By Acaye Henry.
I congratulate the young people who got six medals for Uganda. These are Joshua Cheptegei, Stella Chesang, Mercyline Chelangat, Solomon Mutai and Juma Miiro. These are NRM children. Mutai, at 26, is the oldest of them.
Some people have been writing that we are harvesting where we did not sow. That these children are getting medals by miracle. That is not true.
The last time Uganda did well in Commonwealth Games was in 1970 and that was the last time Uganda was stable. After that it went into political chaos. And with chaos, you get more important things to attend to than sports. You just try to survive. That is why we could not look after our athletes well.
We finally resolved that and it is why you now see these children. They have grown in a time where though we have difficulties, at least they are alive. It is because of the peace dividend that you now recently began hearing of the Kipsiros and Kiprotichs.
Peace affects sports. It is the Lowest Common Multiple (LCM). You must have realised that the Somali boy Cheptegei was running against was actually representing Canada. Mo Farah, though Somali, runs for Britain.
With peace in place, we can look at the other heritage aspects to identify and nurture sportsmen and women. So far, we are only benefiting from one; the high Elgon altitude, over 4,000m above sea level, which means the lungs of those living around there are economical with oxygen.
But we can also exploit the heritage of the people of the Savanah in middle races while those from central Uganda can make good boxers because of their physique. The people of Kalangala would make good rowers and swimmers. Scouts should look at these heritages then identify talents.
The other issues we should pay attention to are health of athletes and their nutrition. I saw some footballers kicking balls lazily. They need energy. Coupled with this is training (teamwork) and being disciplined. Shun alcohol and umalaya.
On the question of resources, it is true we have limited resources but we can plan and use them rationally for effective results. Uganda was not the most resourced team in Australia but won medals. Some better resourced countries left empty-handed.
My guidance to the sports administrators is that if you identify talent, please attach them to our security institutions; police, prisons or the army. This will ensure they have a house, a salary even if modest, and technical support. All our excelling sports people have been attached to our security agencies.
On the high altitude training facility in Sebei, we have begun construction. I did not know that they had halted because of the rains. However, I still do not find that reason convincing. I will take it up with the sports ministry but its completion will be expedited.
We shall discuss the issue of taxes on sports equipment. But we must work towards manufacturing these equipment in Uganda. Why should we import balls when we have leather here? And this will help create jobs here instead of exporting employment opportunities to other countries.
I made a promise that whoever wins a gold medal at an international or continental competition would get a monthly salary of Shs5 million, a silver Shs3 million and Shs1 million for bronze. The five medalists today will get onto the payroll. I have also been told of some arrears to other athletes, they will be cleared.
Likewise, I will build a house for Cheptegei and Chesang who won gold medals, like I have done for previous gold medalists.
The other issues raised by the Sebei community will be attended to; the schools, safe water provision, and construction of an airstrip in Soroti to promote tourism.