NAIROBI, Kenya, December 18 – It has now emerged that another ten members of the Eritrean contingent, including the head coach for the 2013 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup, went missing bringing to 12 the number of the country’s squad for the competition who are unaccounted for.
Two players abandoned the team before their second Group D match on November 31 with the rest taking flight after they crashed out of the tournament after losing all their games.
While revealing this to Capital Sport on Wednesday, Cecafa Secretary General, Nicholas Musonye, added that continued disappearance of Eritrean nationals during the annual regional tournament would top the agenda at their next General Assembly.
“This is now a police case and we will not allow the Eritrean national football team to use Cecafa as a way of escaping from their country.
“Two of the players vanished as the tournament was going on and nine of them together with their coach escaped after the competition came to an end. This is bad behavior and we want to put the issue that has been happening each time we have the games to a close,” the Cecafa chief told.
He added: “We will discuss the way forward when we meet next year in our General Assembly.”
When contacted on the progress of hunting down the escapees, Nairobi Police boss, Benson Kibui, detailed that investigations into the missing members of the Red Sea team was still going on.
“We have not received official report from Cecafa, but we will follow it up with department of immigration and find out where they are,” Kibui explained.
In total, 24 Eritrean nationals have disappeared on Kenyan soil during the tournament, with a dozen going missing in 2009 the last time the country hosted the event ahead of this year’s edition. Another batch fled at last year’s tournament in Kampala.
It is believed the escapees seek asylum in Europe and America to flee from mandatory military duty as well as rigours of a police state.
Meanwhile, despite various challenges that affected the latest edition won by the hosts, Musonye, said the tournament was a success singling out Kenya who reclaimed the title for the first time in 11 years.
“All went well during the 37th event and I want to thank Harambee Stars for making the competition colourful. I urge Football Kenya Federation to prepare the boys adequately as we head to African Cup of Nations and Olympics qualifiers.
“About the Zanzibar coach Salum Nassor, who threatened that they will boycott if the event is held in Kenya once again, I want to say let them stay away. We have experienced many difficulties when the tournament was hosted in other countries,” he continued.
The event was dogged by a number of teams, including losing finalists Sudan, being detained at their hotels over unpaid dues as well as other logistical problems such as the unavailability of the Kisumu Stadium that was not completed in time to host the semis.
Kenyatta Stadium in Machakos that was also refurbished for the tournament saw its pitch fail to hold forcing the semi final between Kenya and Tanzania to be switched to Nairobi at the last minute.