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April 19 - 25, 2013


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Change looms as Athletics Kenya set poll date after delays

The elections will be held at the county level starting 16 and the regional level April 23 before the delegates congregate to elect the national officials April 30

By Ben Ochieng NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Athletics Kenya (AK) has postponed its national elections four times, citing different reasons for doing so each time. The elections were first set for last year before they were pushed to Feb. 27 and again to March 19.

The new date was later announced as April 3 before AK settled for April 30 as the ‘final date’ for the eagerly awaited polls.

The reasons floated by the association’s president Isaiah Kiplagat centered around the recently-held general elections on March 4 and the swearing-in of Kenya’s fourth President Uhuru Kenyatta on April 9, each time arguing that the dates were too close to the national events.

We don’t want anything ugly to happen and be associated with our elections. We have to leave it that way until the general elections are over then we can carry on. We are not in a hurry,” Kiplagat said while announcing the first postponement in Nairobi.

However, questions abound as to whether there can be a change of guard at AK owing to the status quo that prevails at Riadha House (AK headquarters). In the past it was difficult for the three incumbents, who are the face of the association, to lose their seats during elections.

I can authoritatively say that there will be a change of leadership in the association only if and when the President, Secretary General David Okeyo and Treasurer Joseph Kinyua decide to relinquish the reins of leadership,” an outgoing official who declined to be named for obvious reasons told Xinhua on Thursday.

Those who are challenging the trio do not know what they are up against and could be wasting their time.”

The elections will be held at the county level starting 16 and the regional level April 23 before the delegates congregate in Nairobi to elect the national officials April 30.

The ‘Three Musketeers’ manage a sport that has put Kenya on the world map and made many of the country’s athletes among some of the richest Kenyans.

Athletics has also contributed to almost all the medals Kenya has earned at the Olympic Games and other international outings.

Having used their influence to built Riadha House at a whooping cost of 32 million U.S. dollars, making the association one of the only two International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) affiliates in the world to own a secretariat, many observers feel it is a fallacy for anyone to imagine they would let go so soon.

During the 17th Confederation of African Athletics in Nairobi in 2010, the continental president of Athletics Kalkaba Malboum thanked Kenya for always coming to the rescue of Africa during international events by winning medals for the continent.

When the going has been tough for Africa, it is Kenya that has come to the rescue of the continent by winning medals in athletics,” the CAA President said.

Unlike other associations, AK has managed finances well thereby attracting local and international sponsorships worth millions of dollars. There are also no factions at the association that define other sports bodies,” says our source.

The threesome all boast of experience, deep pockets and high international, corporate and political connections that place them at vantage point to make things rolling. They are also well- travelled.

AK sends teams to the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, All Africa Games, World Cross Country Championships, Africa Championships in Athletics, World Junior Championships, World Youth Championships and several other yearly events like the World Half Marathon and the Chiba Ekiden.

During these events, most delegates get a chance to travel with the respective teams as team managers, heads of delegations and in other capacities as the trio might deem.

The trips carry with them lucrative perks and offer the officials a chance to see the outside world. It is the same officials who vote during national elections, upon which it becomes time to “scratch the back”.

During the 2008 elections, former Assistant Treasurer Francis Afundi made a move that is considered foolhardy - challenging his former boss Kinyua. He received only two votes.

Kiplagat is a former long-serving Managing Director of Post Bank, one of Kenya’s leading financial institutions and has been at the helm of athletics in Kenya since 1992.

He is a council member of the IAAF and is known to push Kenya’ s agenda at the world body, like requesting the IAAF to re-carpet the country’s national stadium and bidding for the 2007 World Cross Country Championships that Kenya hosted in the port city of Mombasa. Known for speaking his mind, Kiplagat is a close confidant of former president Daniel Moi.

Okeyo is a charismatic, commanding and a workaholic figure who is very popular with delegates and the Chairman of the IAAF Road Running Committee. He is very close to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Kinyua is an educationist who has brought discipline in the association. He is a former principal of one of Kenya’s leading colleges and has served as a commissioner with the Teachers Service Commission. He is currently the chairman of Kenya Pipeline, one of the country’s leading quasi-bodies and is an acquaintance of many personalities in the political circle.


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