The New Times (Kigali)

15 September 2012

Rwandan Athletes Defect

TWO Rwandan athletes have joined multiple Olympians, who went missing from the Olympic Village following the climax of this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games.

James Rutikanga and Eric Ngirinshuti, members of the national sitting volleyball team went missing during the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games on September 9 at the Olympic stadium according to Chef de Mission Celestin Nzeyimana.

"They went missing without their service passports. Efforts to find them have so far yielded nothing. We're however, confident that they will be caught and maybe deported back since they don't have any documents to prove their presence in London," explained Nzeyimana.

On the same night, judokas and four officials from DR Congo vanished in London. Democratic Republic of Congo's Cedric Mandembo, who lost his only judo match in 49 seconds to Russian Alexander Mikhaylin in the 100 kg category, disappeared after Sunday's closing ceremony.

His judo coach Ibula Masengo, along with boxing trainer Blaise Bekwa, and Guy Nkita, the country's technical director of athletics Guy Nkita have also left the Athletes.

The athletes are not breaking any British laws so far, as Olympic athletes are allowed to stay in the country until early November.

Other athletes who have escaped since the Olympic Games started in London on July 27 include; seven members of the Cameroon delegation, three from Sudan and one from Ethiopia. One of the athletes is known to have asked for asylum. But the whereabouts of the rest are a mystery.

If they have defected, they will join a long tradition of Olympic athletes who have used the Games as an opportunity to escape from their country of origin.

Authorities reported seven Olympic athletes from Cameroon disappeared, probably to claim asylum and escape from Cameroon's economic conditions.

The first to disappear was a reserve goalkeeper for the women's soccer team, Drusille Ngako. She vanished while her team-mates left for Coventry for their last match against New Zealand.

Days later, just before competing, swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue disappeared along with his personal belongings.

The last Cameroonians to disappear were the five boxers after their elimination from the Games: Thomas Essomba, Christian Donfack Adjoufack, Abdon Mewoli, Blaise Yepmou Mendouo and Serge Ambomo.

This one is believed to be the biggest defection in the history of the Games, but it is not the first time Cameroonian athletes disappeared during international competitions.

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