ICC case not viewed as against Ruto, Kosgey, and Sang but against the Kalenjin

Many of the victims of the post-election violence that wracked Kenya in 2007 and early 2008 still live in the shadow of the chaos that ensued.

Many are still displaced from their homes and struggling to make a living. Those who were able to return to their homes see the people who killed their neighbors still living freely without sanction.

Some may also face new threats arising from events at the court, according to statements made before the International Criminal Court (ICC) last week by Sureta Chana, the lawyer representing the interests of several hundred victims of the violence in the ICC case against William Ruto, Henry Kosgey, and Joseph arap Sang.

“They live in fear with particular trepidation that they may be recognized as participants in proceedings before the International Criminal Court,” Chana said in her opening remarks to the court. “[T]he community as a whole seems not to see or understand any distinction between a witness and a victim.”

Most of the 327 victims that Chana was representing at the first hearing are members of the Kikuyu ethnic group – whose communities were among those attacked by rival Kalenjins during the violence in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The ICC prosecutor is arguing that Ruto, Kosgei, and Sang all played a role in deliberately inciting and directing that violence .

However, events in the court last week also highlighted tensions within the Kalenjin that are being stirred up by the trial process.

Chana asserted during the last week’s pre-trial hearing that Charles Keter, a Kenyan member of parliament who had travelled to attend the hearing in The Hague, had told a Kenyan radio station on Tuesday that the identities of two anonymous prosecution witnesses were now known.

This, Keter reportedly told the station, showed there were “traitors” among the Nandi, a sub-group of the Kalenjin ethnic group to which Ruto, Kosgey, and Sang all belong. Keter himself is of the Kipsigis, another sub-group of the Kalenjin.

According to a report from one of the victims of the violence, Keter reportedly declared on KASS FM (the station where Sang works as a presenter), “It is you Nandi people who are traitors of our people…We will give them the treatment deserving of traitors.”

ICC Kenya Monitor was unsuccessful in reaching Keter for a response. It was also not possible to reach the chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, which has investigated hate speech allegations in Kenya in the past.

It is generally accepted that violence flared in the past in the Rift Valley when the dominance of then President Daniel arap Moi, a Kalenjin, was threatened with the return of multi-party politics in late 1991. This led to trouble in the lead up to the 1992 and 1997 elections. Those targeted were from ethnic groups perceived to be supporters of Moi’s opponents – the Kikuyu, Luo, Luhya, and Kisii. None of those named in subsequent government or parliamentary investigations into those outbreaks of violence as possible suspects have ever been prosecuted.

Before Ruto, Kosgey, and Sang were named as suspects, the ICC’s investigation into the Kenya situation received high support in the Rift Valley, according to two separate opinion polls this year. Since the three became suspects, the ICC is now opposed in the Rift Valley, according to those polls.

Some Kalenjin opinion leaders have taken the view the entire Kalenjin population is on trial.

A Kalenjin clergyman who testified on behalf of Sang said the case was an “emotional” issue for the Kalenjin. Bishop Jackson Kosgei said this in a statement to the chamber after presenting his evidence. Kosgei said the charges the prosecution had framed did not just affect the three suspects but the entire Kalenjin community.

“It’s affecting 12 percent of the population of Kenya,” said Pastor Jackson Kosgei, referring to the case and the estimated size of the Kalenjin population.

However, Chana, the victims’ lawyer, argued in her remarks that ICC process that has led to the charges against Ruto, Kosgei, and Sang was seen by the victims ultimately as a way of preventing more communal violence being stirred up in the future in the Rift Valley.

“Should this kind of violence go unpunished, those that I represent fear that the culture of impunity will be yet further cemented with the fear that the violence will be repeated.”


  1. The funny thing is that “Kalenjin” do not even exist. It is an artifical late-colonial notion, a mere construct. But contructs have always served oppression, racism and hatred well.


    1. Of construct, the construct was then taken up and developed in the early years of not-quite uhuru. Jean-Marie Seroney is especially culpable.


  2. The other suspects are not Kalenjins,Why play the ethnic card in a case a straight as this. They are innocent or otherwise until the fall of the hammer. Ocampo only wanted to deal our impunity a blow.


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