Eritrean footballers seek asylum in Uganda
December 5, 2012

The Eritrean national football team that disappeared in Kampala, Uganda on December 3
KAMPALA (Nov 5) - The 17 Eritrean footballers and team doctor who vanished in Uganda on Tuesday have all applied for asylum in the country.

David Apollo Kazungu, the Commissioner for Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister, told BBC Sport that the Eritreans had met them this morning seeking asylum.

"They told us that conditions in their country are not good and we are looking at their conditions and papers," he explained.

"But they remain under our authority now since they have registered."

Kazungi added they are working with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to see how they can help the 18 Eritreans.

The men failed to return to the team hotel on Sunday after claiming that they were going shopping, eventually just five officials and two players returned to Eritrea yesterday.

The Eritrean team had been eliminated from the on-going regional Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup at the group stage, where they drew with Zanzibar and lost to Malawi and Rwanda.

Nicholas Musonye, the secretary general of Cecafa, the east and central African regional football body, said it was good news the Eritrean players had been found.

However, he added it was a bad trend for Eritrean players to disappear at such tournaments on a regular basis, after similar incidents at the Cecafa tournaments in 2009 and 2010.

Eritrean national team disappears in Uganda:SkyNews

Police have launched a search for 18 members of Eritrea's national football team, who disappeared during a regional football tournament in Uganda, a police spokesman said on Tuesday.

The footballers are believed to have absconded and hidden in the suburbs of the capital Kampala.

'We believe they have not flown out but are with relatives and friends in Kansanga or Nsambya where there is a large community of Eritreans,' police spokesman Iddi Ibin Ssenkumbi told dpa.

The Eritrean team had been eliminated from the CECAFA cup competition on Saturday and were due to fly back to their country, in the Horn of Africa, on Tuesday, according to the Kampala-based Daily Monitor newspaper.

Defection is common among Eritrean players, the paper reported.

After the 2009 CECAFA tournament in Kenya, only the coach returned to Eritrea while the whole team absconded.

Eritrea is a one-party state which has a poor human rights record and which prescribes mandatory military service for both men and women.

According to rights group Human Rights Watch, the country has 'one of the world's most repressive governments'.

Its citizens often suffer arbitrary detention, torture, restrictions on freedom of speech and religion, and indefinite conscription, it says.

Almost all Eritrean footballers disappear in Uganda

By Jessica Phelan

Most of Eritrea's national soccer team has disappeared, believed to have defected after a tournament in Uganda.

Seventeen of the squad's 22 players, plus the team doctor, failed to turn up for their flight home today, BBC Sport reported.

They haven't been seen since Sunday, the day after they played their final match in the Cecafa Cup, a regional tournament organized by the the Council for East and Central Africa Football Association and held this year in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

One of the players told Radio France International that he and his teammates had defected in order to escape the repressive Eritrean government led by President Isaias Afwerki.

The unnamed player said the group was hiding out in Kampala until they could file an application for asylum, though they knew the Eritrean authorities were looking for them.

The Ugandan security forces have also joined the search, according to the BBC, which said that the players' pictures would be printed in newspapers to help track them down.

It's not the first time Eritrean footballers have left for a match and never come back.

As GlobalPost reported last year, half of Red Sea FC, a premiership team based in Eritrea's capital, Asmara, never took their flight home after playing in a competition in Tanzania. Five years before that, four Red Sea players disappeared in Kenya, while eight members of the national side ran away from another regional tournament. And another six players jumped ship after the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.

Sports-related defections are so common, in fact, writes GlobalPost's Tristan McConnell, that Eritrea's government even introduced a rule that all travelling athletes must pay a $6,700 deposit before departure, "which is only returned if they do."

For some athletes, evidently, it's a price they're willing to pay. - An African-American news and views website.
Copyright 2012