A Ugandan weightlifter who disappeared ahead of Olympics kickoff in western Japan last week has been found, officials said Tuesday.
Julius Ssekitoleko, 20, is being interrogated by Mie prefectural police in central Japan.
Police said the athlete was in the Yokkaichi city, 170 kilometers (105 miles) east of his host town in western Japan. Police are asking him what happened since he fled his hotel in Izumisano in the Osaka prefecture Friday, leaving behind a note saying he didn’t want to return to his country.
The development comes hours after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs engaged police and the government of Japan to investigate how Ssekitoleko got accreditation to represent Uganda at the Tokyo Olympic games.
Addressing journalists yesterday, Mr Henry Okello Oryem, the Foreign Affairs state minister, said government has apologised to the Japanese government for the disappearance of Mr Ssekitoleko in the Asian country.
Mr Ssekitoleko, a weight lifter, disappeared from his hotel room in Japan last Friday as the Ugandan team prepared for Olympic Games.
“This morning, I met the Ambassador of Japan regarding the athlete who disappeared in Japan who was part of Uganda’s Olympic team. I expressed the regret of the government for the unfortunate behaviour,” Mr Oryem said.
“I would like to say that he is [a] traitor, this behaviour and acts are treacherous. Hon Hamson Obua (Sports State minister) will travel to Japan tomorrow (today) to discuss with other officials and our sportsmen and women to counsel them of their responsibility and role while in Japan,” the minister revealed.
He advised that after the games, any athlete who wants to travel back to Japan for economic reasons is free to approach the Japanese embassy and apply for a Visa on their own accord.
Mr Oryem said it was wrong for the weightlifter to use the occasion of the Olympic Games and the auspices of the government of Uganda to disappear.
“It is unacceptable and treacherous. We are working with police to investigate on what grounds he became part of the team; we have discussed with the deputy IGP. We shall give all available information to Japanese authorities to get him and return him to Uganda,” he said.
Mr Oryem also revealed that last Friday, the Japanese ambassador to Uganda, Mr Fukuzawa Hidemoto, had suspected that there might be a disappearance of one of the sports personalities and he approached him for a meeting to discuss how to mitigate such acts. However, a few hours after they had scheduled an appointment, the news came in about the athlete’s disappearance.
Asked what government is doing to mitigate such acts in future, he said as a former sports minister, he knows that it is difficult to stop the disappearances in the Olympic village because most team members are young people.
“These are young people we train; it is difficult to stop it; if you have been to the Olympic village, sportsmen can disappear and you have no control of them running away. This is the very reason we engage the police to investigate how he was accredited and discuss with other officials to ensure that there are no further disappearances,” he said.
Asked whether there are places in Japan known to harbour such persons, Mr Hidemoto said he was aware of individuals living in Japan without visas but for these particular ones, they went to Japan as athletes, and local authorities are yet to trace the missing athlete.