PtG Article 03.11.2006

Deportation shows government’s disregard for democracy and its own people

Affairs in Kenyan football went from grotesque to tragic today when Kenyan minister of sport, Maina Kamanda, made the decision to dissolve Kenya’s Football Federation and at the same time deport one of the federation’s strongest and most enterprising critics, the Canadian born sports entrepreneur Bob Munro.


With this outrageous assault on an individual who for years have worked 24 hours a day to create better living conditions, induce self-confidence and promote joy amongst the poorest children and teenagers in the slum of Nairobia, the Kenyan government shows its disregard for democracry, the individual rights of citizens and all of its people.

Only last week, Bob Munro’s project, Mathare Youth Sport Association (MYSA), was visited by the former captain of the French national football team, Marcel Desailly. Desailly is of French and Ghanian background but he had never seen poverty on a scale of that in Nairobi’s slum. Desailly said about Mathare Youth Sport Association what many other visitors have said before him:

”This is a classic example of how sport can make a big difference to the lives of so many young people. I think it was totally appropriate that Mathare should have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.“

Many people have contributed to the success of MYSA but the main driving force throughout 20 years has been the immigrant Bob Munro who has built one of the world’s most admired help-to-selfhelp projects based on sport but with enlightenment, education, personal development and shared responsibility as the main goals. The work has taken place not only against a backdrop of massive poverty but also in opposition to the political and ethnic problems that trouble so many African countries and the corruption that permeates all areas of Kenyan society.

So when Kenya’s government attacks the man Bob Munro, it also attacks the children and young people of Kenya.

Also at the level of elite sport, Munro has made a strong impact as a key player in the formation of the Kenya Premier League which is an alternative football tournament set up by a number of the most import football clubs in 2003 as a protest the thieving in Kenya’s Football Federation. With equal measures of kindness, involvement and stubbornness, Munro succeed not only in uniting the professional football world in Kenya but also in convincing FIFA that this time it was important to support the progressives against the corrupt in Kenyan football. And in this case FIFA seems to have to have understood the message.

The longterm diplomatic process of getting the various factions in Kenyan football to agree - a process that was solidified with the agreement with FIFA in Cairo in January this year - has now been effectively destroyed by Kenya’s minister of sport.

Faced with a humiliating FIFA boycott the government has desperately tried to save face by taking action - even though the action in question is a fundamental breach of civil rights. The decision shames Kenya and Kenyan sport and it also places Bob Munro, his Swedish wife and their three Kenyan adopted children in very great danger. Earlier this year unknown perpetrators attacked his house with guns, and Munro has recieved several death threats.

Therefore FIFA, the IOC and all other organisations and individuals must decide to focus on an individual and apply international pressure on Kenya’s government. The most important aim is to get Kenya’s government to annull the deportation of Munro and ensure that he and his family can live in personal safety. Once that is done the next aim is to continue cleaning up Kenyan football with contributions from Munro and the many people who share his vision.

The road to transparency in sport should not go over broken human lives.

Sign Play the Game's protest to the Kenyan government over the deportation of Bob Munro (link disabled).