Missing Ugandan weightlifter found

TOKYO – A man identifying himself as the Ugandan weightlifter who went missing last week after leaving his hotel room at a training camp in Osaka Prefecture in Japan was found by police in a town in about 160 km. A Ugandan government statement said the man is the missing athlete.

The man, identified as Julius Ssekitoleko, 20, the weightlifter who was not on his country’s Olympic team and who was originally due to return to Uganda on Tuesday, was found at the home of an acquaintance in Yokkaichi City, in Mie prefecture, bearing identification.

Mr Ssekitoleko was reported missing in his hotel room on Friday after he failed to show up for a daily coronavirus test in Izumisano. He left a note saying he wanted to work in Japan. The police have been looking for him since.

Naoki Fukuyama, an official with the Osaka Prefecture Police Department, said the police were checking with the Ugandan embassy on where to deliver him. The other eight teammates who were also training in Izumisano moved to the Olympic Village on Monday.

In a press release published on Twitter, the Ugandan embassy in Tokyo said it was working with Japanese authorities to enable the “safe and secure” return of Mr. Ssekitoleko to Uganda as early as Wednesday.

“Any issue related to an alleged escape from the duty he was called upon to perform in Japan and the related disappearance from the training camp will be dealt with appropriately upon his return to Uganda,” the statement said.

In Kampala, Okello Oryem, a young minister in the Ugandan foreign ministry, called Ssekitoleko a “traitor”.

“This behavior and this act is treacherous,” Oryem told reporters after meeting the Japanese ambassador in Kampala.

According to Mr. Fukuyama, the police had followed Mr. Ssekitoleko on a surveillance camera as he boarded a high-speed train from Osaka to Nagoya, where he met another man and went to Gifu in central China. Japan.

Police visited the man’s house, where he told them that Mr. Ssekitoleko had moved to another house in Yokkaichi, where police found him on Tuesday afternoon.

“He may be a hero in his country, but he found it difficult to return to the country because he learned that he could not participate in the Games,” Fukuyama said. “He had to hope to win and bring the gold medal back to his country. I’m sorry for him. I felt relieved that it was found and I want to deliver it as soon as possible because many citizens are worried. “

Last month, a coach and athlete from the Ugandan Olympic delegation tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving in Japan. It was not clear whether Mr. Ssekitoleko was one of them.

“He’s not a criminal,” Fukuyama said. “Even though he broke Olympic rules, he has no problem doing anything because his visa is valid.”

Musinguzi Blanshe contributed reporting from Kampala, Uganda.

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