Politics within the small but enthusiastic chess community in Kenya has just taken a dramatic turn once again when a small band of petitioners presented their case to the Minster of Sports. This is the first time that the Minister has been petitioned by chess players.
The AGM has been set for 22nd April 2012 and which promises to be the hot and spicy. As promised in my earlier post I will be there – camera, laptop and modem to bring you live action as it happens.
I have presented the petition for you to see what is going on and for you to decide.
The sad thing is that whenever there is a change of guard at Chess Kenya – the officials go away and never get involved in chess again even as a player. I think people get so pissed off that they just quit chess forever. Former past Bigwigs have included Sikand, Sharma, Miheso, Sagwe (late), Rodrigues Njenga, Luruti. Miheso has ventured into play chess once in a while and we do see him around. Rodrigues has emigrated but is still involved in chess.
Enough of stories and here is the petition; (be warned it is a long document!)
Overhaul of Chess Kenya’s Current Constitution, Structure and
Presented by: Concerned chess players of Kenya (see the undersigned)
Chess Kenya (hereafter referred to as ‘CK’) has become isolated from the mainstream chess
fraternity and is fast becoming irrelevant as it continuously fails in the administration of chess in the country. This has been the situation over the last three years of the four-year term that ends on 20th April 2012. The officials have largely concentrated their efforts on a minority consisting of children of affluent parents in Nairobi, for instance, while talented junior chess players from other economical classes and geographical areas are neglected. This has created a huge gap in skill level between juniors in general and the seniors.
Attempts by several quarters to question or address such problems have either been met
by indifference by the executive or intimidation – for example threats in the form of letters to
individual players from lawyers, physical assault and threatening text messages.
Therefore, we hereby petition the Ministry of Sports & Youth Affairs and Kenya National Sports Council (hereafter referred to as ‘KNSC’) for the overhaul of Chess Kenya’s structure, current constitution, and leadership for a brighter future for Kenya’s chess players.
In the paragraphs that follow, we highlight the grounds on which this petition be considered by the aforementioned bodies on the basis of:
Failures in Leadership
Current officials of CK have failed to carry out responsibilities to follow and implement rules laid out in the constitution in the following ways:
Article 3: Aims and Objectives
a. For the past five years or so, CK has not only completely failed “(3.6) to make
and maintain a national strength-rating list of players” but they have also failed
“(3.7) to organize National Championships for that period”.
b. The officials have failed “(3.9) to foster friendly relations among the members,
officials, players and supporters of the society” to the extent that court cases
have been instituted by some officials against some players out of purely
differences in opinion of how chess should be managed.
c. Of the two biggest events – the Kenya Open and National Championship –
only once in 2009 was the former held since they took office. The Kenya Open
until recent years was the largest chess event in East & Central Africa with a
rich history. It was taken over by CK some years back and the club that started
the event – Nairobi Chess Club – is trying to revive it. Other events like the
Rift Valley Open (RVO) which has run continuously since the late ‘90s has
disappeared into oblivion after squabbling between Nakuru-based players and
d. There is no national youth chess program ever since they came to office. Two
officials, Lawrence Kagambi and Steve Ouma, through a body Nairobi Chess
Academy (NCA) have concentrated on rich children for chess training and
international chess trips. As a result, the talented poor child is never exposed,
with advertisements for these events deliberately channeled to the affluent
parents of these children. CK was virtually put aside for the All Africa Games
(AAG) qualifiers and trip with several complaints having been raised of them
possibly having handpicked another team earlier. Subsequently, they even
attempted to sabotage trip of the bona fide team in the end. Many parents and
schools outside Nairobi complain these junior events no longer get advertised in
the public like print or electronic media as in years past. No junior chess program
with some officials running a parallel chess training body NCA which targets
mainly affluent children to represent Kenya. This is a clear conflict of interest as
CK officials with the poor talented child being the biggest loser.
e. Indeed, many of the rich children inexplicably vanish from the local chess scene
after the age of 18 believed to have left the country probably for the scholarships.
