How sports has become a political plaything for politicians in greater Nebbi

Sports is the most loved form of leisure globally. Sports can be used to influence diplomatic, social
and political relations. Sports can transcend cultural differences thus bringing people together.

When you talk about sports especially in greater Nebbi that encompasses the three districts of
Nebbi, Zombo and Pakwach, many people directly think about football. It is worth noting that
nothing unites and muster hundreds of people together than a football match in the area backing
the profound passion people have for it.

Many attributes the passion people have for sports on string of factors. However, some people say
media over the years has played a pivotal role that can’t be downplayed. This is because most
“sport journalists ” on radio stations that broadcasts sports news daily across west Nile sub region
have taken it upon themselves to air football related stories during sports hours, giving a thinly-
sliced time for other sports disciplines. This has spring board the love for football related stories
from local to international level given the influence media wields on society.

Since sports unite people than any other activity, many politicians find it easy to use it as their
political handrail to champion their political ideologies.

The recent general elections In Uganda has witnessed a more vibrant youth participation giving a
different trajectory in the country’s political landscape meaning, politicians cannot gloss over the
youths many of whom are would-be potential voters.

In greater Nebbi, towards election cycle, would-be politicians more often than not organize sports
competition to show their face thus introducing themselves to the public whilst the incumbents use
sports to galvanize their positions. This events mostly targets the youths that forms over 70 percent
of the country’s population and make up nearly half of all registered voters.

Politicians shower the youths from different areas with sports kits like jerseys, playing boots,
training kits amongst others and at the end of the competition, awards them with prize money,
trophies after exhausting them with convincing political speeches.

The sports events later become a reference during political campaigns.

The practice of using sports to woo youths into politics has become rife thus attracting views from
hard line politicians like Francis Bolingo, The chairperson of the opposition Alliance for national
transformation party (ANT) in Zombo, who double as the district councillor of Athuma Sub County.
He has acknowledged that indeed many youths are being used by politicians through sports.

Bolingo who is not out rightly against sports competition organized by politicians to champion their
political ambitions reasoned that, not all youths are sports lovers and urged politicians to rather
invest in skilling and education of the youths further advising that parts of the funds can channelled
into income generating activities like hands on skills for the already formed youth groups.

“The issue of football competition organized by politicians for youths is just to campaign and nothing
is serious about it. It is common in greater Nebbi sub region and youths should open their eyes. Why
always football when election time is coming, why can’t they put the money into youth groups to
empower these youths economically” Bolingo told this publication in an interview.

Costa Nyingambe, a youth from Akir cell, Zingili ward , Paidha Town council opined that “ the issue
of politicians organizing football competition for youths is a good idea but the challenge is most of
them just organize the matches for their political move and it ends there”.

From this publication further interaction with couple of youths, it is imminent that most politicians
have over the years have organized football competitions as medium to gain more influence at the
expense of the players and fans.

In economic development aspect, being involved in sport can equip young people with skills that can
raise their level of employability and this is directly associated with coaching and sports

Some experts argue that since sports in west Nile is taking off, there is need to identify some of the
talents, market and expose them beyond the region. Besides, there is also need to identify new jobs
associated with sports that can use sports skills or those derived from sports.

Given the level of exposure, sports analysts believe that marketing and exposure of these rural
talents can best be done by the politicians most of whom have strong lobbying power and financial

It is worth noting that the local leagues organized by politicians are majorly towards elections,
raising questions on the tactical political approach by most politicians.

Is it only about sports?

With crushingly sky high unemployment rate, a journalist under Zombo Press Association Alex Pithua
opines that politicians shouldn’t bank on youth’s ignorance and turn them into special purpose
vehicle for their own political gains by organizing football competitions for the poverty stricken
youths. This is against the backdrop that most youths have passion for sports particularly football.

In developed countries, sports has turned up to be a major source of employment for youths thus
increased GDP.

Meanwhile for the case of Uganda, the government is strengthening its support towards sports.
However, the financial support accorded to sports development through education and sports
ministry is meagre. To some, leaders should stand in the gap and offer necessary support towards
effective sports development through talent identification and promotion.

Youths are faced with myriad of social-political and economic factors that many think can partly be
addressed by leaders through policy formulation -led approach in governance with sports
development as priority. Nonetheless, in Uganda that idea is easier said than done.

Amos Jacan, the youth chairperson of Zombo district said politicians should use sports “to engage
youths in civic education”. This he believes will determine the quality of leaders based on
competency rather than hand-outs leaders who later disappear upon elected into office.

Innocent Onega, The LC III of Paidha town council noted that Much as sports play key role in physical
and other developmental aspects, effective programmes that benefit the youth should be

Many politicians who frequently organize local sports have been contacted but have not responded
about this story.