6 Ugandans Missing After Toronto Cricket Tournament

6 Ugandans missing after Toronto cricket tournament

By Jorge Barrera and Bradley Bouzane
Canwest News Service
September 16, 2009

Canadian immigration authorities are searching for six Ugandan nationals who failed to make their flight home from a cricket tournament in Toronto, according to a senior official with the Africa Cricket Association.

The six Ugandans were members of their countrys Under-19 cricket team which was taking part in the U-19 World Cup qualifiers tournament.

Cassim Suliman, CEO of the Africa Cricket Association, said Ugandan cricket officials and Canadian immigration authorities were searching for the players.

The players were being chaperoned by Henry Osinde, a Ugandan-born member of the Canadas cricket team, along with two Ugandan-born semi-pro players, Kamyuka Kenneth and Joel Olweny, said Suliman.

The Africa Cricket Association is not happy about it, said Suliman, in a telephone interview with Canwest News Service from Johannesburg, South Africa. It sets a bad precedent and basically we need to somehow look at countering this by getting other measures in place.

Suliman said the team was staying in a Toronto hotel. The players went missing sometime over the weekend and they left their passports behind, he said.

Suliman said the defection has complicated matters for the sport and the association which was still smarting from Canadas decision to deny visas to Sierra Leones team a move that prevented the team from a chance at qualifying for the World Cup. Sierra Leone had protested Canadas decision.

Ranjit Saini, Cricket Canadas interim president, said the team from Afghanistan also encountered problems playing in the tournament. After a slight delay, the Afghan team arrived to the tournament a day late.

The Sierra Leone players were denied visas over fears some of the players could attempt to stay in Canada after the tournament, the sports TV network ESPN reported.

We dont want a country like Canada to lose heart at hosting these events, said Suliman.

Saini said his understanding is that the six Ugandan players have a few days left on the visas, but also hopes the apparent defection does not impact the ability for Canada to host other high-profile events in the future.

He knows, however, that some sort of fallout is likely.

Obviously, it has an impact because there will be more (visa) restrictions and makes us hosting events difficult, Saini said. Its a difficult situation and we need to work with the Ministry of Immigration and come up with ways to ensure that participation by other countries is not blocked as a result of this.

If it is, the progress of the game in Canada will stop, but on the other side, we have to find ways to manage the athletes that visit us go back (to their home countries).

Saini said the incident is not limited to just cricket, and is always a concern during international tournaments.

It does affect our name and reputation . . . but whenever countries from economically depressed areas send teams to a place like Canada, Australia, the United States or European countries, these types of incidents have been happening . . . , he said.

Toronto Police Staff Sgt. Ed Roseto said he was not aware of the search for missing Ugandans.

Canadian immigration officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

ESPN reported that the six missing players were Ahmed Yakub, who is the captain, Emmanuel Nakaana, Geoffrey Nyero, Moses Okwera, Andrew Ochan and Ahmad Sangau.

Ireland clinched the U-19 qualifiers title with a record of 8-1, while Uganda finished with a 3-6 record. Canada ended the tournament with a 7-2 record.

With files from Linda Nguyen