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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 March 2006, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Tanzania shocked by runaway boxers
By Emmanuel Muga
BBC, Dar es Salaam

Karim Matumla
Karim went off to make a phone call and never came back
Tanzania's Commonwealth Games team has returned home with two medals, but without two boxers who have gone missing in Australia.

The Tanzanian twosome's behaviour has shocked team-mates and relatives as they are the first athletes to disappear while representing their country.

Prisons officer Iddi Omary Kimweri vanished last week, while his compatriot Karim Matumla, who is a lance corporal in the Tanzania army, disappeared on Monday morning just before the team were about to board their flight back home.

Henry Ramadhan, who headed the delegation to Melbourne, said he had taken precautionary measures after the first boxer had gone missing, but Matumla outsmarted him.

"We were together having breakfast and then Matumla excused himself. He said he was going out to make a short phone call, but he never came back," Mr Ramadhan said.

Bad image

Tanzanian Minister of Information, Culture and Sports Muhammed Seif Khatib said that while the government was not happy, it did not feel embarrassed.

He loves his family and his job here. I don't know what has happened to him
Wife of Iddi Omary Kimweri
"Why embarrassed? It is very common for Africans to run away from their countries, for us this is nothing, the majority have come back," he told the BBC.

But the army's director of sports, Lt Col Juma Ikangaa, said the incident gave the army a bad image. He said athletes would have to be screened in future before being allowed to leave for overseas competitions.

"I think we will have to be careful in the future with athletes going abroad," he said.

Matumla's brother, Rashid, who is also a high-profile boxer, expressed his family's shock.

"He was a soldier, his life was not so bad," he said. "I don't know why he has decided to remain illegally in Australia.

"Maybe there are some people who showed up and promised him something there."


Kimweri's 17-year-old wife Rukia said she had been unaware of her husband's plan.

2006 Commonwealth Games: 14 Sierra Leoneans, 9 Cameroonians, 2 Tanzanians, 1 Bangladeshi
2002 Commonwealth Games: 21 Sierra Leoneans, 5 Bangladeshis, 1 Pakistani
2002 Asian Games: 12 Nepalese, 3 Sri Lankans and 1 Mongolian
2000 Sydney Olympics: 80 officials and athletes overstay visas, 11 cases unresolved

"Since he left for Australia I have not been in touch with him," she told the BBC at her home in Dar es Salaam.

"I don't have his number and he did not tell me anything about his other plans besides saying that he was going for the games."

The newly-married couple lived with two relatives in a two-room house in the outskirts of the city.

Rukia said the family had depended on Kimweri's monthly $80 salary from the Tanzania Prisons Force.

The Tanzanian team managed to win two medals - a marathon gold won by Samson Ramadhan and a 10,000m bronze won by Fabiano Joseph. But the celebrations have been overshadowed by the disappearance of the boxers.

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