Police still hunting for missing Eritrean players

Kiira Region Police Spokesperson, James Mubi

JINJA, UGANDA: The police are examining documents left behind by missing female Eritrean players to ascertain whether they had links with the established Eritrean communities in Uganda.

Early this week, five Eritrean players went missing from their camp at Sunset hotel international in Jinja. They were part of the Eritrea squad playing the Cecafa Women’s Under-20 Championship, which started last weekend in Njeru.

The missing girls include; 16-year-old Yisehaq Liwam Solomon, Mohammed Yordanos Abraham, 17, Raka Shamat Futsum, 18,  Kahsay Rachel Michael, 18,  and Knfu Trhas Habate, 19.

Kiira Region Police Spokesperson James Mubi told URN on Saturday that detectives have intensified inquiries among some Eritrean families in Uganda, whom they suspect to have masterminded the escape. He added that forensic teams are examining each of the undisclosed exhibits recovered from the missing girls’ hotel rooms to establish concrete leads to their possible hideout.

He adds that Police is also trying to convince the Eritrean communities to voluntarily surrender the girls before the expiry of their visas are still ongoing.

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Over the years, Eritrean sportsmen have been using regional sporting activities as an opportunity to flee from their country. In 2019, two groups of soccer players went missing at two separate tournaments in Uganda while another group of 17 players on the county national team, together with their team doctor disappeared and later claimed political asylum in 2012.

Similar episodes have been recorded in Kenya and Botswana. In Botswana, 10 players from the Eritrean national football team reportedly refused to board their plane back home after competing in a World Cup qualifying match in 205 while in 2009, the entire team – apart from the coach and an official – failed to return from a Cecafa tournament in Kenya.

Rodgers Mulindwa, the spokesperson of this year’s CECAFA U-20 Women’s tournament says that they are since engaging the remaining players to stay within the camp, as they wait to return to their country, after completing the remaining two games.

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Mulindwa however, challenged Eritrean authorities to induct their youthful players on patriotism, adding that the case involving the missing Eritrean female players is currently subject to international laws and security agencies will provide the necessary guidance to that effect.

Meanwhile, Eritrea’s head coach, Jemal Ibrahim says that the girls are emotionally stable despite missing some of their colleagues on the squad.

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