Somalia and Sudan have pulled out of next month’s CECAFA Challenge Cup in Kenya, reducing the field to only 10 teams from the central, northern and southern African zones.
Organisers of the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA) tournament said Somalia, which has been mired in internal conflict, was having difficulty getting a team together for the December 3-17 championships.
Three-time champions Sudan have asked to be left out of the competition because their national football league is still in progress.
North African team Libya has been invited to take part for the first time as a guest team, alongside five-time Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA} champions, Zimbabwe.
Libya have been drawn to play hosts Kenya in a tough Group A, alongside Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar.
Defending champions Uganda have been drawn in the relatively easier Group B against Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Zimbabwe.
Kenya are hosting the CECAFA Challenge Cup as a consolation after losing the right to stage the 2018 African Nations Championships due to concerns around the uncertain political situation in the country.
The CECAFA organisers hope the two-week tournament — to be played in the towns of Kisumu, Kakamega and Nakuru — might help unite Kenya after a drawn-out and divisive presidential election period.
The draw for the December 3-17 event is:
Group A: Kenya, Libya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zanzibar
Group B: Uganda (holders), Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Zimbabwe