Visiting the United Kingdom for a round of lectures, Kenyan opposition figure Miguna Miguna repeatedly claimed one million people had attended the mock swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as “people’s president”.
A day later in London, he said: “My role on that day was limited to mobilising a million people and swearing Raila in. I did that.”
‘Estimated at not less than 15,000’
Africa Check asked Miguna how he determined that a million people had attended Odinga’s ceremony. He promised to respond, but has not yet done so, despite a reminder. (Note: We will update this report if he does.)
Footage from Reuters news agency show people seated on the stage, with a large crowd packed in the triangle between Processional way, the footpath next to the Milimani law courts and Cathedral road.
Surface area & crowd density required
First off, you need to know the surface area of the space where people gathered. Then you need to make a call on the density of the crowd.
French developer Anthony Catel has created a tool called MapChecking which allows you to plot an area and select the density of the crowd filling it. (Note: It’s in French, so right click on the page and select “Translate to English”.)
“It would be normal to evaluate at 2 to 2.5 people per square metre for a political rally,” Prof Keith Still, who teaches crowd safety and risk analysis at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, told Africa Check.
Ignoring the trees in the area and assuming the grounds were occupied uniformly by 2.5 people per square metre, MapChecking provides an estimate of 113,761 people – about a tenth of the million Miguna claimed.
Idea a wild exaggeration
But Miguna is far from the only one to have overestimated Uhuru Park’s capacity.
In 2002 international media reported that “close to a million people” thronged the park to witness the swearing in of Mwai Kibaki as the country’s third president.
Before the 2007 elections, a Kenyan commentator wrote in Uganda’s New Vision newspaper that “it was a marvel to see over a million people behaving so peacefully” during an Odinga rally at Uhuru Park.
And when Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Kenya in 2015, State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu told journalists that “at least a million” people would attend the papal mass held in Uhuru Park.
Can the iconic park fit that big a crowd?
When it was declared a national monument in 1995, the size of Uhuru Park was put at 21.43 ha (214,300 m²). At a uniform density of 2.5 people per square meter, just over 500,000 people would fill the park. However, that ignores the presence of man-made lakes, trees, monuments, fenced-off buildings and hedges.
The idea that Uhuru Park can fit a million people is a wild exaggeration.
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