Rugby Africa boss accused of favouring Francophone states


Former Rugby Africa (RA) vice president, Paul Sigombe has accused the continental body’s president, Abdoulaziz Bougja of favouring Francophone countries in the development of the sport. Speaking to Mmegi Sport, the former Uganda Rugby Union president said rugby is regressing as a result.

Sigombe stood and lost against Bougja in 2011.

“We started off well in 2002 when we rapidly absorbed in many unions and started two tier tournaments. Remember, before that there was only one tournament. South Africa Under 23, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Morocco, Tunisia and Ivory Coast,” he said. Sigombe said soon they started to see bias in terms of support in unions. He said

Bougja was mainly interested in supporting Francophone countries, with Anglophone states marginalised. “We agreed that he would serve a maximum of two terms, but he did not and we fell out,” Sigombe said. “My fight is to give Anglophone unions a chance to lead because since 1986, it has been Tunisia and Morocco. And Bougja is now installing a Tunisian to the presidency,” he said.

Sigombe said World Rugby (WR) rejected a proposal of rotational presidency after all the unions had agreed to it.  He said the amendment to the AR constitution that he remains on the WR governing council is unacceptable.

“In 2007, he (Bougja) had wanted to step down, but with assurance that he would stay on the WR board. That was not acceptable to us,” he said.

Sigombe said Anglophone unions do not have the numbers and in most cases they are divided.  Sigombe said some unions do not even turn up for the assembly, citing what transpired in Ghana in 2011.

“There is a school of thought, to have two regions, south and north or a break away. At the moment AR is an orphan and WR is not doing anything to help the situation,” he said. Sigombe said each union can send two delegates, but most unions cannot afford two air tickets. Acting Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) president, Sean Irish is the only delegate who would be representing Botswana at the RA assembly in Morocco tomorrow.

“It is expensive to go to Morocco. That country has hosted three general assemblies. A central location like Nairobi with good flight connections would be the best,” Sigombe said.

Sparks are expected to fly at the assembly with the amended RA constitution coming up for scrutiny. One of the amendments is the introduction of a position of honorary president. According to a letter from RA interim secretary, David Gilbert, to members, the reasons for an honorary president is “to benefit from valuable experience, expertise and network resources acquired by previous presidents”.  The other amendment is to increase the executive committee members from nine to 11.  It is a follow up on the Women Rugby Conference held in May 2018 in Botswana.  The main purpose is to encourage women’s leadership and to (gender) balance the RA executive.

The amendments of the constitution would see Bougja running RA affairs and represent RA at the WR Council. BRU vice president-administration, Bob Lekan said he was against the introduction of the position.

“Personally, I do not support the idea of having an honorary president. We need new leadership with fresh ideas without the influence of the past president,” he said.

Meanwhile, Irish who is contesting for a seat in the RA executive committee as an additional member, said the idea came up last June but only gained momentum at the start of this year. “At the beginning of the year, I was contacted by various parties to contest. I decided to go ahead with the nomination three weeks ago. However, I am still on the fence as BRU needs my attention,” he said. Irish said if he were elected into the RA executive committee, local rugby would have a front row seat in development matters.   “I want to create a platform for players to be exposed to bursaries or contracts,” he said.

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