Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Several sports federations and associations have called upon the government to come up with a streamlined National Rewards and Recognition Scheme for sportspersons who have excelled in different categories rather than giving them handouts whenever they have achieved something or being remembered.
The federation leaders from Paralympics, Athletics and Boxing – some of the games through which Ugandans have scooped several medals-note that they have critically observed that it has become a culture for leaders to offer ‘simple contributions’ to individuals who raise the country’s flag high by winning several medals and accolades.
Their concerns come at a backdrop of president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s directive to the Ministry of Education and Sports calling for the documentation of all exemplary Ugandan sports performers at the African continental level, the commonwealth or the Olympics since 1954 so that he rewards them.
In the missive, the president who closely associates himself with sports shockingly says he has never heard of the Uganda Cranes former star and skipper Jimmy Kirunda until his death in May this year.
Kirunda, like many other sports legends, was living a hard life after his retirement. Very many people have been blaming the government for its failure to put a scheme for the men and women who once or more times in their life brought pride and happiness to the country.
Dominic Otuchet, the president of Uganda Athletics Federation – UAF notes that whereas President Museveni’s pronouncement has already created excitement in the sports circles more so the veterans, there is a need to put a formal structure where this can be faithfully implemented.
Athletics is one of the categories where Ugandans have achieved several medals with the first one a silver medal obtained by Patrick Etolu in the men’s high jump during the 1954 Commonwealth games. Otuchet says that since then several medals have been won. However, besides a few persons like John Akii Bua, who won Uganda’s first Olympics gold medal in 1972, many others have never been recognized.
In 2011 when Uganda got four gold medals from the All African Games organized in Maputo, Mozambique, President Museveni who had hosted the team directed that from that day onward they should be given a monthly stipend of one million shillings each. The president also suggested that the athletes should be employed in the armed forces to ensure that they have a steady income.
The remuneration was later revised in 2013 after the 14th IAAF World Championships in Athletics which took place in Moscow, Russia and long-distance runner Stephen Kiprotich won Gold. The president while meeting the team at his Rwakitura residence announced that the stipend for every gold medal winner will be five million shillings, three million shillings for silver and one million for every bronze medal won.
On a very sad note, Otuchet says the stipend as promised was fulfilled for a few months and since then it became irregular as the ministry of education and sports which in charge of this scheme send the monies at their wish. Last year, the ministry dispatched money for three months, and only once this year.
Edwin Ekiring, a well-decorated Ugandan badminton player nicknamed the black pearl, sharing from his plight notes if there is no policy, the rewards are usually given out by the president in form of stipend are not given to players.
Ekiring who is currently living in the Netherlands attests that since 2015, he has tried to get his stipend and today he has not received a single coin. To him, the president’s Tuesday pronouncement may fail just like many other directives to the same effect have ended. He advises Uganda should take a leaf from other countries who have already put in place structures to deal with rewards and recognition scheme.
Moses Muhangi, Uganda Boxing Federation – UBF president, says they have for sometime called for a policy on the matter to put up a fair process. Muhangi says the policy will give a platform for all games without segregating. According to Muhangi, the current procedure tends to favor some sports at the expense of others. He cites an example that when football teams qualify they are treated as if have won, yet many other sportsmen and women in other games who at times even facilitate themselves to attend several events and win come back and they are given nothing.
Mpindi Bumali, the president of the Uganda Paralympic Committee -UPC, also sides with Muhangi noting that the current process is not transparent. He notes that all winners at equal levels deserve equal treatment and this can only be achieved through a well-formulated realistic policy.
The matter of having a streamed rewards policy for sports persons is not only a point of discussion in Uganda. Last year, the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta poked holes in the cash prizes rewarded to top-performing sportsmen and women in international competitions directing his Sports ministry to come up with a ‘practical compensation policy