General of Police Martin Ochola has directed division and regional commanders
to conduct safety drills for crowd events.
The directive follows the Freedom City Mall stampede that left 11 people dead
and 18 others injured on New Year’s Day. The revelers were asked to move out of
the auditorium in order to watch the display of fireworks outside the premises.
organizers Abitex Promotions and the Emcee Francis Juuko were blamed for the
stampede, some people have castigated police for not doing enough to protect the
more than 20,000 people who turned up.
Ochola has directed commanders to always ensure safety drills are conducted
with the organizers prior to the events. Ochola has said that during the
drills, the focus should be on preventing chaotic scenes, evacuation means in case
of a tragedy, and swift response in case of a disaster or security threat.
The guidelines have already been shared with the station, division, and regional
commanders. Ochola has also given commanders discretion to cancel events even
if they are underway provided they notice any security breaches.
“Territorial commanders must ensure there are sufficient entrance and exit
points, there must effective communication and rehearsals of safety measures.
The commander must ensure security drills are conducted with the organizers of
the events,” Ochola said.
Charles Nsaba, the Kampala Metropolitan South Regional Police Commander in whose
area the Freedom City tragedy happened and Grace Matsiko, a security analyst
and chairman Private Security Association –TUPSA have cited different reasons
that led to the incident.
Nsaba says what happened was an accident that could happen even in homes in
case there is a situation that requires people to swiftly move out. He, adds
that everything was very well until the night’s Emcee abruptly urged the
revelers to move out to watch fireworks outside the auditorium something which
had not been planned for.
However, Matsiko believes the owner of the venue and event organizer should share the
blame because they allowed bouncers to manage crowds inside the auditorium
instead of hiring professional private security guards.
Ochola in the guidelines has tasked commanders to ensure only trained security
teams are deployed to manage crowds instead venues while outer rings like
parking, entrances, and exits must be handled by security personnel.
“All organizers of outdoor and indoor events, festivals, beauty contests, and music
concerts must ensure security is a top priority. Organizers must write to IGP
for clearance, must indicate the concert venue, and indicate the number of expected
attendees. They must avail measures they are putting in place for controlling
crowds, walkthrough machines, canine, and scanners,” Ochola said.
Matsiko says the safety of crowds begins with sticking to the plan like not
admitting a number that exceeds the capacity of the venue. However, Fred
Enanga, said the Freedom City concert had 20,000 revelers instead of its
capacity of 15,000.
In case of a music concert, organizers must provide the names of all the artists
going to perform at the office of the IGP. The commanders have been guided to
cancel events even if they have been cleared by IGP’s office if they do not find
ambulances, traffic plans, fire safety systems and professional stewards.
Joseph Kato is currently a Master's candidate at Makerere University. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communication from Kampala International University, a Diploma in Journalism and he's also a graduate in Guidance and Counseling.