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Ghana Panel Blames Police for Deadly Stadium Stampede - 2001-07-29

A panel in Ghana is blaming police for a May stampede at a football stadium that left 126 people dead and scores of others injured in the capital, Accra.

The May 9th stampede has been called the worst stadium disaster in African history. A disturbance broke out among fans of rival teams when one scored a goal just minutes before the end of the match. Police intervened, firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Crowds panicked and rushed for the exits, many of which were locked.

The stampede raised an outcry among Ghanaians, who demanded an inquiry. President John Kufuor ordered an independent panel to investigate.

The panel recommends that criminal charges be filed against police officers for firing tear gas in what panel members say was a reckless manner. The commission accuses some police officials of dishonestly reporting the incident, saying records on the comings and goings of police officers at the stadium had been falsified.

Ghana's police inspector general, Ernest Poku, refused to comment on the commission's findings, but he said its judgments must be respected.

The commission's final report, sent to President Kufuor on Friday, has not been made public. But commission chairman Sam Okudzeto says that aside from recommending prosecution of the police officers involved in the tragedy, the panel wants an overall upgrade of basic safety measures at Ghanaian sports stadiums.