Category: World / December 4, 2012 12:16 PM EST
At least 18 members of the Eritrea soccer squad have disappeared in Uganda while playing in a regional tournament and may eventually claim asylum, Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) official said on Tuesday (December 4).
Eritrea is one of the world's most secretive states ruled by a reclusive president. This year United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay accused the Asmara government of meting out summary executions, torture and detaining thousands of political prisoners.
In July last year 13 members of an Eritrean soccer club sought asylum in Tanzania while 12 members of the national squad disappeared in Kenya in 2009 after competing in a regional tournament.
CECAFA Secretary General Nicholas Musonye said he had requested Federation of Ugandan Football Associations (FUFA) officials to liaise with internal security officials to make sure the Eritreans were found from where they were hiding.
"I asked FUFA to liaise with internal security officials to ensure that something is being done about it because we do not want to have a situation where we organise competitions and members of some delegation disappear, apparently this is not the first time these members of the Eritrean disappearing, three years in Dar Salam they disappeared, in 2009 in Nairobi, some of them also disappeared, it is becoming a concern to us because we expect when we play football all delegations go back home," said Musonye.
The number of those missing is 17 players and a technical bench official.
Musonye said his organisation has nothing to do as police Uganda police were tasked with making sure the players were well protected and secure, but called on Eritrean officials to put measures in place to stop that habit from escalating.
"We appreciate their coming to CECAFA for competition but they should take measures on their own to ensure that this does not happen again in the future but as I have said before, CECAFA is not a police unit and we have nothing we can do about it, we try our best to give them the best accommodation, to give them the best escort security but if they have got some other ways of escaping, our hands are tied on that," Musonye said.
The Eritrean football team was taking part in the CECAFA competition. Eritrea last played on Friday, losing 2-0 to Rwanda.
Uganda government officials said the Eritrean players had not made contact with any office.