay a $100,000 (about Shs360m) debt accrued from borrowing to fund the preparations for the last qualifier in Morocco.
The borrowing and Fuba’s inability to raise any funds of its own has been a hot subject as it left the team in an awkward situation when Sserunjogi decided to pay the debt first – against Ogwel’s instruction that the money was specifically for the team’s wellbeing in Kigali.