Several Ugandan Members of Parliament including former 1500 metres Junior World Champion Julius Acon and compatriots Maureen Osoro and Anne Adeke got off to a good start the 7th East African Inter- Parliamentary Games tournament.
Starring in the ladies track and field events, MP Osoro won both the 400 m and 800m races ahead of compatriot Christine Ayo (400m) and Tanzania’s Esther Matiko, who came in third in the 400m race. In the 800m race MP Osoro beat Tanzanian Matiko to second place, while youth MP Anne Adeke came in third.
In the Men’s category, Parliament of Kenya’s Wesley Korir, a former Boston Marathon Champion, got his name on the medal chart, crossing the line ahead of former athlete Julius Acon of Uganda and Kisoi Munyao of Kenya.
Korir also hit the finish in the 400 metres dash beating Parliament of Uganda’s Gota to second place while compatriot, Dr Victor Munyaka scooped third place.
Team Kenya also did well scooping the 400 x 1 relay with MPs Dan Wanyama, Kanini Kega, David Ochieng and Senator Isaac Melly starring in the race. The walking race was also won by Kenya’s Korir.
In men’s tug of war, Parliament of Uganda were declared champions after beating Kenya 2-1 in a pulsating final. Parliament of Uganda started off well beating Kenya 2 pulls -1 pull and Tanzania 2 pulls to zero to book a date yet with Parliament of Kenya. Parliament of Kenya on its part were the stronger side beating Parliament of Tanzania, 2 pulls to zero.
In the women’s category, Parliament of Kenya proved to be superior beating Tanzania 2 pulls to zero. However, in the second match, Tanzania beat EALA by two pulls to zero.
Earlier on, the week-long extravaganza was preceded by a Pre-Tournament Conference opened by the Speaker of EALA, Rt Hon Daniel F. Kidega. The Speaker reiterated the importance of the Games saying it enhanced inclusiveness and bonding.
“Beyond interface as Parliaments, the Inter-Parliamentary Games further enhance interaction with the citizenry of the Partner States and act as a mode of sensitization by popularizing the Integration process. Sports is key for the integration of the region as enshrined in Article 119 which anticipates the promotion and enhancement of diverse sports activities”, Speaker Kidega noted.
Sport, he remarked, similarly plays a vital role in building social inclusion in the region, as an engine of shared experience and empowering citizens to develop friendships. Sporting activities create greater sense of belonging, increase in confidence levels and strengthening of Community capacity.
The Speaker called on the Partner States to promote sports tourism by investing in more budgets. The theme of the Pre-Tournament Conference: ‘Uniting East Africans, One People, One Destiny’, was called to enhance bonding ahead of the Games.
Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar said sports was key in integration. He said there was need for common identities, justice and common standards including adherence to human rights. He said the integration pillars would only be realized if there was total commitment from all Partner States.
The Governor of Mombasa, Hassan Ali Joho, said there were clear values stipulated in the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC on the reasons for coming together. He said the integration systems needs to be anchored on economic, social and cultural values as well.
“Let us ensure the Community is people-centred and private sector driven”, Governor Joho said, and called for the fast uptake of Kiswahili as the official language of the Community.
The Chair of the EAC Joint Planning Committee Saoli Ole Nkanae also addressed the Conference. Another key presentation was made by the Senior Monitoring Evaluation Officer, Julius Burungi who said significant progress had been made at the EAC, the challenges notwithstanding.
The presenter said all stakeholders need to be involved in the integration of the region. He cited lack of awareness and funding as some of the challenges the Community is facing.
Leaders of the delegations, Uganda’s Minister of State for Sports Charles Bakabulindi, William Ngeleja (Parliament of Tanzania), Hon Evariste Kalisa (Parliament of Rwanda) and Dennis Karera (Burundi National Assembly) addressed the Pre-Tournament Conference.
EALA Member, Hon Abubakar Zein called on the legislators to embrace fair play and discipline as the games proceed. He maintained that there was need for etiquette and adherence to decorum, rules of conduct and courtesy as the games proceed. Hon Zein said fair play as well as sportsmanship/sportswomanship were key attributes in the entire tournament.
In attendance also were representatives of the Kenya Ports Authority and the Aga Khan University.