Tokyo2020: Ssekitoleko deserves better than incarceration by own state

By Irene Deborah Nanyonjo (Counsel)…….

Uganda’s sportsmen and women have marketed and hoisted this country’s flag in a manner incomparable to the investment from the state. Instead, these sportsmen and women, are driven by the sheer passion they have for the different disciplines they participate in as competitors at the world stage.

It is against that backdrop, that I wonder why weight-lifter Julius Ssekitoleko, who had travelled to Tokyo, Japan for the 2020 Olympics, but returned to the country almost a week ago, can be incarcerated, because he left team Uganda’s hotel, in order to disappear into the thin air of Japan.

Ssekitoleko has been vilified and branded a national disgrace, for attempting to start a new life in Japan. Yet, the swiftness used by the Directorate of Criminal investigations, to arrest Ssekitoleko pales in comparison with how much support comes from the State.

One can only imagine how many medals Ugandan sportsmen and women would be returning, if the State support was commensurate with the effort to reprimand Ssekitoleko. It is high time the ‘planners’ for this country get their priorities right.

“not only have we failed to provide for these athletes, we have even gone further to hurt them”

First of all, appreciating that sports does more than they can imagine in addressing the social economic challenges of people across all generations. But more than anything, the youth. With a more robust sports industry, the youth will be able to solve a host of their key problems.

The Sports industry in Uganda  has been subjected to so much abuse and injustice. For example, Sports in Uganda, has had its infrastructure, including and not limited to sports grounds and fields, raided and reclaimed for all sorts of investments like Supermarkets, malls and hotels among other things.

Yet, it is with such infrastructure, that these sports men and women have their livelihood harnessed, through excellent display, for which one secures a prize in form of money or physical assets. Ssekitoleko was released on police bond yesterday at the Jinja road Police after five (5) days in detention.

But that is an abuse of his rights, as enshrined in the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda. The spokesperson of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Charles Twiine, stated that they are investigating a possibility of ‘conspiracy’ which if is found to be true, is likely to involve the National Council of Sports and the Uganda Olympic Committee as key players in Ssekitoleko’s debacle.

In a country where most if not all Ugandan athletes don’t get an equivalent pay for their sweat, it is absurd that not only have we failed to provide for these athletes, we have even gone further to hurt them as well, as we have done to Ssekitoleko. He should never have been put under incarceration in the first place.

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