NAIROBI, November 23- Operations at Athletics Kenya (AK) Riadha House headquarters were paralysed on Monday morning after the building was placed under siege by a group aligned to Professional Athletics Association of Kenya (PAAK).
The protestors led by the association’s Secretary General, Julius Ndegwa, stormed the premises shortly after 7:30am local time (+3GMT) and went round the offices asking federation staff to leave their offices.
They then commandeered the gate, refusing anyone to access the headquarters located along Nairobi’s Aerodrome Road with the group growing to around 50 by midday as they plastered their banners and placards on the gates.
Ndegwa said their main grievance was the spike in doping and alleged misappropriation of funds by federation president, Isaiah Kiplagat, and one of his Vice-Presidents; David Okeyo who are being investigated by CID and lately, world governing body IAAF Ethics Commission for allegedly siphoning over Sh70m from sponsors Nike.
“We are demanding for AK top officials to resign reason being they are under investigation and we believe they have been brought this country down in terms of athletics. Taxation has never reduced since they entered office.
“Our country is bigger that Kiplagat (Isaiah) and Okeyo (David) who I understand stole money from Nike and doping conspiracy. We as athletes have decided enough is enough for this corrupt people to stay in office,” Ndengwa underscored.
They are also pressing for PAAK to be given voting powers under a new AK Constitution whilst seeking recognition as the main body to manage athlete’s affairs.
“The AK constitution does not feature an athlete whether former or active and I believe we are going to burn it today (Monday) and amend a new one that is going to favour us. We are going to stay here until these things are addressed by the Kiplagat and Okeyo so we will sleep here because this is out time to get our freedom.
“We gave them a chance but they have done nothing and they are not ready to change. We have former athletes who are competent to take over,” Ndegwa who is an Administration police (AP) officer declared.
“We do not recognise this group. I don’t know who they are because I have not engaged them since I have been locked out. PAAK are not our members. We have called Government security agency to come and assist us in this because we don’t have the capacity. This has now become a security issue,” another AK vice-president, Lt. Gen (Rtd), Jack Tuwei, told Capital Sport with heavy security watching over the group that is camped at Riadha vowing they will not vacate the building until their demands are met.
Efforts by Tuwei and CEO, Isaac Mwangi to reach an agreement were thwarted after Ndegwa turned down their request of allowing them in to sit down with five of their members and hear their grievances.
AP officers from Lang’ata station were also barred from accessing the building as the AK officials and workers were locked out for more than nine hours.
“It’s very unfortunate because if anybody has any grievances this is not the way to do things. There are more civilized way of doing things which is to come and engage the authorities and discus.
“But to come and invade the office and lock out everybody, to me it’s not right. Changing the constitution is not an event it’s a process and everybody has the right to give an opinion so that it can be included when amending or making the constitution.
“At the moment we have discussed with the Executive Committee about the constitution on how we are going to go about it and we have even formed a committee who are continuing looking at it,” Tuwei told.
Commenting on doping, the vice chairman declared, “any information we have received about athletes who have failed dope test we have followed the procedure as per the World Anti-Doping Agency and IAAF regulations and we have cautioned and taken action up to the very end.
Speaking separately, federation CEO, Isaac Mwangi, said “We have not talked to them. We will listen to their grievances.”
Retired athletes among them women’s 400m hurdles national record holder, Rose Tata Muya Tata, former African record holder in 3000m, Justina Jepchirchir and Joshua Chelang’a joined the protestors in a demonstration that did not feature any world famous athlete.
Former world marathon record holder, Wilson Kipsang, who is PAAK’s chairman, did not turn up as expected by the protesters, with an AK National Executive meeting that was due to be held on Monday morning put off as the top brass converged behind the building together with staff.