4 December 2012

Uganda/Eritrea: Eritrean National Soccer Players Choose to Remain in Uganda

Photo: Steven Depolo/Flickr
The incident in Kampala was the third time the Eritrean football team had disappeared in an African state to claim asylum.

The Eritrean national soccer team comprising 18 players that has been in Kampala participating in the ongoing CECAFA Tusker Challenge Cup has reportedly disappeared.

The team whose moniker is the Red Sea Boys was eliminated at the group stages on Friday, Nov. 31 after their final match with Rwanda.

They then disappeared in congested Kampala, leaving behind their head coach Teklit Negash and assistant coach Berhane Breta in the hotel as the local organizing committee came to pick and take them to Entebbe Airport.

Eritrea was in Group C, where they played three games, drawing 0-0 with Zanzibar, losing 2-3 to Malawi and 0-2 to Rwanda. Although they played some of the most attractive football in the tournament, the results left them at the bottom of the table, implying an early flight back to Asmara, the nation's capital.

However, like on two previous occasions, (Tanzania-2011 and Kenya-2009), the players decided not to return to their home country. The previous groups that have chosen not return home have cited a lack of freedom in Eritrea.

The CECAFA General Secretary, Nicholas Musonye, told BBC Sport, the matter has been reported to the local police authority with the help of Uganda's soccer governing body, FUFA.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch's 2012 World human rights report on the small Horn of Africa nation which was carved out of Ethiopia after a decades-long independence struggle is still viewed by its citizens as being repressive.

Citizens often suffer arbitrary and indefinite detention, torture, inhumane conditions of confinement, restrictions on freedom of speech, movement and belief and forced labour in national service, warranting nationals, especially sportsmen and women to seek for asylum each time they travel abroad.

Many Eritrean refugees are currently living in Kampala and many other refugee camps in Uganda.

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