Athletics: Uganda sex abuse whistle-blower Kipsiro fears for life

KAMPALA (AFP) - Ugandan star distance runner and Commonwealth gold medallist Moses Kipsiro says he may have to flee the east African country after receiving threats stemming from sexual harassment claims he made against a coach.

Uganda, an emerging athletics power that has been trying to take on traditional regional rivals Kenya and Ethiopia, was hit by an athletics sex abuse scandal nearly a year ago.

It broke after 28-year-old Kipsiro, who retained his 10,000-metre title at last year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, made public complaints from his female team-mates against a national coach.

"The threats have been going on since I raised this issue," he told AFP, saying he has received death threats and been forced to move from his rural training base to the safety of the capital Kampala.

"I'm very worried, I can't even concentrate. I can't even train because you know when someone says 'I want to deal with you'... he can do anything," he added.

The coach at the centre of the allegations, Peter Wemali, was accused of telling some of the female runners to have sex with him in order to perform better.

"He was saying that you should get pregnant and then after that you undergo abortion and then... it will enlarge (your private parts) and you can run well and you'll be like Kenyans and Ethiopians," Kipsiro said.

He said he immediately alerted the Uganda Athletics Federation (UAF) and also the police, but said the coach - who has also been accused of practising witchcraft - has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

The UAF, however, has been accused by some female Ugandan MPs of dragging its feet or even trying to cover up the scandal.

Kipsiro said he has since been treated like "an enemy" and "rebel" of the UAF since.

On the morning of March 25, as Kipsiro was preparing to travel to China for the World Cross Country competitions with the Ugandan team, he said he received a text message saying 'I will deal with you trust me', forcing him to cancel his trip.

"I am very upset because I was supposed to finish China and then go to Eugene in May to run the 10,000 metres," he said.

Kipsiro said he reported the threats to police on Monday, and the police have promised to investigate and provide security.

When asked if he was looking at leaving Uganda, the married father-of-three said: "If things are not going well then I will look for other solutions".

"I want to move freely, but now I have to hide myself all the time," said Kipsiro, adding he had considered seeking asylum abroad.

"I was telling my manger if things continue like this when I'll seek help from him to maybe get me another country where I can run," he said.

"I love my country, but now they don't even appreciate what I've done, also helping the young girls and being a role model. I have just been thrown aside."

Kipsiro said Britain's Mo Farah, a regular training partner, was concerned about him.

"He has been saying 'Kipsiro this is not good what's happening to you, look here I'm trying to make you run but this is demoralising'," said Kipsiro.