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Kenya: Kericho Gun Incident Points to Security Lapse in Stadiums

The Kericho gun incident highlights a commonplace security lapse in Kenyan stadiums.

Most of Kenyan football fans carry with them mobile phones, maybe a portable charger, chewing gum, and even groundnuts to be preoccupied with when they go to see a match.

This is because they consider stadiums in the country as the ultimate platform for collective relaxation, a place of celebration and temporary relief from the realities of the everyday challenges of work and life.

It is a ritual that has played out for decades and the East African nation remains one of the very few countries where rival supporters can sit next to each other, simultaneously cheering and jeering to their heart’s content.

But what they will likely miss at the gates of the stadiums is security presence that is supposed to include electronic wand searches for suspicious objects.

If at all the ‘security’ is there, one will just find few private security guards, hired from companies that are known for paying their workers low salaries, manning the gates.

A show of tickets and bag searches sometimes will be conducted. But that does little to protect players and fans from some angry incidents like what was witnessed in Kericho Stadium, where a shocking-gun drama occurred during Sunday’s league match between Bandari FC and home club Zoo FC.

In the incident that was captured on camera, an unidentified man stormed the field of play and threatened to unleash his gun at the Bandari FC technical area causing panic among the visiting side.

Security company officials and experts say some guards might be the biggest gap in the security of Kenya sporting events. If the trained security personnel were at Kericho Stadium, they could have easily stopped the man from accessing the stadium with the gun and he would not have caused the melee that ensued.

Indeed, the hiring of such guards is reported to have created a problem in the Kenyan stadiums that have bred a faction of fans who go to the stadium looking for trouble. They arrive at a football stadium already well intoxicated, and they proceed to consume even more of whatever their poison is.

What happened at the Kericho Green Stadium on Sunday is exactly what will occur when opportunity meets alcohol and entitlement.

Bandari FC have already sent a complaint to the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) requesting for the football governing body to take disciplinary action against Zoo Kericho, stating that the gunman, who was restrained from firing by one of their officials, was drunk.

Separately, the league governing body Kenyan Premier League (KPL) has announced that it has launched an investigation into the incident, but there ought to be significantly more done than just the normal investigation.

“We will write to the IG to look into the matter further with the aim of ensuring that this does not happen again as all licensed gun-holders are under his jurisdiction,” a statement from KPL read in part.

For one thing, the incident is not the first to have occurred, bringing out worries that the Zoo Kericho fan is likely to go unpunished. It is just two years ago when one of Ulinzi Stars fans drew a pistol during a Kenyan Premier League (KPL) match between AFC Leopards and Ulinzi Stars in Kakamega County.

He threatened to shoot at AFC Leopards fans in a live match, but none of the league body nor the local federation official have ever dared to call for action against, Ulinzi, the Kenya army sponsored outfit, to date.

Rumors indicate that the Kericho gun-man is an administration police officer attached to Ainamoi Member of Parliament Sylvanus Maritim and a former Chemelil and Zoo Kericho goalkeeper.

Zoo have defended the man saying that the photos which have been circulating on the media have been laced with malice.

“Those photos you are seeing online were posted with malicious intentions. We are waiting for the match officials’ report which will reveal the truth. Bandari players and technical bench were unhappy because we equalized late into the match and also because the referee added five minutes after regulation time so when that person went into the pitch to greet the players he was wrestled to the ground by Bandari players.”

“As a police officer the first thing you do in such an incident is to secure your gun, and that is what he did. He never brandished it and he never threatened to shoot. Let the management investigate,” said Zoo communications officer, Peter Kiptoo.

Zoo are liable in all this. Their fans keep stepping out of line, no doubt frustrated as the team is fighting for relegation with very few matches to go to the end of the season.

Regarding the team’s inability to provide security in the venue, KPL chief executive officer Jack Ogunda has already explained the situation: “The rules are simple. The home team is responsible for ensuring there is adequate security, and the club must also ensure they take care of their fans.”

Despite the leads being there, the gunman is still walking freely. FKF communication director Barry Otieno has said that the federation is monitoring the progress and will wait for a report from the league body on the matter.

But local football enthusiasts have called on the Director of Criminal Investigations to investigate an incident questioning the capability of our local football administrators to investigate this matter, as the Ulinzi incident went unpunished.

If the few security personnel at the stadiums were properly trained, the events that surrounded the match could not have occurred. Sometimes, in low profile matches, they man the stadiums with one or two armed policemen, like the Sunday’s match; but there are occasions that the two lines of security find themselves on edge and collectively pummelled for becoming a feeble barrier between expected behaviour from fans of either side. in addition, they are not paid or trained well enough to deal with such a security lapse.

One will have to wonder just how much the security firms that employ them are pocketing, under the pretense of providing actual security, instead of convenient numbers on a spreadsheet.

It all emphasizes the point that, despite the money and the hype, there is still an awful lot wrong with our football – and most of it is not even on the field.

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