Peter Wemali, coach of the Ugandan national junior running team, has been suspended following allegations of systematic mental, physical and sexual child abuse. One anonymous runner — wait, let's call her what she is: a girl — spoke to the Daily Monitor, and the scene is predictably horrific:
"He would wake up in the middle of the night and come to our room."
"He threatened to chase us from camp if we ever said anything or turned him down. We didn't have any female coach to run to. It was horrible."
"On some days, he would call one or two of us to his nearby house. If you refused to do what he wanted, he would beat you up."
Wemali's abuse came to light when some of the girls confided in Moses Kipsiro, an elite Ugandan distance runner and early candidate for Uganda's Man of the Year. In an interview with the Daily Monitor on March 20, Kipsiro blew the whistle:
"When one of the girls confided in me, I was so bitter," Kipsiro, who finished 10th in the 12km senior men's race, revealed. "I confronted him but that resulted in a big wrangle. What I discovered after engaging the girls was so shocking. One day, I think it was March 4th; he gathered the junior women's team in a secret place and told them that to run well, they must have sex or give birth. His theory was that if a woman's private parts are wide, their legs move easily. I was so shocked to hear such silly talk. Unfortunately some people believe he is a good coach. They continue to defend him," Kipsiro added.
As you'd expect, Ugandan authorities read the interview and immediately took action: they dropped Kipsiro, their best runner, from the national half marathon team. Because in Uganda, the only thing worse than institutional child abuse is letting the world know it exists.
To the surprise of no one except the Ugandan Athletics Federation (UAF), the revelations of child abuse and subsequent blackballing of Kipsiro sparked worldwide outrage. Their hand forced, the UAF announced this weekend that Wemali would be suspended, but not fired. UAF President Domenic Otuchet even went out of his way to grant Wemali the presumption of innocence: "We are not saying that he is guilty but it is an administration process which we have to take." It's really amazing how and where the penumbra of the U.S. Constitution will heave into view when a popular sports figure is involved in a crime.
Fortunately, the Ugandan police aren't so interested in waiting for the UAF's administrative process to run its course: they confirmed that a criminal investigation is already underway.
There are more bizarre details in the links below, including allegations that he came from Kenya as a sorcerer with supernatural powers. But perhaps no detail is more bizarre than this: the man still has a job.
Uganda's female athletes sexually harrassed by coach [Monitor]
Kipsiro axed for exposing Ug sex scam [CapitalFM]
Sexual harassment allegations put coach Wemali in spotlight [Monitor]
Uganda Athletics Federation suspends coach in alleged sex abuse case [Inside the Games]