This explains why there is no continuity of juniors breaking into senior ranks in
Kenya (see ‘g’ and ‘j’ below).
f. It must be noted that a senior Zambian FIDE (Fédération Internationale
des Échecs, the world chess body) official involved their government to put
a stop to such activities by affluent parents who had tried to infiltrate their
chess association. He has advised that we do the same and today Zambia has
made giant steps in chess producing the first indigenous African grandmaster,
the highest title issued by FIDE. From testimony, many poor youngsters who
qualified to represent the country eventually give up chess after being asked to
look for their air tickets to represent the country (see ‘f’ above and ‘j’ below).
g. This has also affected senior team trips like the bi-ennial World Chess Olympiad
where despite having two years to plan, CK continually asks players to cater
for visa fees, travel insurance, part of travel costs or whole, all this without
allowances. The only time CK may cater for some of these is during election
years of FIDE (every four years) as was the case in 2010. Despite this, players
were still asked to chip in. This has caused a strong player to miss out in the
2008 trip for Dresden (Germany) Olympiad.
h. In the face of all this adversity over the last few months, in an obvious attempt
by the incumbent to remain in power with their term expiring by 20th April 2012,
there has been a sudden countrywide setting up of branches with a view to
get “friendly” clubs who have no clue of what has transpired over the last 4 years
to vote them back in the upcoming April AGM.
i. As a result playing standards have gone down to the extent countries which
Kenya used to beat 10-20 years ago are much stronger than us today producing
many players with FIDE titles. Uganda is making a major breakthrough with
their junior players making it into the senior ranks in the national team, winning
national championships, etc. In Kenya, the youngest player who can beat
established seniors is in their mid to late 20s (see ‘f’ and ‘g’ above).
j. Lack of FIDE-rated tournaments. CK sabotages attempts efforts from well-
wishers to hold one. Only after AAG debacle and player protests are they
beginning to give in with CK elections round the corner in April 2012.
k. Lack of quality tournaments – no proper respect for classical time controls
(see AAG chess report 4.16). There are no proper arbitration and tournament
organization policies. CK tournaments of today are of lower quality than those of
l. Olympiad or AAG outbound teams are never exposed to a proper training
structure. Teams remain out of form once they hit the big stage.
m. Only one Kenya Open held in 2009 and disappearance the National Chess
Championships and other CK-run events.
n. Information of benefit to players from FIDE is usually deliberately held back or
manipulated for strange reasons. They are never posted on their website for
instance. Players eventually find out through the FIDE website or other channels.
o. Complete neglect of ladies chess which has also affected senior chess in general
with chess being concentrated in Nairobi.
Article 5: Membership- Categories, Rights and Obligations
a. Article 5.3 has been abused to the extent that there is no longer chess activity
going on in public schools. Instead, CK through NCA promotes chess in private
schools using CK facilities and those donated to CK by FIDE at the expense of
public institutions and schools.
b. CK has never implemented clause 5.4 as there has never been any honorary
life member ever since this constitution came into effect and also ever since the
current office came into being.
c. Article 5.7 has been provisional ever since this constitution came into effect in
2005 for reasons that are now well known (see the first point above), in short,
article 5 cannot and has never been implemented for having been no facilitation
by CK officials to realize the formation of provincial branches. They have been
relying on the transitional clause 5.7 to advance their own selfish interests and
now that provinces no longer exist in this country, that article must be amended
to comply with the new National Constitution.
d. Apathy by former CK members most of whom have terminated their membership
as there is no value added being part of CK as it is presently.
e. The membership fees (see Article 6.1) are payable annually by 31 January and may be
varied from time to time by the Council and ratified by the Annual General Meeting. This
implies membership is also terminated if arrears are not paid by this date (see Article
7.1). This may be flouted for “friendly” clubs.
Article 8: Office-Bearers- Titles and Functions
a. It took the intervention of KNSC to have the treasurer publish books of accounts
last year and it has only happened once on that particular occasion ever since he
took over office.
