Those we lost in Mashujaa Day stampede in Kericho


The aftermath of the stampede outside the stadium. Inset: Mercy Chelang'at (right) and Doreen Chepkirui.

Photo credit: Boniface Mwangi | Nation Media Group

It was supposed to be a festive Mashujaa Day but as the sun set on Kericho town yesterday, a mournful and subdued atmosphere covered its neighbourhood, after five people died in a dawn stampede at Kericho Green Stadium.

By last evening, authorities were investigating what went wrong, especially how security officials could have missed early signs of trouble at Gate C of the venue of the national celebrations.

A Nation analysis based on witness accounts and investigators’ preliminary findings reveals that security officers could have been caught off guard by the unorganised and spontaneous crowds that surged towards Gate C.

It emerged that as the night grew, a mass of guests swelled as they waited for dawn to enter the stadium as early as 2am.

A large crowd that overwhelmed the number of security officers, proved deadly. There were few police officers around, and from within the crowd came calls to “push, push” and a big shove, according to witnesses. Then, they began to fall.

A nurse at Kericho County Referral Hospital who spoke with The Nation revealed 13 people who were rushed to the facility are in stable condition.

“We unfortunately lost the five who sustained serious injuries during the stampede,” said the nurse.

Officers' ability to manage the crowd

The bodies were taken to the mortuary pending identification and postmortem.

Questions about the security officers' ability to manage the crowd abound.

It has emerged that days before D-day, security officials discussed ways to make the venue safe and manage disorderly crowds, largely sharing concerns of people trying to force their way into the newly constructed stadium.

Some victims who were injured in the stampede were treated and discharged.

Senior police officers visited their colleagues and others who sustained injuries. Various agencies involved in the emergency response declined to comment beyond previous public statements shared by the police in a report.

In the report, police said the stampede was caused by a hawker who accidentally spilt tea on a makeshift fireplace, but eyewitnesses have refuted it.

Several eyewitnesses, the victims and junior police officers who spoke to The Nation said it was caused by an attempt by attendees to push their way into the stadium, while security officers tried to repulse them, leading to pandemonium.

Residents who had not been in touch with their loved ones after the incident was reported, rushed to Kericho County Referral Hospital and the mortuary wing to check on the victims, with some reeling in shock after making positive identification.

Mzee David Cheruiyot, a father of six and a resident of Chepkutung village in Belgut constituency, was unable to speak to journalists as he grieved at the mortuary beside family members following the identification of the body of his 19-year-old daughter Mercy Chelangat.

“She sustained internal injuries and was bleeding from the mouth and the nose. She was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital,” Mr Benard Ngeno, a cousin to the deceased, said.

Mr Ngeno revealed that his younger sister, Cynthia Chebet, who was with Chelangat at the time of the incident, also sustained injuries but was treated and discharged.

Succumbed to the injuries

Ms Doreen Chepkirui, a former student at Eldoret Technical Training Institute, who was due to graduate in two weeks is among the victims who succumbed to the injuries according to the family members.

“She sustained fractures and internal injuries. She is said to have been among those who fell in a ditch following the stampede,” Mr Julius Sang Rono, the elder brother to the deceased said.

Mr Rono said: “We did not know that she was among the victims. We only came to the mortuary on the chance we may identify a victim, only to find my sister as one of them.”

Five patients were yet to be attended to at the hospital with claims some of the medics were not on duty at the time.

“I fell on the ground and was run over by several people before I was pulled out. I passed out and found myself in hospital. I have injuries on the leg and back but I am yet to be attended to,” Ms Galdwel Chemutai, a resident of Kapsoit said.

She said that she had been informed to wait for doctors to attend to her and the other victims who were at the casualty 11 hours after the incident.

“I wanted to see the President, but unfortunately I was not able to make it. I have instead ended up in hospital” Ms Chemutai said.