Ruto was the Kalenjins’ leader in the ODM party, says witness

William Samoei Ruto was the leader of the Kalenjin ethnic group in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and was responsible for the party’s campaigns in Rift Valley Province in the lead up to the 2007 General Elections, Witness 326 told the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Ruto was one of six individuals who formed the top decision making body of the ODM party called the Pentagon, the witness told the court on Tuesday. He had explained on Monday that the Pentagon originally consisted of five members, but a sixth person was included as the ODM grew. However, the party still retained the name Pentagon for the top leadership group. The witness is testifying in the trial of Ruto, who is Kenya’s deputy president, and former journalist Joshua arap Sang.

Witness 326 said that five of the Pentagon members, including Ruto, were responsible for overseeing the campaigns in their respective provinces. The witness said the Pentagon members carried out their responsibilities through coordinators they handpicked and worked with the parliamentary and councillorship aspirants to popularize the party. The sixth member of the Pentagon, Raila Odinga, was the party’s patron and presidential candidate who oversaw the countrywide campaign with the help of other members of the Pentagon, the witness said.

He also explained that he knew Sang as a radio presenter for Kass FM, but he did not know what program Sang presented. Witness 326 said that Kass FM was a station that broadcast in the Kalenjin language and was widely listened in the Rift Valley Province.

For part of the morning and most of the afternoon, Witness 326 testified in private session because what he had to say could make it easy for a member of the public to identify him. The judges had ordered on Monday that measures be taken in court to protect the identity of the witness, such as a screen blocking him from being seen in the public gallery and altering his voice. In the court’s video stream his face is also distorted to hide his identity.

Ruto left ODM last year to form an alliance with President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, who is also facing charges for his alleged role in the violence that followed the 2007 presidential poll. Ruto faces three counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in that bloodshed that nearly tore apart Kenya five years ago. He is charged with Sang who also faces three counts of crimes against humanity. Kenyatta is facing trial in a separate case and faces five counts of crimes against humanity.