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Monday, 21 May, 2001, 14:10 GMT 15:10 UK
Should tear gas be banned?
Soccer tragedy
Ghana is mourning the deaths of 126 football fans who perished in the Accra stadium at the end of a match between Hearts of Oak and Asante Kotoko.

The police are being blamed for causing the stampede which resulted in the deaths after firing tear gas to control rioting fans.

Should the use of tear gas be banned in football stadiums? Are the police the only ones at fault?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read your comments below.

My friends in Ghana continue to drop me such tragic news about the death of many Ghanaian fans. It showed that they are saddened by such unfortunate incident, so me too. But I advise Ghanaian fans to stop selling their lives for the players or the football itself. I myself was a strong supporter of Ghana football - not only the players but also the national black stars, but when they continued losing to their opponents, I finally gave up. I think many people don't understand that playing football is part of fun, not for bad purpose or killings. Please let's accept defeat whenever it comes.
Nashiru Abdulai, Rochester, NY

Police's action was too harsh

Tesfaye Asmare, Ethiopia
Police's action was too harsh. They could have controlled it without such an exaggerated action and tragedy.
Tesfaye Asmare, Ethiopia

One of the main uses of tear gas is to disperse a 'trouble crowd' in order to prevent or minimise casualties. It therefore makes no sense to fire the gas in an enclosure such as a stadium or any indoor facility where thousands of innocent people could not escape. It is worth noting also that tear gas has very severe effect on its victims, particularly people with heart problems. Who knows, maybe some of the Accra stadium victims died of such effects caused by gas choking.

Many fingers now point at the Accra cops. What if, on the other hand, they had decided not to fire the gas at all, and the rioting spectators maimed or killed say two people? Those very fingers would also have been pointed at the cops for 'not doing enough.' The use of tear gas in stadiums is a cause of more danger rather than a means of preventing it. Keep tear gas out of stadiums.
Aroun Rashid Deen, United States of America

Tear gas should never be allowed inside stadiums

Joram Ngwenya, Zimbabwe
The question is should tear gas use be banned in stadiums? I am surprised we even have to debate this. Tear gas is meant to disperse not quell rowdy crowds; its use in an enclosed place is therefore an unacceptable abuse. Tear gas should never be allowed inside stadiums, just as it is inadvisable to keep petrol in a house.
Joram Ngwenya, Zimbabwe

I think unruly fans should be held responsible for the full consequence of the actions eg manslaughter if death resulted indirectly from their actions, much the same way a drunk driver is charged for homicide.
Henry, Grenada

Police training and preparedness is key. While the police, in this case, may not have been solely at fault, had they been properly prepared for the situation, it may not have occurred.
Randall Collins, USA

The Ghana situation should not be blamed on the canisters

Gabriel Kamlomo, Malawi
There is no question of banning tear gas here. The thing is, are the police in most African states trained enough on how to utilise tear gas canisters? The answer is no! The Ghana situation should not be blamed on the canisters, but on the unprofessional manner in which the inadequately trained Ghanaian police used them. Where there is a crowd of people, there will always be some who are irresponsible hence the unprofessional Ghanaian cops brought with them teargas canisters they failed to utilise responsibly.
Gabriel Kamlomo, Malawi

The use of tear gas by police in places like stadiums is like going beyond their mandate of enforcing public safety. In such situations the police force is endangering the safety and lives of many innocent people. They have to learn how to separate the innocents from the culprits.
Dagne Tolla, Ethiopia

The police is largely to blame because of their poor training and handling of crowd problems. How could they use tear gas as a method of crowd control in a stadium? I have witnessed an incident last year in Zimbawe. A small group of spectators started throwing bottles and the police used tear gas for no reason at all except that they thought they are dealing with anti Mugabe crowds! The police have to get their act together and make a stadium a place for enjoyment and not a death trap.
Hamid Ali Ali, Australia/Eritrea

I think the police are being used as scapegoats to cover up what we all know and that is football violence in Africa is chronic problem that needs to be stopped. The picture being presented in the media is that had it not been for the teargas shooting everything would have ended well. This is bad because it is a common knowledge that once violence starts in soccer stadia there is no telling where it would end. Most times, it spills over into the streets and there is massive destruction of government and private property. Surely there is need for crowd control and if properly used tear gas is an effective instrument for this purpose. Let the factors that sparked off the violence in the first place be addressed before casting blame on the consequences of that violence.
Ernest Cole, The Gambia/Sierra Leone

