December 4th Africa The Federation of Uganda Football Associations and the security agencies in Uganda have launched a search for Eritrean football players who are believed to have absconded. Following the team's exit from the Cecafa Cup in Kampala, 17 players and the team doctor are missing. Only five players and two officials boarded a bus from the team's hotel to catch a flight to Asmara on Tuesday.
"We don't know where our brothers are," said team coach Teklit Negash. An Eritrean opposition website claimed the players were seeking political asylum in Uganda but that has not been confirmed.
Fufa vice-president in charge of youth Patrick Ogwel confirmed that the members of the Eritrean party are missing and vowed: "We shall find them wherever they hide."
And Fufa chief executive officer Edgar Watson said pictures of the missing players would be displayed in newspapers so that they can be tracked easily.
"We shall find them because they are not very far," added Watson.
The Eritrean team was eliminated from the east and central regional championship at the group stage after drawing with Zanzibar 0-0, losing 3-2 to Malawi and falling 2-0 to Rwanda in their last match on Saturday.
Sylvia Nakamya, the manager at the Sky Hotel - the base of the Eritrean team - revealed that the players left on Sunday to go shopping, but only 12 of them returned.
Nakamya added: "Later, five of those who returned also said they were going out to visit their friends and they did not return."
After the 2010 Cecafa tournament in Tanzania, 13 players from Eritrea's team also disappeared and defected. Several of those players have since ended up in Houston, Texas under a refugee resettlement program in the United States.
The Eritrean players who travelled to Uganda: Samuel Alazar, Yohannes Nega, Essy Kiflom, Yuhannes Tilahun, Merhawi Kesete, Hermon Tecleab, Medhanie Redie, Yosief Ghide, Ahmed Abdurahman, Tesfalem Tekle, Yonatan Solomon, Fitsum Kelati, Mekonen Kibrom, Daniel Alexander, Kuluberhan Gltensae, Merhawi haile, Aman Habteslus, Amir Osman.
Axadle International Monitoring-Somalia