Shock as Kenyan athletes boycott African Games trials

Tuesday March 05 2024

World 800m champions Mary Moraa speaks to her colleagues during their boycott at the Nyayo Stadium. Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group


Kenyan athletes have boycotted the national trials for the Africa Games starting Friday in Accra, Ghana. 

The athletes were protesting the quota of 35 slots allocated by the Kenya National Sports Council (KNSC) to Athletics Kenya. 

Kenya plans to send 30 athletes (16 men and 14 women) and five officials to the Games, having cut athletics participation by about 50 percent from the 2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco.

Kenya collected 31 medals: 11 gold, 10 silver, and 10 bronze from the 2019 African Games. From the haul, athletics contributed 10 gold, seven silver, and three bronze medals. The national women's volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, got the other gold medal. 

Trouble started when athletes were summoned to the call room shortly after the technical meeting at 9am. Instead of proceeding to the call room, the athletes matched to the starting line and sat on the track in protest. 

One of the athletes' representatives, Monica Safania, said it is shocking that they were only informed of the changes a week before the trials yet athletes have invested a lot in training. 


Kenyan athletes walk out of the Nyayo Stadium after declining to compete in the African Games trials over quota issues on March 5, 2023. Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

"Everyone knows that since time immemorial, we take three athletes in each event so long as they have attained the qualifying standards," said Safania, the former national 100m champion. 

Safania said that athletics is the discipline that has brought the most medals to the country from the Games. "We shall not compete until KNSC gives us three slots in each event," said Safania, who wondered what would happen to the 4x400m men's and women's teams that can easily strike the Paris Olympic Games qualifying standards. 

'Kill talent'

"KNSC wants to kill talent. We should have been told of the changes early enough so that some of us could focus on other things," Safania added. 

Former national 200m champion Dan Kiviasi said neither Athletics Kenya nor KNSC have given them a valid reason. 

"It can't be funding. Let officials from the ministry come and address us," said Kiviasi, adding that it's impossible to come up with a list of 16 male and 14 female athletes for the Games. 

Kiviasi said it is needless to use millions in testing athletes yet they are not allowed to compete. 

"Let fairness prevail. We have sacrificed a lot for the Games. It's painful," said Kiviasi, adding that it's not all about winning medals. 

Kiviasi singled out the 4x400m men's team that finished fourth on debut at the World Indoor Championships in an African Record time. 


Kenyan athletes stage a sit-in at the Nyayo Stadium on March 5, 2023. Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

Give us the opportunity

"Everyone is talking about that. They were given the opportunity. Give us the opportunity," added Kiviasi.

World and Commonwealth Games 800m champion Mary Moraa said most athletes are employed by the disciplined forces while others secure education scholarships because of their athletic talent. 

"There are young girls here eager to qualify for the Games. They will go home dejected and can easily engage in other vices leading to early pregnancy among other things," said Moraa. "I beseech the government to intervene."

Athletics Kenya senior vice president Paul Mutwii and KNSC official Andrew Mudibo tried to intervene and have the athletes compete in vain.