There is no way we can blame the police. If fans cannot be responsible enough to watch a match peacefully then the police have no option. On the other side governments have to be blamed for not providing sufficient security in terms of emergency exits to take care of stampedes. When the first tragedy of the month occurred, why did the Ghanaian government not put up sufficient security?
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya

It is their hooliganism that is costing lives

Lilian Kimeto, Kenya.
The problem is not so much of police using tear gas but ill-disciplined fans. There is now a breed of fans who do not go to the stadium to watch a game but engage in violence. It is their hooliganism that is costing lives. We may blame the police for not having been wise enough not to use tear gas but what about the uncontrollable fans? A return to sobriety by fans and strict security measures are the best solutions for this wave of bloodshed across Africa's stadia.
Lilian Kimeto, Kenya.

As a Ghanaian, I cannot say that teargas should be banned but I think the police should be taught when is the right time to use it.
Nashiru Abdulai, Rochester NY

There is no point to using tear gas in an enclosed space. It makes no tactical sense. Perhaps it might be used, in extreme occasions, when there is a means of exit - but what is the point of inciting the crowd further when they are in an enclosed space. African police need to be retrained.
Kwesi O'Bruni, US

It's so sad to see that we are shifting the cause and blame for stadium deaths from those hooligans and thugs (who initiate violent confrontations) to the police who try to keep order. It's like blaming the guns for the school shootings in America.
Les Henry, USA

I am a Ghanaian in New York and I was very disheartened to hear of the tragedy in Ghana. I truly believe that sports fans need to learn how to keep their cool when their team is defeated. Destroying government property is not only stupid but senseless. In addition, the use of tear gas is inhumane because of its grave consequences; in this case, a good number of people dead. I believe that other measures could have been resorted to, such as, firing warning shots, to just scare the people so they could stop what they were doing. This is a real tragedy and I hope Ghanaians learn a great deal from it and not be so quick to resort to tear gas as a means of controlling a people.
Golda Boahene, New York, USA

What happened in Ghana was one of tragedy and it is anticipated that such calamity will never befall our country and the whole of Africa again. Much as the police are to blame for what happened, I think the crowd was partly to blame for irresponsibility. It is about time we stop hooliganism in our stadia and become more responsible towards state properties. The police will always be there to enforce law and order and it is for us citizens to be more co-operative with the police to ensure peace in order to make their work less difficult. The use of tear gas is not always bad when trying to control the crowd. However, it would be more appropriate to avoid its use in stadia and instead resort to the use of truncheons and water cannons when trying to control an unruly.
Sedinam Akpedonu, Ghana

It is about time we stopped hooliganism in our stadia

Sedinam Akpedonu, Ghana
Much as the police are to blame for what happened, I think the crowd was also partly to blame for irresponsible behaviour. It is about time we stopped hooliganism in our stadia and become more responsible towards state properties.
Sedinam Akpedonu, Ghana

It is not a question of whether or not tear gas should be used in football stadia. What people should start nailing in their brains is team spirit. One has to accept defeat in every game as two teams cannot win equally.
Henry Williams, New York/ Sierra Leone

Tear gas has a purpose. It is to disperse rowdy crowds. But when the crowd is dispersing, the police should stop firing any further in order to enable them to leave. Tear gas is needed, but the police should keep the safety principle in mind. They also need classes to teach them to be human.
Ebenezer, Ghana

Have you ever had tear gas in your face ? I did as a Police Reservist in an exercise years ago. It is frightening, very painful and totally disorienting as well as being unsuitable for crowd control in a confined space containing mostly innocent bystanders.
Tichaona, Zimbabwe

At soccer stadia, organisers and administrators have a responsibility to analyse situations ahead of the games so that security measures can be employed before the game starts. Also, the issue of allowing in a number of fans more than the capacity of the stadium is negligence on the part of the officials responsible and these people should be called upon to resign on moral grounds. Above all, African police lack adequate training to deal with such matters.
Muyoyeta Simasiku, Zambian student in Australia

No, it should not, because it can serve a useful purpose. What is needed is the proper training of those who may have to use it again.
UE, Nigeria

See also:

14 May 01 | Africa
Ghana remembers stadium victims
09 May 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ghana
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