As a host of chess playing country’s preparations are being finalized for the 2018 Batumi Chess Olympiad in Georgia, there are still certain level of discontent by some federations, led by the CEO of Africa Chess Media, over the selection criteria used to determine the Arbiter slots for Africa. According to the President of Togo Chess Federation Noel Fumey also the former Africa Chess Confederation (ACC) Secretary General, who resigned from his post this year (because of his grouse with the way Mr Makropoulos was leading FIDE) postulated that, ‘The FIDE Arbiters Commission, in response to his query on the matter, mentioned three individuals who nominated the Arbiters” (Two of these individuals acknowledged this fact, while the third individual refused to acknowledge his part in the formation of the list.)
There are also Arbiters who were not nominated by their respective Federations but got picked or selected for this prestigious event. The question is, how were these arbiters selected, when the actual hierarchy was that the Federation sends names to the ACC, who in turn would choose the Arbiters through their mandate, but this was not to be, as far as this year’s Olympiad is concerned. Who selected the names that were not submitted by their respective Federations? Has the arbiter selection process turned into a direct selection process, without the ACC?
These are a couple of the million dollar questions. This case was made prominent through the Botswana Arbiters, who had three (3) of them selected among the twenty Arbiters earmarked for the forty seven (47) African chess playing nations.
How and why was it possible to have three Arbiters chosen from one country? Botswana had three (3) Arbiters chosen while Algeria had two (2) Arbiters and South Africa had two (2) Arbiters, making a total of seven (7) Arbiters from these three (3) countries, while countries like Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Cameroon, and several others had none, among the twenty chosen Arbiters.
The arbiters from these countries signified interest by registering with FIDE, while some of their federations sent a list of Arbiters to ACC with no response that was favorable to these people. These three countries make up a third of the total allocation. There were only twenty (20) slots for the African Arbiters and one can say that there was no parity in the distribution of the Arbiters by whoever made the selection. A continent with more than forty (40) countries, any individual will see that there is something untoward with the manner in which these Arbiters were selected, which leaves more questions than answers.
Why was it that Arbiters from countries that applied failed to get any representation? A very good example is that of Zimbabwe Chess Federation, who applied for its two Arbiters, but there was none chosen to take part in the Batumi, Georgia Chess Olympiad. Nigeria is another country that followed the proper channel of application, but also there was no good response from FIDE or the ACC, talk less of the other countries who also went trough the proper channels. For Zimbabwe, there was no Arbiter who took part in the last Olympiad hosted in Baku, 2016, and the Nigerian who arbitrated, only did so as a volunteer. The last Arbiter to arbitrate at an Olympiad was FA Clive Mphambela who arbitrated at Tromso Olympiad, Norway in 2014.
The selection of arbiters and many complaints from arbiters, can only be solved by instituting an African Arbiters Commission, which has now been seen as a very important commission by the confederation and every chess administrator. This would have the head of the committee as a member of the FIDE Arbiters Commission, and the African Arbiters Commission would have the mandate to select the Arbiters who will represent different Federations at continental and global levels. This should be done by looking at the active Arbiters, just like what is in place with chess players whose ratings can be improved through active participation in Open tournaments and Invitationals.
The CEO of Africa Chess Proprietary Limited in the person of Ogunsiku Babatunde, along with the presidents of twelve (12) chess playing countries, sent a letter to FIDE, to protest against the unfair selection of arbiters from the continent, and the letter is yet to be acknowledged by FIDE nor replied to. There is no yardstick that was used to select the arbiters (maybe by political affiliation though, which seemed to be the case).
One can say, that this may have been a measure to gain some political grounds by the team that chose the Arbiters (both on the continent and at FIDE level). An example being the Botswana case, where three (3) Arbiters were selected from the country, while there were only twenty (20) spots available for the whole continent, a continent of more than forty (40) countries.
One can also say, that there should be proportional representation of arbiters in the whole of the African continent. At least one Arbiter per country would be the most ideal situation, and this will not divide but bring unity among the Africans as well as put in place a good spirit of brotherhood.
However, the above used criteria can only further divide the continent, rather than unite the Africans, and this will continue to be used as a place where these “super powers” use their resources to get some votes from the dependent African countries.
We, as Africans, need to stand up for ourselves and defend our brother when it comes to the outside world, but sternly kick against and speak against any wrong we see in ourselves, either in action or in speech. By so doing, we help to build each other rather than tear each other down.