Disgruntled Ugandan athletes nearly boycotted Kololo event

Chaos in camp contributed to Uganda’s dismal display at the Africa Cross-country Championships on Sunday. A day to the continental event dominated by Kenya, Ugandan athletes went on strike over unpaid allowances and threatened to head back home.

“All the runners packed their bags and camped at the hotel lobby,” a source at Imperial Royale Hotel where the team resided for four days, revealed. Team captain Moses Kipsiro later confirmed that a strike had taken place and was only called off after the intervention of Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) officials.

“The strike could have been avoided but there was no communication from the team management about the allowances,” Kipsiro, one of very few Ugandan runners that don’t shy away from speaking his mind, said. “I tried my best to calm the situation but failed.” While the runners wanted to be paid Shs1.2m for the four days they spent in Kampala, they settled for Shs750,000.

The athletes spent about a month camping in Bukwo but were never paid a single penny until Saturday. Each athlete was meant to earn Shs5,000 per day in camp allowances. “Good thing, the camp arrears were also cleared on Saturday. But remember some runners have families and didn’t leave them with any money. We also spent on physiotherapists from our pockets which I consider unfair.”

UAF general secretary Beatrice Ayikoru, however, said the incident can’t be regarded as a strike. “You can’t call that a strike. If there was a strike they wouldn’t have competed,” noted Ayikoru.

oor feeding Besides the allowances, runners complained about poor feeding in the camp. They said they ate poor quality food served in very small portions. “Because most of these guys are not used to good food, they ate beyond their limits after checking into Imperial Hotel. They were eating excessively. That’s why most of our runners looked so heavy during the race,” Kipsiro, who competed with an injured knee, offered.

Kenya swept all the eight gold medals on offer in the Sunday races with Uganda taking team silver in the senior men’s 12km ategory. The Ugandan junior and senior women both got team bronze. For a hosting nation, with aspirations of staging the World Cross-country Championships in 2017, that was way below par. “There is no way we were going to do better than Kenya. We didn’t prepare well.

Kenyans have left us by miles,” the 2010 Commonwealth Games double medallist said. To show their discontent, Ugandan runners locked themselves in their rooms as the rest of the visiting teams made merry during a farewell dinner organized for all participants at Hotel Africana later on Sunday night.

“I think they were playing the ostrich game. They were just burying their heads in the sand after the not so good performance,” UAF assistant general secretary Apollo Musherure said. “They must have been frustrated after coming into the event with high expectations,” added Musherure, who headed the dinner organizing committee.

One of the team coaches, Peter Wemali, was quoted by NTV as saying that Kipsiro masterminded the strike but the runner reacted angrily to the accusations. “It is unfortunate that someone who considers himself a coach can say such things.”


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