Mercy Mwai and Agencies @PeopleSports11
The decision to charge retired long distance iconic runner and former long-serving National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOCK) president, Kipchoge Keino over misappropriation of Sh55.5 million during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil has sparked a huge debate with Kenyans divided on whether he should be subject to prosecution owing to his iconic status and advanced age.
Keino, faces charges alongside six others for misappropriating funds and abuse of office over the scandal that tainted the country’s record performance at the biggest sporting carnival on earth.
The honorary International Olympics Committee (IOC) member who is expected back to the country today from Mexico and former Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, Hassan Wario who is now Kenya’s Ambassador to Austria were ordered to surrender to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on Thursday. According to a source, Wario is believed to have requested for some time and has been granted permission to appear before the DCI on November 6.
Fellow accused, Kenya’s ambassador to Russia, Richard Ekai, NOCK secretary general, Francis Kinyili Paul and Stephen Kiptanui arap Soi, the Chef de Mission to Rio 2016 appeared before Anti-Corruption court magistrate, Douglas Ogoti, where they were released on Sh1 million cash bail or Sh2 million bond.
Harun Komen, a former Director and Patrick Kimithi, finance official at the Sports ministry were the other suspects in the case who failed to appear at the Corruption Court on Monday.
Two members of the National Assembly from Rift Valley have called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene and have the charges levelled against the two-time Olympic champion.
Consequently, the MPs also raised concerns as to why Wario and Ekai were charged yet three months ago when they were being vetted for ambassadorial position they tabled clearance from all the investigative agencies indicating that they are not under investigations.
The MPs Caleb Kositany (Soy) and Lodepe Nakara (Turkana Central) said that Keino has contributed a lot to the country and therefore ought to be allowed to enjoy his elderly years at peace.
Addressing a news conference, the two legislators told the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Noordin Haji that in case Keino misappropriated any funds they are ready to fundraise and return it back.
They came to the defence of Keino saying it is clear that he was not the accounting officer neither was he involved in the procurement of stuff at NOCK when the money was misappropriated.
Kositany said: “I have a problem with these charges because Keino I believe deserves respect because he is an honorable person who is an elder as he is more than 80 years old.”
Kositany said he had been in communication with Keino who is away receiving an honorary award and assured him that he is innocent.
Lodepe demanded to know why Ekai and Wario were given clearance certificates only to be charged later.
According to him, despite supporting the fight against corruption, this should not be used to malign people’s names and reputation especially if those mentioned have had positive impact towards the country’s development.
He said: “Keino is an old man who we are sure did not get involved in the disbursement of money and that is why we are saying that he is innocent.”
As the legislators story made rounds on social media, Kenyans took to the most popular social media platforms in the country, Facebook and Twitter, to share their stand on the matter with opinion sharply divided.
“I have seen some people urging the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the DCI to drop corruption charges against Mr Kipchoge Keino on grounds that he is a hero, legend and that his age is advanced. Surely, what is this?” Philip Etale, a Director of Communications for Opposition leader, Raila Odinga, posted on Twitter.
“I can’t believe people are trying to sanitise Kipchoge Keino, I don’t care what he has achieved for Kenya. If he is guilty, arraign him in court,” radio journalist, Alex Ronald added.
“DPP should leave Kipchoge Keino alone. This is an icon that stood for Kenya when we had no name. He should be left to retire in peace,” another user of the micro-blogging site, Msema Kweli countered.
Debate on the other popular social media platform in country, Facebook followed a similar pattern and it remains to be seen how the public will react to seeing him in the dock.
“He should face justice for the treatment we got in Rio,” Viola Lagat, who represented Kenya in the women 1,500m at the Brazil Olympics, wrote.
“At his sunset days (78yrs), and with a chain of gold and silver medals in trail, and with all the contributions and commitment that he has exhibited in the world of sports, and with all the inspiration to the upcoming talents, and with his household name and international acclaim, our legendary athletic icon Kipchoge Hezekiah Keino is headed to court to face corruption charges. -Additional reporting by SportPesa News