The government has gone ahead and charged nine senior managers of the Carnivore and Kenya Breweries with failing to provide adequate security at a December concert incident where three students died. I believe the organizers took adequate security measures and that this case has no merit. The crowd got out of control and unfortunately, 3 people died, but there was nothing any amount of security would have done. Most people predict that the case will be dropped, companies fined, and families of the victims will receive some payments.
In all this, we must drown out the busybodies, i.e. leaders who have no agenda but to create moral mileage out of the tragedy.
Excerpts from Nation news stories
According to Carnivore Restaurant management and the event sponsors, United Distillers and Vintners (UDV), the stampede occurred at around midnight when impatient youth tried to force their way past the gates.
Police who had been deployed to the venue, however, said that the chaos was started by some drunken youths already inside the Carnivore grounds. A policeman had the butt of his AK-47 rifle broken as a group of drunken youths tried to snatch it.
Carnivore security manager Reuben Lumwaji said that 37 regular police, 24 traffic officers and 70 private security guards were hired for the event. There were three ambulances, paramedics and a doctor on the grounds, he said. It was standing room only as the crowd was estimated to be in excess of the 15,000 people that the event organisers had expected.
And by 10 pm, long queues had formed at the 16 gates where patrons were “vetted”. The vetting was a farce, with no proof of age demanded. As long as the patrons showed they had entry tickets, they were allowed in – including the underage. Other than confiscating knives and other weapons, the bouncers were not concerned about what revellers carried, including sachets of alcohol.
Nineteen-year-old Thomas Mboss was queuing to pay the Sh300 to get in when, suddenly, he was pushed from behind. He saw at least 20 people in front fall down. “One victim fell down twice, and was trampled by the others trying to stay upright. I overheard someone say the man was dead when they lifted him up the second time,” Mr Mboss, who waited in the queue until he made his way in, said. It was about midnight.
At about the same time, but at another gate, 18-year-old Edward Obado was also waiting in the queue as the crowd kept swelling. “There was so much shoving, jostling and pushing, it was even difficult to breathe,” he said. He remembered falling down, even as other patrons waited to pay and get in. “I fell down, and I’m lucky to be alive, as the bouncers rushed to me for first aid,” he said.
The tickets were cheap; Sh250 for advance tickets and Sh300 at the gate. High-ticket prices have in the past kept the number of attendants at manageable levels. This time, even underage youths could afford the ticket. With Sh500, such a youngster was able to gain entry and with a little prior planning, sneak in alcoholic drinks in mineral water or soda bottles, which many of them were carrying.
At the sixteen gates, body searches were casual as the security people’s main interest was to ensure that each person had a ticket. Requests that patrons produce identity cards to prove their age were similarly treated. They were also overwhelmed by the large numbers and could not search each and every patron. Quite a number of underage patrons managed to escape the bouncers’ scrutiny. Many were the patrons who sneaked in sachets of liquor into the grounds. In some venues, managers restrict entry if the maximum number of patrons is achieved. People were still being admitted into the venue by 3 am at least two hours after the stampede in which the three youngsters died. Many of the youths started leaving for home at 5 a.m.
At a press conference held at the office of the coordinator of the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada), Mr Joseph Kaguthi, the pressure groups said the tragedy could have been avoided if Government agents had taken control of the event by enforcing the law. In a statement read by Prof David Ndetei, a lecturer at Nairobi University, the group accused Government agents of reluctance to enforce laws controlling advertisements, sale and consumption of beer and cigarettes. “Can we afford to sacrifice the lives of our youth at the altar of easy-coming tax money from selfish multinationals? Is the Government happy to run on blood money – for that is what taxes from beer and cigarettes are – without regard of future generations?” he asked. Media and advertising companies were criticised for promoting immoral behaviour and they must stop it, the group said. The church leaders called for the revocation of the trading licences of both Carnivore and Smirnoff.
Responding to the criticism, Smirnoff said it did not target young people in its advertising. “Only legal drinking age adults were targeted for the Smirnoff Experience event. No one featured in any of our publicity material and advertising is under the age of 25 years,” Dr Joyce said. And for the Carnivore, Mr Misumi added: “We do not sell alcohol to underage people and we support responsible drinking among adults.” He said a crowd had built up at the entrances where the crush happened because of delays caused by vetting those entering to ensure they all had tickets, were not under-age and were not carrying weapons.