Joseph Okumu Michael Olunga and Victor Wanyama of Kenya and Harambee Stars.Goal Kenya.

2023 Afcon Qualifiers: Why are Kenya’s Harambee Stars absent?

The group stage qualifiers for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ivory Coast will kick off on June 1 with the first three of 44 qualifying matches set to be held in the space of the next 13 days.

The opening fixtures on Wednesday will see Angola take on the Central African Republic in Group E, Libya host Botswana in a Group J battle before Ghana’s Black Stars entertain Madagascar at Cape Coast Sports Stadium in another Group E match.

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On Thursday, four matches are lined up - Malawi starting the day with a Group D fixture against Ethiopia, Mozambique tackle Rwanda in Group L, Egypt versus Guinea in Group D and the final match will pit Tunisia against Equatorial Guinea in Group J.

While the qualifiers are getting underway, Kenya’s Harambee Stars and the Warriors of Zimbabwe will not take part.

Why are Kenya missing out?

The Harambee Stars and Warriors will not participate because they are serving an indefinite ban from the world governing body Fifa. The two countries were handed the ban on February 25, 2022, after Fifa cited alleged government interference in the running of their football federations.

Nick Mwendwa of FKF and Amina Mohamed.Goal.

In Kenya, the government moved to dissolve the federation in early November and set up a Caretaker Committee to manage the game in the country. During the period, the office led by president Nick Mwendwa was replaced by a committee headed by retired justice Aaron Ringera.

The government, through the Sports CS Amina Mohamed, went ahead to shut down the federation’s offices at Kandanda House and this was followed by the arrest of Mwendwa, who was accused of allegedly misappropriating funds meant for the federation.

Mwendwa, who was serving his second term after winning elections with a landslide, was then paraded in a Kenyan High Court, where he was charged with several accounts of fraud and corruption.

“Fraudulent acquisition of public property contrary to section 45 (1) (a) as read with section 48 of anti-corruption and economics crimes act No.3 of 2003,” read a police charge sheet presented to the court that was obtained by GOAL.

Though Mwendwa was later released, the government stuck its ground and refused to reinstate him to office despite Fifa demanding they rescind their decision.

Was Kenya included in the draw?

On conducting the draw for the qualifiers on April 19, 2022, Kenya were pooled in Group C alongside Cameroon, Namibia, and Burundi. At the conclusion of the draw, Caf also asked Kenya to reinstate Mwendwa and his team so they can be involved in the qualifiers.

ERIC OUMA of Kenya and Harambee Stars v SOULEYMAN DOUMBIA of Senegal.Goal Kenya.

However, a tough-talking Amina responded to Caf by stating they will only engage Fifa after finishing the FKF clean-up exercise.

“The same way we have completed this process before the International Cricket Council (ICC) is the same way we want to do it with football,” Mohamed responded to Caf.

“We want to finish internally and complete this process before engaging with Fifa. If you have been following, FKF has serious accountability issues which have to be solved first.”

The statement sounded like the final blow for Kenya as Caf announced three days later that Kenya have been kicked out of the qualifiers.

What did Caf statement say?

“As a consequence of having failed to have their suspensions by Fifa set aside, Caf has confirmed both Kenya and Zimbabwe will not participate in the Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023 qualifiers,” read part of the statement from Caf.

“Kenya and Zimbabwe, suspended for political interference, have not yet met the criteria required by the Fifa congress as a prerequisite for lifting their suspension.”

When did Kenya last play in Afcon finals?

Kenya took part in the 2019 Afcon finals in Egypt after qualifying from a group that consisted of Ghana, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone before they were disqualified. Ghana topped the group with nine points from four matches while Kenya came second with seven points.

Kenya defender Musa Mohamed and Sadio Mane of Senegal and Sam Nyamweya of FKF.Goal Kenya.

In Egypt, Kenya were drawn in Group C alongside Algeria, Senegal, and neighbours Tanzania. They failed to make it past the group stage after losing to Algeria and Senegal but managed a 3-2 victory against the Taifa Stars.

In total, Kenya has appeared in six Africa Cup of Nations finals, never reaching the second round while the team entered its first Fifa World Cup qualifiers in 1974. They have never qualified for the finals.

What are Kenyans saying?

“It is a pity I will not be able to watch Cameroon play in Nairobi,” former FKF administrator Omondi Aduda told GOAL on Wednesday. “I do support what CS Amina is doing to clean up the football mess but we ought to have talked to Fifa to have us play in the qualifiers.”

Former FKF repsident Sam Nyamweya said: “Missing out on Afcon qualifiers is not a good sign for Kenyan football; we needed to take part as we solve our problems back home. I want to say we did not take our time to engage Fifa because what I know and from experience, Fifa could have given us a chance to take part.”

Kakamega Homeboyz chairman Cleophas Shimanyula said: “It is a huge blow for the players, especially the upcoming ones, who should have used the tournament as a platform to attract agents from Europe. I am not against football cleaning but I feel it for the players.”