October 24, 2011- One year on, the Nyayo Stadium tragedy remains unresolved.
The dark evening in which five people were killed and tens injured still
blights Kenya's national stadium.AIPS Executive Committee Member Evelyn Watta shares her painful experience
as a witness as questions linger why the inquest is yet to take off.
was Kenya's biggest football derby, pitting two of the oldest community clubs
Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards, but for a sports journalist it was an assignment
anyone would have wanted to play a role.
managed to tag along a friend who had never been to a stadium for a football
match to Nyayo to record events of this historic day-for all the wrong reasons.
stadium was unusually full for a local tie and not even the heavy showers that
had pounded the city had dampened the carnival like atmosphere that
characterizes meetings between the two sides.Indeed it is the El Classico of
muddy feet and dripping clothes evidenced their passion to cheer on their
teams. With the kick off barely 10 minutes away the queues outside, the
turnstiles at gate number 2 could not handle the long queue of fans pressing
forward from outside.
the players came out on to the pitch, the crowd got excited and the thunderous
roar jabbed the patience of the hundreds still trying to make their way in.
for the VIP gate that also served as the media access gate there was the normal
pushing and shoving to get inside, but looking at the crowds outside this felt
sit at the less crowded area on the right of the stadium,” a friend advised us
to avoid the jammed VIP area.
calmness here, compared with the chaos outside, was startling. But
disastrously, tens of fans were making their way inside through the nearby
gate-too many people into a small space, the over two-decade-old turn-style
squeaking away menacingly.
were a few policemen helping the ground stewards, but they did not appear to
have a plan to control the surging crowds. I grabbed my camera and started
clicking away as more fans passed me. I wanted a better view, a shot of the
crowds making their way through the small space. But what I saw shocked me…the
gates had come down.
had finally made their way in, without a comment. The scene behind was ghastly.
Some lay down pressed on by the metals and some being trampled on by the
football hungry crowds.
are dying!," Someone who had made it out of the crowds shouted panting,
sweating as he held on to his shoe.But his cries for help to anyone and no one
in particular-were drowned by the deafening cheers and the incessant vuvuzela
horns from the cheering thousands of fans.
terrible sights of men, women being lifted out of stampede to the terraces
above sent shivers down my spine.The pressure was so intense. It had brought
down the steel gates, causing an inrush to the stadium, onto tens lying
injured,some probably already dead under the metal rubble.
was meaningless snapping away,more like standing by watching the dead as they
desperately cried for help. I tried to administer basic first aid as I vainly
tried to attract help, as several lay injured, dead on the grounds just inside
them was a young man, slightly built. I thought I saw him twitch, meaning he
was alive. I attempted to resuscitate him. After a few attempts, his lips
moved, a frail whisper. "Vic, Vic…."as he clung on to dear life…
medical assistance on call at the stadium were those assigned to the teams,
just a handful. They were clearly overwhelmed.
were some laudable efforts. I remember seeing former Kenyan international
goalkeeper Mathew Ottamax Owino running onto the pitch, pleading with
the police, fans anybody willing to listen to help.Amazingly he was kicked out
of the field of play by fans who mistook his actions as an unwanted disruption
to a tantalizing clash.
tried to examine the extent of injuries. As I frantically fanned 'Vic’, waiting
for help, rescue. Amidst the grotesque scene we were witnessing, it was
abhorrent to see several young men trying to empty the pockets of those who lay
cars haphazardly parked within the stadium's perimeter wall, it was nearly
impossible for the ambulances to gain access into the stadium. Members of the
public literally pushed a salon car to clear the way for an ambulance to rush
victims to hospital.
was belatedly attended to inside an ambulance. I was in shock, barely able to
speak as I saw three bodies lying next to the wheels. A minute later the
paramedics wheeled 'Vic' out. He joined the list of those who had lost their
lives in the stampede. Shocked, I wailed.
cousin 'Aggrey' who had seen me trying to help was uncontrollable.
happened to my brother Victor?” he enquired as he shook Victor Juma's
lifeless body. "Oh no…this is a nightmare!"
left the stadium prematurely as the match went on, as I hurried away unable to
hold my emotions any more.
the scenes on TV and following the stories, it was difficult to comprehend what
happened. Days, months have now turned into a year it is easy to assume that
all the talking, writing has been done, but I think for those who witnessed it,
it has barely started.
is probably worse for the brothers, sisters, wives, friends, survivors,
witnesses who are struggling to move on. "It's taken too long…I would like
to know the truth about what led to my brothers'(Victor Juma) death and the others,” said
Philip Ochieng painfully.
the time of his death, Juma was in his final year at the University of Nairobi
where he was studying finance and sociology. The Government ordered preliminary
investigations and a report was issued by the Kenya Police, a week after the
initial probe pointed at how gates remained closed even after the match kicked
off shortly because of human traffic and long queues at entry points. The
report just fell short of blaming the victims (fans) for what befell them.
is what is perhaps the biggest barrier to healing-any acceptance of blame- by
the host team Gor Mahia, the Kenya Premier League,KPL or even the Sports Stadia
Management Board for the terrible misjudgments’ made for one of the biggest
football ties in Kenya.
the outright delay in responding to the stampede to lack of immediate medical
assistance to the injured and dying raised serious questions.
are waiting to know the findings of the report, because already we have
received claim for compensation from one of the victims but we don't take
responsibility," stressed KPL Chief Executive Officer, Jack Oguda.
for now what the victims want is a proper inquiry and report on what happened
to avoid a repeat of the same in future.
was contacted by the police about two weeks ago that the Government intends to
open an inquest into this matter. We are hoping that this inquest will provide
answers that will lead to resolving the mystery around the deaths of the young
people," Ochieng' stated firmly confirming what the families need is
specific circumstances of the death of their relatives.
safety and security audit of some of the country's stadia carried out by
Security and stewarding services Provider Company G4S recommended major
improvements on the stadium infrastructure as well as training of safety
officers manning the stadium. But barely half the proposals have been
have tried to implement most of the things recommended on the report like no
ticket sales at the venue of the match and again the tickets now bear gate
numbers,” said Lilian Nzile the manager at the Nyayo National stadium.
now have a control and safety officer and we always install a public Address
system at the stadium."
stakeholders are still looking to the Government to pump in funds to train
stadia personnel and even improve the infrastructure as there are barely a
handful trained personnel in the country manning the stadia.
as we mourn the five fans who died on October 23, 2010, the stakeholders needs to
ensure that the inquiry is comprehensive to avoid a repeat of the same as some
of lapses that led to the stampede had already been investigated before.
Government should put in place the right structures and infrastructures in the
stadia to avoid similar sporting disasters.
answers no matter how long it takes need to come out and save the fans and
victims the shame, guilt they have endured for attending a simple, relaxing
football match…as their families campaign for answers lingers on…