Ugandan Julius Ssekitoleko is so far the only African athlete to have attempted an illegal immigration via the Tokyo Olympics (23 July-8 August). The weightlifter's escape lasted only a few days. He was found and returned to his country. He is just one in a long list of African athletes who have run away or attempted to run away from an international sporting event.
Julius Ssekitoleko has been found by Japanese police. His escape lasted only four days. The Ugandan weightlifter had gone on the run on Friday 16 July. The 20-year-old had disappeared from the hotel in Izumisano, near Osaka (west). Julius Ssekitoleko, had recently won the bronze medal at the African Weightlifting Championships. After this achievement, the athlete's name was put on a waiting list for the Olympics. But he recently lost all hope of participating due to Olympic quotas. He was due to return to his country soon.
In London 2012, seven athletes from Cameroon went missing while in England for the Olympics. David Ojong, head of the Cameroonian delegation to the Games, even gave explanations for the athletes' flight. Drusille Ngako, the second goalkeeper of the football team, was the first to run away. A few days later, swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue disappeared from his room. The other missing persons are five boxers eliminated in the first rounds. They are Thomas Essomba, Christian Donfack Adjoufack, Abdon Mewoli, Blaise Yepmou Mendouo and Serge Ambomo.
Economic or political reasons
In 1996, in Atlanta, almost the entire women's basketball team of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) took advantage of their participation in the Olympics to stay in the United States. In 2001, 106 athletes claimed political asylum in Canada after the IV Francophone Games. In 2002, only ten of the thirty members of the Sierra Leonean delegation remained. This was during the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
The causes of these defections are economic in most cases. The most recent is that of Julius Ssekitoleko. A note found in the athlete's room explains the reasons for his flight. Because of the harshness of life in Uganda, he does not want to return. He wants to settle and live in Japan according to the Japanese authorities.
On 13 August 2012, the BBC met five of the Cameroonians who deserted the Olympics in England at a secret location in London. The athletes said they had been threatened by officials from their delegation.