Nyayo Deaths:The Questions everybody is avoiding

Oct 27, 2010

More than three days after the stampede that killed eight people at Kenya’s Nyayo National stadium, many questions remain unanswered as to what could have caused Kenya’s worst sporting tragedy.

The Government, Kenya Premier League and the stadia management Board are all bent on absolving themselves from fault; akin to blame the gods for a situation that could have been forestalled.

Their cavernous statements are far-flung from liability assertions that would appease anxious sport buffs.

One burning question within the sporting fraternity is how secure is Nyayo Stadium as a venue and is the safety of sports fans guaranteed or is a death trap?

Ironically it is the same venue that hosted a capacity crowd for about a week during the Africa Athletics Championships in August and observers are asking, what was different in the organization to the ill-fated KPL match on October 23?

It is not yet clear from the authorities how many Police officers were deployed to Kenya’s arguably biggest club match, and how well the intelligence gathered about the match was used to plan security strategies to save crowds of such dangers.

There was no frisking of fans as they entered the stadium, which goes begging whether any officers were concerned about the security of the crowds.

Internal security Minister George Saitoti was categorical that the police did their best to contain the situation. Was the best watching as innocent lives are lost?

Yet no uniformed policeman was on sight when AFC Leopards former goalkeeper Mathew Ottamax invaded the pitch hoping to get the match stopped over the stampede.

The world soccer governing body FIFA is expecting an explanation from Football Kenya Limited on the happenings of Saturday night at a venue that has come under their watch list in recent past over safety concerns.

"I have learned that an investigation is already underway. Everything possible must be done to understand the cause of this terrible incident in order to prevent such a tragic happening at this stadium again,” said FIFA President Sepp Blatter in a condolence message to the bereaved families.

If FIFA decide to bar the grounds from hosting international matches, with the Moi International sports centre Kasarani closed for renovations where will Harambee stars play their home fixtures?

What emergency and safety measures were put in place for the tie pitting Kenya’s oldest archrivals?
Stadia Management Board opted to have only four of the 15 gates operational for Saturdays match, making an already dire situation worse pre and during the match.

The heavy downpour a few hours to kick off held up the crowds in unwinding queues, which led to the stampede.

The access for the rescue teams and ambulances was impossible with the haphazard parking of cars within the stadium and the locked gates to stretch out the injured.

During the Africa Athletics Nyayo stadium was out of bounds for parking only vehicles with stickers were allowed access. This was not the case on the fateful day that Nyayo stadium turned a killer.

Only one ambulance with scanty staff capable of handling the two teams and the over 15,000 crowds at Nyayo, a contravention of the public safety requirements as well as the checklist set by the sports governing body.

Ticketing a core element for any soccer match but the administrators decided to sell them on the fateful day of the match. No comprehensive explanation has been availed apart from flimsy reasons of trying to guard counterfeits.

Up to now nobody has been held responsible for the event with a vague assurance from the sports Ministry.“If any person or organization is found to be responsible, legal procedures will be applied,” said Assistant Sports Minister Kabando wa Kabando when he announced remedial measures his ministry was exploring.

Hopefully it won’t be another long wait for the outcome of the Police Probe and the Government findings on what has left a big scar on Kenya’s soccer history.

Evelyn Watta
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