Member of Parliament (MP) for the Kikuyu Constituency in Kenya today testified for Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, who is suspected of bearing responsibility for crimes against humanity committed during the post-election violence in Kenya from late December 2007 to late January 2008.
Mr. Lewis Nguyai, elected to the Kenyan parliament for the first time in December 2007 under President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) spoke expensively about Mr. Kenyatta’s effort to stop the violence that followed the announcement of elections results in 2007. He also spoke about the alleged role of the Mungiki, an outlawed organization in Kenya that prosecutors allege was directed by Mr. Kenyatta to attack supporters of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) who claimed that elections victory had been stolen from them.
Prosecutors claim that after the announcement of elections results on December 30, 2007, Mungiki members were present at the presidential office and residence—State House where they received instructions on how to attack ODM supporters who had already started demonstrations against the announcement of President Kibaki as winner of the presidential elections. Defense lawyers have argued that on that same day, President Kibaki was sworn in as president of Kenya and it was not possible for members of an outlawed gang to have been there at the same time. The witness confirmed the defense assertion today.
“I did not see any member of the Mungiki,” Mr. Nguyai told the judges, as he explained the presence of about 300 to 400 people at the swearing in ceremony and the security checks that guests had to go through before making it into the State House.
When the violence erupted in Naivasha District on January 27, 2008, the witness, alongside the Minister in charge of Internal Security, George Saitoti, flew to the township where they saw Kikuyus and non-Kikuyus divided in conflict against eachother. The people on the Kikuyu side of the divide did not look like Mungiki to him, he said.
The witness testified about efforts made by moderate members of both the PNU and ODM to stop the violence that was costing many lives and properties. Among the party members who made these efforts was Mr. Kenyatta, the witness told the court.
Defense lawyer for Mr. Kenyatta, Steven Kay QC, showed a video of the witness, standing by Mr. Kenyatta while he (Kenyatta) addressed a group of irate Kikuyu youths, urging them not to seek revenge against their opponents.
“Uhuru Kenyatta was trying to the best of his ability to pacify the group,” the witness told the judges in reference to the video that had been shown in court. The witness also addressed the group in the video.
He added that after pacifying that group, Mr. Kenyatta directed him to move to other locations and ensure that they were all peaceful.
The following day, Members of Parliament from the two parties created two groups which went in different directions to ensure that communities were peaceful. His group, he said, was led by Mr. Kenyatta.
Asked why they had made Mr. Kenyatta the leader of the group, the witness explained that “he was perceived as the most popular person after President Mwai Kibaki in Mount Kenya.”
“Many of us perceived him as a very good peacemaker, especially after what he had done the previous day,” the witness added, in reference to the Mr. Kenyatta’s address to the youths, a video of which was shown in court.
He further said that the Kenyan National Human Rights Commission report on the post-electin violence had made significant omissions by not including the tremendous amount of work done by Uhuru Kenyatta to ensure that there was peace in Kenya.
In response to prosecution allegations that Mr. Kenyatta was part of fundraising efforts to make payment and provide arms to Mungiki members in their attacks against ODM supporters, the witness said that such fundraising drives were only geared towards raising money and materials to provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons.
The witness dismissed as false, prosecution allegations that Mr. Kenyatta was a member of the Mungiki organization. He told the court that Mr. Kenyatta had denounced the Mungiki organization on several occasions, saying that he did not need the group’s political support.
The witness told the judges how two Mungiki leaders had approached him at the entrance of a hotel and asked him to lead them to the PNU leadership, including Mr. Kenyatta. He exchanged phone numbers with the Mungiki leaders and continued to meet with them on eight separate occasions. On all these occasions, they sought money and access to the PNU leadership. The witness said that upon his election as a member of parliament, he was appointed to a Select Committee to combat organized crime and this included addressing the Mungiki menace. This also accounted for his meetings with the Mungiki leadership, he said.
The witness also spoke about two members of the Mungiki who had given exonerating statement to Mr. Kenyatta’s defense team and later turned out to extort money from the team as payment for their evidence. He spoke about receiving several text messages from the two witnesses, some of which were requesting money and some of which were threatening. These messages have been handed to the judges as part of the defense evidence. Defense lawyers have argued that the witness who attempted to extort money from Mr. Kenyatta’s defense later turned out to become prosecution witnesses when they could not get the money they wanted.
Under cross-examination by the prosecution, the witness admitted that he was one of the organizers of a big ceremony to welcome the six suspects toKenya after they had made their initial appearances in The Hague in April 2011. He also agreed with the prosecution that he had made a proposal for the 2012 presidential elections in Kenya to be put on hold until the completion of the ICC processes in The Hague.
Prosecutors also sought to know why the witness had not reported the two Mungiki leaders to the police after they had first met him in 2008 asking for money and ammunition to attack ODM supporters. The witness said he did inform the Provincial Police Officer in Nairobi, but the prosecutor was quick to point out that he had not said so when he made his earlier statement to defense lawyers.
Prosecutors also asked the witness about a meeting at Kikuyu Country Club in the witness’s constituency, which according to the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Elections Violence in Kenya (CIPEV) report, was organized by businessmen to raise funds for violent attacks against perceived ODM opponents. The witness said that he was invited to a meeting at the same venue but did not attend as he did not know the persons who had called the meeting.
The common legal representative for victims, judges, and other defense teams also asked the witness several questions.
The end of the witness’s testimony marked the conclusion of Mr. Kenyatta’s defense evidence. When court resumes on Monday, the third suspect, former Police Commissioner and Post-Master General, Mohammed Hussein Ali will commence his defense.