At least 19 people were killed in a stadium crush during a World Cup qualifier between Ivory Coast and Malawi in Abidjan on Sunday.
A rush by spectators led to the collapse of a wall, medical officials told Reuters. Police then fired tear gas to clear the crowd, causing a stampede which also left many people seriously injured.
The tragedy followed similar incidents which have marred international matches in Africa in the last decade, including two separate ones in Zambia and the death of 13 people in Zimbabwe nine years ago.
FIFA instigated a programme of stadium inspections across Africa before the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and Abidjan's Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium was passed as safe for international matches.
On the field, Chelsea striker Didier Drogba marked his return to competitive international football with two goals to lead Ivory Coast to a 5-0 win over Malawi.
The Chelsea striker, who missed the first six qualifiers due to a knee injury, converted a seventh-minute penalty and followed up with a 27th-minute goal as the Elephants romped home in Abidjan in their Group E opener.
Ghana were also victorious in Group D but two heavily fancied teams, Egypt and Nigeria were held to draws in Sunday's qualifiers.
The Ivory Coast Coast made a perfect start with a first- minute goal from Christian Koffi Ndri before Drogba's double ensured a 3-0 halftime lead. His Chelsea team mate Salomon Kalou added a fourth midway through the first half before Marseille striker Bakary Kone completed the rout.
The Ivorians share top place with Burkina Faso, who claimed a 4-2 home win over Guinea in Ouagadougou on Saturday.
Ghana's Black Stars also scored a first-minute goal in their Group D qualifier against Benin in Kumasi but were unable to add to Prince Tagoe's effort.
African champions Egypt suffered a major setback when they let a lead slip in their Group C match at home to Zambia in Cairo.
They were held to a 1-1 draw after taking a first-half lead through striker Amr Zaki, who sneaked behind the defence to convert a clever cross.
But a simple corner routine enabled Francis Kasonde to equalise 10 minutes into the second half.
Mozambique had two efforts disallowed in their 0-0 draw at home to Nigeria, who might have snatched an undeserved win at the end of the Group B game in Maputo when Obafemi Martins shot into the side netting.