Ugandan athletics coach Peter Wemali, arrested for allegedly defiling and raping three teenage female national runners, was on Thursday evening ordered to be remanded in judicial custody for two weeks.
Several national runners, from Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo districts, were among the close to 500 people, present during the coach’s eagerly awaited court appearance at the Kapchorwa Chief Magistrate’s Court, according to the newspaper report.Uganda, an emerging athletics power that has been trying to take on traditional regional rivals Kenya and Ethiopia, has been hit after the alleged athletics sex abuse scandal emerged last year.
Spotlight fell on Wemali, until recently the head coach of a police camp in eastern Uganda, in March 2014 when members of the national junior female team accused him of sexually harassing them during a training camp in Bukwo ahead of the Africa Cross-country Championships.
The young athletes confided in team captain Moses Kipsiro, who asked Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) to fire him.
UAF instead turned on Commonwealth gold medallist Kipsiro and dropped him from the national team that represented Uganda at the World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Wemali, who has also been accused of practising witchcraft, was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Earlier this month, Kipsiro revealed he may have to flee Uganda after receiving death threats that he said stemmed from the allegations he raised against the coach.
Wemali was taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon at Kibuli Police Training School on Sipi Region Regional Police Commander (RPC) James Ruhweza’s orders over the alleged rape and defilement of three female runners aged 15, 16 and 17 between 2013 and 2014.
“He is the prime suspect,” said Commander Ruhweza, according to the newspaper report which which said the former coach was arrested after the girls underwent medical examinations.
The three female athletes made fresh confessions during a stakeholders meeting in Kapchorwa a couple of weeks ago, claiming Wemali sexually assaulted them and Police then put Wemali on their wanted list.
Rape and defilement are capital offences according to Uganda’s Constitution, and attract a death sentence. The Courts however have the discretion to give a lighter sentence depending on the circumstances.
The Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) however, have been accused by some female Ugandan MPs of dragging their feet or even trying to cover up the scandal.
Earlier this month they told Parliament the scandal was a “national shame” and demanded an investigation into it.
Ruhweza said police were looking for another young girl who Wemali is accused of making pregnant before forcing her to have an abortion.
Earlier this week Stephen Kiprotich, Uganda’s Olympic and world marathon champion, told the media that Wemali was a “wrong character” who had “ruined” the career of one promising young female runner, and turned another into his wife.
“These officials totally have no respect for athletes,” he said, accusing the UAF of being “insensitive” and “shielding” Wemali.
A Police investigations report, which had never been made public until last week, indicated Wemali made sexual advances towards another female runner and used vulgar language during training sessions.
He returns to court on April 30 at 9am.