Embattled Chess Kenya officials temporarily reinstated to office

By francis marangu
May 03, 2016

Sports Disputes Tribunal has issued interim orders reinstating elected officials of Chess Kenya (CK) back to office for two weeks.

They had been ousted by interim officials elected at a special general meeting held on March 20. CK is faced with a leadership crisis as both factions fight for legitimacy.

The interim office led by chairman Bernard Wanjala went ahead to take over affairs of the federation including access to their post office box and organizing chess events.

Other officials elected were Andrew Owili (administrative vice chairman), Agnes Thuo (technical vice chairlady), John Mukabi (secretary general), Rodah Olisa (deputy secretary general), Gilbert Wandera (treasurer) and Satish Deshpande (assistant treasurer).

However, the elected officials led by chairman Githinji Hinga have challenged the move at the tribunal.

The case came up for hearing on Tuesday but the respondents were given fourteen days to serve the tribunal with factual information on certain issues that did not come out clear. Chairman John Ohaga said it is in the best practise of law that the elected officials remain in office at the time.

“The tribunal cannot allow the federation to run headless and without direction of operations. In the meantime, we will restore the elected officials for the next 14 days until the respondents have addressed the issues we have asked about.”

Focus on the SGM

Members of the interim office tried to block the reinstatement order but Ohaga maintained there was no turning back on the matter.

“As a tribunal, we can only do two things; give you more time to satisfy us or we determine that you have not satisfied us,” he said.

“We have since decided to give you more time and even as we do that, we cannot allow the interim officials to run office when there is a cloud over how they came to office.

This is an effective mandatory injunction to restore elected officials until we are satisfied that the SGM was valid.”

That SGM was the subject of discussion at the hearing where it emerged that three juniors were part of the members that called for the meeting.

The hearing will resume on May 24 when respondents who were represented by lawyer Edgar Washika will show proof of how notice of the meeting was served to members, if it was served to members or delegates and if the 50 members who attended are paid members of CK.

Those were the main preliminary objections raised by Hinga and secretary general Joseph Atwoli when they submitted to the tribunal. However, Washika maintained that the SGM was legally held.

SGM was a consultative forum, Atwoli argued

“By all means, we consider the meeting to be legal and called by bonafide members of CK as per the constitution. The burden of proving membership is on CK because members contend that they have paid using different avenues.”

Atwoli said the meeting that elected interim officials did not qualify to be an SGM as per their federation constitution.

“We want to reiterate that the said meeting was not a SGM but a consultative meeting. The attendees were not members of CK for 2016 and the meeting was never sanctioned by the CK executive but the respondents who are not our members.”

The interim officials had seven main issues why they wanted the elected officials out of office.

They included failure to hold annual general meetings, failure to produce audited accounts, non-compliance with Sports Act 2013 as well as failure to hold international events, failure to attract corporate sponsorship and accumulating FIDE debts.

No audited accounts

Hinga defended CK on all the accusations saying they called for AGMs many times but there was no quorum which made it impossible to appoint auditors.

The last time CK had audited accounts was in 2011. On compliance with the Act, Hinga said it’s an ongoing process that is well on course.

“The registration process started with coming up with a strategic plan and amending the constitution. It is an ongoing process and this matter is in public domain that we have been deliberate in our efforts to get registered.”

Further, he said only two international events have been cancelled for lack of sponsorship.

“By far, our office has held the biggest number of international and local events in the history of chess in Kenya.”

Atwoli said the upcoming elections at FIDE and their policy to allow non-citizens play for the national team are the main issues fuelling actions by the respondents.