Going to watch the FIFA World Cup in Russia is not a problem. However, it only becomes a problem when you use someone else's money while there are more pressing issues to resolve with that money. This is the scenario with the Kenyan Members of Parliament (MP) who have gone to Russia to watch the World Cup finals at the expense of the taxpayers' money.
First of all, Kenya did not even qualify for the FIFA World Cup. 20 MPs traveled to the European country for a two-week stay, where they have watched the semi-final matches, and will also watch the final match between France and Croatia. As expected, the trip is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The ire of the people was raised when the MPs started posting pictures of themselves on social media in Russia. When people get angry, the government officials get reactionary. The Sports Minister, Rashid Echesa, told the BBC that he had only authorized 6 MPs to travel to Russia for research purposes, and that he had no knowledge about the rest who traveled too. The overall purpose of the trip; to help understand how to organize such big events.
The East African carried some responses from Kenyan citizens who voiced their disapproval of the trip. Sylvester Aseka, a seller of second-hand computers in Nairobi, said "Isn't that a big bad joke, that leaders can travel all the way to Russia to watch football when we have a lot of problems here?"
The cost of this trip is being funded by the government, and this is where the whole problem is. Kenyan MPs are entitled to a daily allowance of $1,000 whenever they are on official business in foreign countries. Most Kenyans have been perplexed by this decision to spend such money in a country where the minimum wage is between $120 and $280 per month, depending on the skill.
Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye also said, "It is their responsibility to understand sports, how to host such international tournaments. This is not a holiday and it is too simplistic to look at it as a joyrider mission." Speaker of Parliament Justin Muturi said that the MPs sat on either the sports or labor committees, and were sent along with some members of the parliamentary football team, Bunge FC.
A stinging article was carried by The Standard, and part of it read, "Considering how tight for cash the country is, Kenyans would have been more lenient had the money been spent on youngsters who stand to gain from the trip. How will grey-haired politicians influence the sport? None of them is a football team coach or plays in the local league or even owns or is known to In fact, we would understand if only a few of them were taken. Shipping two dozen MPs is just plainly ridiculous and a drain on the public. The politicians rub it in when they take to Social Media and post their feel-good pictures for all to see."
It's just a matter of priorities with African governments, really. Some things are prioritized over the most important things that need to be addressed. Watching football matches in a foreign land is not wrong, but the way you fund that will always raise some eyebrows.
Header image credit: Chano8.com