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Funding African Sports: Sebei Land, Home to Some of the Worlds Best Long Distance Runners is to Receive a High Altitude Sports Center

It was a humbling return to the eastern Sebei sub-region for Uganda’s Olympians. At least 13 of 17 representatives Uganda sent to Rio Olympics, hail from the three districts of Kween, Bukwo, and Kapchorwa that make up Sebei.

They were back home after a rather uneventful tournament, where hopes run high, but there was little return. Many in the audience recalled the fame that visited this little hamlet of the country, where little else exists. The area has only gotten its first tarmac roads. When it grows dark, the lack of electricity means that the villages that gave Uganda such world champions as Moses Kipsiro and Stephen Kiprotich are as dark as when God created them.

Characteristically, the Sebei area is hilly, and children born here grow to have the long legs needed to become long distance runners. Indeed many of the champion athletes, who hail from this region, have to travel hundreds of kilometers east to St Patrick’s College in Iten, in Kenya to train. The journey to Iten, usually takes a lot of courage and sacrifice, to the point that some believe that the best runners in Sebei never actually make it to the track. They give up and settle for life as cultivators in the difficult hills.

So when Moses Kipsiro’s won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it was not surprising that the locals made demands to the government of Uganda. They wanted their own Iten; one where their best children would put their best skills to use.

It was the Sebei sports committee head, Milton Chebet who best put their hopes in words.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“We may not have minerals as a region, but athletics is the oil that God gave us,”[/perfectpullquote]

Chebet said.

And the then Education and Sports Minister Jessica Alupo was quick to set minds alight by pledging that the state would start work on the Teryet Athletics Centre there. Little happened after that.

It was not until two years later when Stephen Kiprotich stepped forward and won Uganda’s first gold medal at the London Olympics, since 1972. And Kiprotich, who had to struggle for two years in Iten, with no institutional support from either the government or the Uganda Prisons, where he was only a warden, reminded the state of its 2010 promise.

This time, the president of Uganda committed that he would include Teryet’s training center in the next budget. Little has been secured.

On this latest occasion, the elders welcomed their local heroes, even without the medals they were supposed to return. Hosted by Bukwo Woman Member of Parliament Evelyn Chemutai, runners Stephen Kiprotich, Stella Chesang, Timothy Toroitich, Jacob Araptany and others attended the dinner. And again, the complaint resurfaced.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“We lack standard facilities for our athletes and the bad road from Kapchorwa to Bukwo makes it an even bigger problem,” Chemutai said. “The government has taken long to complete the Teryet high altitude center in Kapchorwa. Our runners have to train in Kenya which was quite expensive.”[/perfectpullquote]

Chemutai pledged to lobby for the Teryet. And she has not had to start before state promises are already calling. The new education and sports minister, Janet Museveni, has already pledged to make Teryet happen. But it will occur at a huge cost. According to officials in the ministry,  UGX 6,000,000,000,000 has been set aside to make Teryet happen.




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