Article 9: Office-Bearers- Elections, Term and Removal
a. Two persons – Mary Kanyua and Tom Mulumia – were incorporated into the
Executive Committee of CK without having been ratified in any general meeting;
their continual stay in office is illegal both under the Societies Act and under this
Article 11: Annual General Meeting
a. Since being elected in April 2008 only one AGM has been held last year 2011
which was under pressure from the chess fraternity and it aborted after 6 hours
without any resolutions.
b. With sudden countrywide branches and new clubs being formed with only months to
the AGM and election of new office bearers, alarm has been raised on legality of this.
Article 11.1 (h) iii states in part: “The following shall have a right to attend and vote at
the AGM: …..provided further that only Clubs that shall have been registered for not less
than six (6) months prior to the AGM….”
Article 15: Finances
a. No audited accounts have ever been made public except to members since they
took office. Senior players have special concern on how in 2010 massive funds
from FIDE ahead of the 39th World Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia,
were spent on the team. Indeed, these funds are not mentioned in the official
accounts to the surprise of many.
b. Our National chess teams to the biennial Chess Olympiad get demoralized
having to pay individually from their pockets visa fees, travel insurance,
connections at airports or train stations abroad, and at times the air ticket as in
2008 for Dresden (Germany).
c. Failing to attract any corporate sponsorship ever since they took over office, they
have also failed to raise funds through membership fees as the chess fraternity
has lost confidence in them and therefore very few actually pay up membership.
With the referendum of 2010 and subsequent change in the constitution of the Republic of
Kenya, the following articles in the constitution of Chess Kenya are now redundant and need to be looked into:
● Article 5: Membership- Categories, Rights and Obligations and Article 13: Provincial
a. Provinces in this country no longer exist and therefore there is no way we can
purport to have provincial branches, instead, we should amend the constitution to
provide for county branches and to have a number of representatives acceptable
to all stakeholders.
b. There has never been chess club in this country which has been affiliated to
any provincial branch since no provincial branches have ever existed under this
constitution. What clause 5.2 means is that it is theoretically impossible for any
chess player to take part in any CK event and therefore there is need to have
that clause amended before anything goes on and for the sake of chess being
played, at least legally.
Failures in Leadership
● Some CK officials have personalized chess material donated by FIDE and well-
wishers which rarely trickle down to CK members let alone chess players at large.
The information of how much equipment, literature, software, etc is often a guarded
secret with fears from the fraternity that these are being diverted to other places. Many
federations worldwide would widely publicize such an occasion on their websites, media,
etc. They are often stored at an official’s residence and not at the secretariat.
● Continuous contravening of the constitution e.g. the recent setting up of provincial
branches without voting by members in that province. As per the CK constitution such
a branch has to be set up the same way officials are elected into the main CK office.
CK members have never received prior information that there is going to be voting for
officials of provincial branches. Another is minutes of SGMs and AGMs are sometimes
not kept/done by CK.
● Harassment of chess players via court action, physical intimidation, text messages, etc.
● Chess news in the main dailies has disappeared.
● Repeated abuse of qualifying processes for international tournaments e.g. 2007 AAG
where a current CK official replaced a player under very clandestine circumstances
and the 2008 Olympiad where a player who did not take part in the qualifiers ended
up representing the country leaving out the bona fide one. There was an attempt to do
something similar at the 2011 AAG qualifiers via letter to Ministry of Sports and Youth
Affairs claiming the bona fide qualified players were not qualified even after the qualifiers
were overseen by the ministry.
● They have manipulated and taken advantage of the weak constitution to use it to abuse
their office. The result is the non-result at the local, national and international scene –
absolutely or comparatively
● Sudden cosmetic opening of county branches recruiting unsuspecting members to return
the current officials to office in April 2012.
● Sudden lining up of tournaments for March and April 2012 after years of a lull designed
to persuade members to return them to office.
Recommended Way Forward
A caretaker committee is formed on 20th April 2012, being the last day of the term of the
current office, to spearhead constitutional reforms and to set a date for elections under a
• That committee to have clear terms of reference and mandate that runs for up to 3
• That committee to organize Olympiad qualifiers and any other upcoming international
junior event qualifiers that falls within that period in the same manner that the 2011 AAG
qualifiers were held overseen by the ministry.
• Members of that committee not to be eligible to contest for any elective posts under the