GULU–The government has apologised for failure to support Gulu District in its preparations as hosts of the 2017 East African Secondary School games.
Speaking during the official opening of the school games at Pece War Memorial Stadium on Sunday, page State minister for Sports Charles Bakabulindi said they are sorry for what happened but it should be put in the past.
The government failed to support the renovation of facilities the district picked for the games despite Prime Minister Ruhakanda Rugunda earlier visiting and pledging support.
Earlier this month, Rugunda told the district that he would meet First Lady Janet Museveni, who doubles as Education and Sports minister, firsthand and get the needed commitment to support the district raise the Sh400 million it needed to complete the renovation in time for the games.
However, the government reportedly released only Sh30 million on Saturday to complete construction of a swimming pool at St Joseph’s College Layibi.
The district had since May been engaged in efforts to raise funds locally as well as through donations but with the clock ticking to a tilt, desperate officials turned to government for help. They got only promises, the emptiness of which left them frustrated.
Gulu District chairman Martin Ojara Mapenduzi could not hide his frustration, but said Sunday that after assessing the situation, they had realised that under the ministry, sports is underfunded.
He appealed to government to improve sports funding to improve on the standard of sports in the country because it is a spirit that promotes sports and that sports is a unifying factor that remains great for the future of the country.
Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of East African Affairs Ali Kirunda Kivejinja, who represented the president, said bringing the games in Acholi was to recognise that they are part of East African Community after decades of armed conflict in the sub region.
President Museveni, in a message read by Minister Kirunda, said selecting Gulu in Acholi sub-region to host the games was to show that the Northern Uganda was free of war after more than two decades of LRA insurgency that left thousands dead and thousands more maimed for life.
Uganda is hosting the games for the fifth time. The East African Secondary School Games has been organised for the past 16 years.
Justus Mugisha, the president of the Federation of East Africa Secondary Schools Sports Association, said most of their objectives have been met, citing preparation of schoolgoing children for opportunities and training of teachers.
The Archbishop of Gulu Diocese, John Baptist Odama, called on political, religious and cultural leaders in East Africa to use sports to promote unity within the region so that they become stronger part of the continent.
St Joseph College, Layibi, and Sacred Heart Girls School are jointly hosting the championship, while Pece Stadium and Kaunda Grounds are being used for hosting athletics and basketball, respectively.
A series of games ranging from outdoor sports such as rugby, basketball, netball, handball, hockey, and volleyball to the indoor ones like chess, badminton and swimming are being played at Layibi College, Sacred Heart, Gulu High School and SOS grounds.
Last year’s games were hosted in Eldoret, Kenya, with the hosts keeping the overall trophy.
There are over 3,500 participants from Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda participating in this year’s games.
The minister flagged off the games with Jinja SS (Uganda) and Kakamega SS (Kenya) tussle it out in football, with the Kenyans pipping their Ugandan rivals 2-1 at Pece Stadium.