The fifth prosecution witness described to judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) seeing a man he believed was drunk being hacked and beaten to death. The witness also described a violent stand-off between Kalenjins and Kikuyus on opposite sides of a river.
Prosecution Witness 487 was testifying on Wednesday in the trial of Kenya’s Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. Ruto and Sang are on trial at the ICC for their alleged roles in the bloodshed that followed Kenya’s December 2007 presidential election.
Continuing his testimony for the second day, Witness 487 told the court that Kalenjin men armed with machetes and bows and arrows would question people who approached the path they were on. Based on the answer the unarmed people gave, they would be allowed to pass or be attacked. Witness 487 said he saw this happen to a drunken Kikuyu man. The witness said that the man is the only person he witnessed being killed because soon after seeing the killing he fled. He did not name in open court the location where this happened because that information would make it easy to identify him.
He also described how a group of Kalenjin men were on one bank of a river and a group of Kikuyu men and women, including him, were on the opposite bank. He said that the Kikuyu threw stones and whatever else they could pick from the ground. The Kalenjin men shot arrows at the Kikuyu, but neither side crossed the river.
Witness 487 did not name the river but said it divided an area he identified as location one on a protected information sheet. This is a sheet with numbers allocated to particular names to enable the witness testify in open court without giving away his identity. Like the witnesses who have testified before him, Witness 487 is narrating to the court his experience of what happened in 2007 and 2008 under protective measures, which include blurring his image in the ICC’s video stream and distorting his voice.
He told the court that his property was burned during the violence and all he was able to retrieve when he returned to his compound on January 4, 2008 were metallic objects. Among the metallic things he was able to recover was a welder machine he had purchased the previous year to start a new business. He estimated the total value of the property he lost at 600,000 shillings. Witness 487 told the court he later found out the identities of four Kalenjin men who were responsible for setting his property on fire.
Ruto’s lawyer David Hooper began cross-examining Witness 487 mid-morning on Wednesday. Hooper started his cross-examination by asking the witness to identify various locations around Eldoret town using a number of maps. In the afternoon session, Hooper asked the witness about a number of rallies he attended in Eldoret in the build-up to the 2007 elections, focusing on one that the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party held in December of that year.
Hooper asked Witness 487 several times about what he remembered of the speech made by Ruto, who was one of the top leaders of ODM at the time. The witness said that he remembered Ruto saying that the Kikuyu were to be put on a pick-up and taken back to Central. The Central the witness was referring was what used to be Central Province in Kenya, a region dominated by the Kikuyu. When Hooper pressed on this point, Witness 487 said that Ruto did not name the Kikuyu, but he used the word grabbers. Hooper read back to the witness a statement he recorded with the prosecution before the trial began in which he said that Ruto had referred to “those not satisfied with ODM’s leadership,” would be put on pick-ups and sent back to Central. At this point the witness explained that Ruto spoke in riddles, without directly naming the Kikuyu.
Part of Witness 487’s testimony was in private session to enable lawyers question him about information that could be used to identify him. He will continue his testimony tomorrow.