Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Riot at dance festival opening ceremonies

© Ryan Hicks

KIGALI -- Getting to the opening ceremonies of FESPAD, a pan-African dance festival, became a dangerous feat on Sunday when hundreds of ticket holders and police clashed at the entrance of one of the festival's main venues.

Police hit ticket holders with rubber clubs and shoved them in an effort to gain control over the crowd, while seats sat empty inside. Many children were also amongst the people attempting to enter the Kigali stadium for one of the biggest dance and cultural festivals in the region.

Thousands of people, tickets in hand, formed a line of about one to two kilometres, culminating in a massive crowd pushed up against two sets white metal gates. The only piece of equipment used to make people form a line was a thin piece of rope attached to thin metal poles. Some people had been waiting up to two hours to enter the festival.

Police were letting people in one at a time while they attempted to sweep people with a metal detector. The crowd was very restless, waving their tickets above their heads. The entrance process got out of hand when police began to open the main gates to let organizers and volunteers to pass through. The crowd then attempted to storm through the slight opening of the gates. Police then screamed, pushed, and hit members of the public in an attempt to restore some semblance of order.

In the end, FESPAD organizers told police to fully open the gate and let the crowd through.

The short videos above gives an idea of the chaos that ensued on at least on two occasions, for almost five minutes each time.

Later, a paramedic who wishes to remain unidentified, said that he treated a 17 year-old-girl who had to be evacuated from the melee after the gates were eventually opened and the crowd poured through. The source says that once revived, the girl was in a state of shock. After treatment, the paramedic said she returned to the festival.

FESPAD runs through August 2 at various venues in Kigali and around Rwanda. For more information, click here.


heather said...

Wow. Those videos provide quite the visual glimpse into what you describe (eloquently, by the way) in your blog. I can picture you on the chair, camera phone in hand, watching the riot ensue with journalist eyes wide open. Exciting stuff Ryan. Looking forward to the next post, and of course, to hearing about it all in person when you return. Stay safe out there. HB.

Louise said...

Who says there is nothing left to discover on our planet? Continue to be our eyes and ears Ryan. I, for one, greatly appreciate the precarious positions you place yourself in to enable us to learn of different cultures from the comfort of our computer monitors. Albeit a tragic assignment, I look forward to your story and images of the genocide memorial sites outside of Kigali. Stay safe. LB