Govt, Japan launch man hunt for runaway Ssekitoleko

Tuesday July 20 2021
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Spotted on camera. A man believed to be Ssekitoleko was spotted on CCTV at JR Nagoya Station, about 200km from the team hotel. He purchased a ticket to Nagoya on Friday, officials said. He had a mobile phone but his passport was kept by the Ugandan team. Nagoya is the capital of Aichi, the second-largest Ugandan community in Japan. PHOTO | COURTESY

By Stephen Otage

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has engaged the Government of Japan in the hunt for Julius Ssekitoleko and have the weightlifter returned home.

Ssekitoleko, who arrived in Japan with the first batch of Olympians last month, disappeared from his hotel room last week, leaving behind a note that he wanted to live and work in Japan.

Addressing journalists in Kampala after his meeting with Japanese Ambassador Fukuzawa Hidemoto yesterday, Foreign Affairs state minister Okello Oryem said police and the Sports ministry have to investigate how the runaway Olympian got accreditation to represent Uganda at the Games.

He said government has apologised to Japan for the “unfortunate behaviour” of the runaway athlete.

“Such behaviour and acts are treacherous. Hamson Obua [State minister for sports] will travel to Japan tomorrow [today] to discuss with other officials and our sportsmen and women to counsel them of their responsibility while in Japan,” Oryem said.

Ssekitoleko is not the first Ugandan sportsman to vanish during international events as many before him, including boxers and rugby players, have gone AWOL before.

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But Oryem advised that any of the athletes seeking to live in Japan for economic reasons is free to approach the Japanese embassy and apply for a fresh Visa on their own accord only after returning from the Games.

“We are working with Police to investigate on what grounds he became part of the team. We’ll give all available information to Japanese authorities to get him and return him to Uganda,” he said.

Oryem said Japan had anticipated such a disappearance and that Amb. Hidemoto had approached him to discuss how the mitigate such acts. 

However, Ssekitoleko had beaten them to it as  news of his disappearance came before their scheduled meeting.

sotage@ug.nationmedia.com

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