The Buganda road magistrate’s court on Monday afternoon, May 15,2023 remanded to Luzira prison the president of the Uganda Netball Federation (UNF) Ms Sarah Babirye Kityo,36, on charges of obtaining money by false pretense.
Babirye together with a businesswoman Zainab Namutebi were arraigned before grade one magistrate Siena Owomugisha, charged with two counts of obtaining Shs 16 million by false pretense, and remanded until May 17 for purposes of hearing their bail application.
Court heard that Namutebi and Babirye and others still at large in the month of May 2022 in Kampala district, obtained Shs 8 million from Sarah Wamala by falsely pretending that she was going to take her son to the United States whereas not. Prosecution contends that during the same time and place, the accused also obtained another Shs 8 million from Grolia Kikomeko Nantambi whom they also defrauded that they would take her to the United States. But the duo has denied the charges against them.
INTERNAL FIGHTS, WITCH HUNTING & CORRUPTION. The remand has come at the time when Babirye who is the former Youth MP representing Central Region is on a forced three-month leave from office as the UNF president to allow a special committee instituted by minister of Sports and Education Janet Kataaha Museveni to investigate allegations of abuse of office and financial mismanagement. Brig Flavia Byekwaso is now the interim president of the federation, which is currently preparing the She Cranes for the Netball World Championships.
Babirye is also former Youth Representative for Central Region in Uganda’s 10th Parliament on the National Resistance Movement-NRM ticket. By the time of her arrest yesterday, she had came through to report to police on defamation charges against her, opened by National Council for Sports (NCS) secretary general Dr Bernard Ogwel. In an audio she sent to NBS Sports Journalist Andrew Kabura, Babirye said she was being witch-hunted.
Since February 2023, police have been investigating the federation over alleged financial mismanagement that stemmed from funds released by the NCS for the 2021 Pent Series in Namibia which Uganda won.
The embattled Ogwel has since revealed that UNF defrauded the Ugandan government because the Namibian government had already covered all expenses for the netball delegation, including full board expenses for 17 members during the Pent Series. He said NCS had paid air tickets worth Shs 127 million for the She Cranes, which the netball body allegedly failed to acknowledge in their accountability.
Babirye recently denied the allegations, saying the netball body had received only Shs 186 million and had accounted for it in time. She said Ogwel has been repeatedly asking for kickbacks from their federation whenever funds are allocated to the She Cranes. Babirye’s troubles started when she publicly disclosed that Ogwel was asking her to account for a huge amount compared to what She Cranes had received.
She cited their trip to South Africa in 2021 for the Male Netball Championship where Ogwel reportedly demanded Shs 40 million out of the Shs 100 million allocated for the championship.
According to Babirye, although the federation’s top leadership agreed not to pay the kickback, the vice president, Richard Muhumuza, and general secretary, Amina Mande defied the resolution and paid Ogwel Shs 30 million meant for the player’s allowances.
The deputy inspector general of government Patricia Okiria Achan has since ordered Ogwel to pay back Shs 100 million to the Uganda Netball Federation. Minister for Education and Sports Janet Kataha Museveni also intervened to reconcile Ogwel and Babirye, but the issues are still unresolved.