A new election must be held to choose a President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an appeal by Cameroon’s Hamad Kalkaba Malboum.
Kalkaba was controversially disqualified from standing in last year’s election by the ANOCA Executive Committee after being accused of bribery and illegally using the Government in Cameroon to campaign on his behalf.
Ivorian Lassana Palenfo was consequently re-elected by acclamation for a fourth term in office at the ANOCA General Assembly held in Djibouti on May 10 last year.
A full CAS verdict seen by insidethegames reveals ANOCA themselves conceded during the hearing last month in Lausanne that “no evidence existed to support the conclusion that Mr Malboum [Kalkaba] has paid bribes to ‘buy’ votes for the election” and that the decision was “affected by procedural defects, since the organ competent to issue the decision was – according to the ANOCA statues – the General Assembly”.
Several other faults with the process were raised by Kalkaba’s defence to CAS.
This included “cherry-picked” evidence and conflicts of interest because Palenfo himself primarily chaired the ANOCA Executive Committee “hearing” at which his opponent was found guilty.
Both sides then issued a joint request for CAS to conclude that Kalkaba’s appeal be upheld.
“The decision adopted by the Executive Committee of ANOCA on May 6, 2017 is annulled and all sanctions against Mr Malboum [Kalkaba] are expunged,” the CAS verdict added.
“ANOCA shall comply with the resolution passed at its Extraordinary General Assembly on November 3, 2017 and a new election for President (open to all candidates) shall take place in accordance with ANOCA statutes.”
ANOCA must also pay CHF8,000 (£6,000/$8,000/€7,000) to cover the costs of Kalkaba’s appeal and defence.
The CAS panel, chaired by Italy’s Luigi Fumagalli, also ruled that the appellant was entitled to damages to account for the loss he suffered both financially and in terms of his reputation.
Kalkaba revealed, however, he would not be seeking any financial compensation because he is “strongly committed to improving sport in Africa, which includes seeking increased funding for sport”.
He, therefore, “did not wish to ask this CAS panel to award damages”.
It follows a tumultuous 12 months after the decision to exclude Kalkaba was not communicated to the ANOCA General Assembly, leading to a complaint from Djibouti National Olympic Committee President and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Aicha Garad Ali.
This eventually resulted in a special meeting held after the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly in Prague in November, attended by Kuwait’s ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah and Spain’s IOC deputy director general Pere Miró.
It was decided there that Palenfo will remain as President of ANOCA but would relinquish all operational functions and office duties to the Executive Committee.
South African IOC member Sam Ramsamy was appointed chair of a three-person committee commissioned to “review all ANOCA operations and propose reforms to the General Assembly” by the end of March – although no updates have since been given.
Behind the scenes, however, the CAS verdict details months of bickering between the respective sides in a case initially between Kalkaba and Palenfo directly.
Areas of disagreement included whether the arbitration be conducted in English – as Kalkaba successfully sought – or in French.
It was eventually ruled by CAS that ANOCA was the rightful respondent, rather than Palenfo, although the Ivorian initially still represented the continental body alongside his attorney, the former IOC director general, François Carrard, in his capacity as President.
This changed in March when the ANOCA Executive Committee, headed by Algeria’s first vice-president Mustapha Berraf, effectively relinquished Palenfo of his involvement and instead appointed a new attorney, also from Switzerland, Eric Vazey.
Carrard initially disputed the authority of the Executive Committee to “interfere” in the proceedings but he and Palenfo appeared to change their mind soon after and he stopped representing ANOCA in what, they claimed, was a “spirit of democratic calming”.
It was after this that what CAS referred to as a “U-turn” took place and a joint request for relief was issued by both sides.
Kalkaba’s defence did not dispute that their campaign did receive financial support from the Cameroonian Government argued that this did not violate the principle of sporting autonomy as the Olympic Charter does allow for such cooperation.
“Moreover, as the ANOCA President, Mr Palenfo is an example of Governmental support himself: being a Minister of State in the Ivorian Government, he has the inevitable Ivorian Government’s support,” they added.
They also pointed-out that the ANOCA General Assembly were “deliberately misled” because the Executive Committee did not inform them of an IOC Ethics Commission ruling that they had no jurisdiction to interfere.
ANOCA did not have an active Ethics Commission at the time.
They also argued that the Executive Committee did not have the power to disqualify him under the ANOCA statutes but that this right was reserved for the General Assembly.
The defence also challenged the way ANOCA acquired two documents addressed by him to the Cameroonian Government, used as the basis of the case against him, and asked whether they had been “received in breach of confidentiality”.
It was claimed in the minutes of an ANOCA Executive Committee meeting on May 6 that Tunisian Olympic Committee President and its Juridical Commission chair Mehrez Boussayene returned to his hotel room the previous evening to find two documents anonymously posted under his door.
Subsequent close circuit television analysis did not confirm this claim, it was claimed, and the ANOCA Executive Committee supposedly “refused to provide an adequate response”.
Kalkaba is also President of the Cameroonian Olympic Committee and a vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
The 67-year-old named IAAF President Sebastian Coe as one of his defence witnesses.
Kalkaba has not yet confirmed whether he plans to stand again to become President of ANOCA.
Palenfo’s intentions have also not yet been confirmed but it appears hard to see how he could feasibly stand again for the position given the apparent loss of support from ANOCA Executive Committee colleagues.
This comes at a key time for sport on the continent after the IOC announced plans to find an African host for the 2022 Summer Youth Olympic Games there.
Senegal, Nigeria, Botswana and Tunisia are all interested – although the Tunisian effort has been put on hold until they have taken steps to end the restrictions on Israeli athletes competing at their events.
ANOCA also no longer appears to have a functioning website and have not yet announced a host for the 2019 African Games, which the continental body are now responsible for organising, managing and running.
This follows the withdrawal of initial hosts Equatorial Guinea last year.
Neither Kalkaba nor Palenfo have yet responded to insidethegames’ requests for a comment.