In Summary
  • When a politician claims to have gathered one million people at Uhuru park, what he/she is saying is that one out of every three Nairobians showed up.
  • The average human being occupies a space measuring about 0.5m by 0.25m while standing up. This works out to 0.125 square metres per person.

Can one million people be accommodated in Uhuru Park?

This question always comes up whenever there is a major political event at this venue. The first time it came up was soon after the inauguration of former President Mwai Kibaki in December 2002.

The question came back again in the run-up to the 2007 General Election when the Orange Democratic Movement party held a campaign rally there. At that time, I did an estimate of the capacity of the main Uhuru Park arena and it turned out that the largest number of people that can occupy the park is about 60,000. My calculations were based on the crowd that had gathered for Kibaki’s 2002 inauguration – I had attended the ceremony.

For that reason, I will not repeat the calculation; anyone interested can fish it out from any public library. The article appeared on October 28, 2007. Today, I want to tackle the question from a different angle: how large is a crowd of one million people?

First let’s put that number into perspective: according to the 2009 census, the populations of Nairobi is about 3.1 million. This number includes everyone, from the youngest toddler to the oldest mzee!

So when a politician claims to have gathered one million people at Uhuru park, what he/she is saying is that one out of every three Nairobians showed up. Is that possible?

Granted, there are those who travel from other regions of the country to attend these rallies but the majority are from around Nairobi. The next question is, if one million people did show up, how much space would the crowd occupy?

The average human being occupies a space measuring about 0.5m by 0.25m while standing up. This works out to 0.125 square metres per person.

Therefore, one million people would take up 125,000sq-m; that is 12.5 hectares (do NOT confuse these with acres!). 12.5 hectares is about 31 acres.

Interestingly, this is almost equal to the total area of Uhuru Park – from Uhuru Highway to Afya House. Now imagine one mass of humanity crowding this space (including, inside the manmade dam!) shoulder-to-shoulder, back-to-stomach…

The queue

Another way of thinking about it is this: if these people were standing on the two carriageways of Uhuru highway, how long would the queue be?

Well, each lane of the highway is about 3.5m wide and there are eight lanes in total. That makes about 28m of tarmac.

Allowing 0.5m per person, we can fit 56 people across the highway (shoulder-to-shoulder). Thus we shall have about 18,000 rows of people.

Now each row needs 0.25m space to fit a person; therefore, the queue will be 4,500m or 4.5km long. That is longer than the entire Uhuru highway. The distance from the Museum Interchange to the Langat road roundabout is only 3km; so, one million people wouldn’t fit there!

Perhaps we should now ask how long it would take for such a crowd to walk to the venue. That is a story for another day.

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