I was warned of attacks days before 2007 elections, says witness

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) two men warned him days before the 2007 election there were going to be attacks in his area.

Witness 423 told the court on Wednesday that one of the men who warned him belonged to the Nandi ethnic community. The witness did not say in open court what ethnicity the other man belonged to, but he may have told the court in one of the private sessions on Wednesday. Witness 423 is a Kikuyu. The Nandi are a sub-group of the Kalenjin ethnic group.

The witness said that one of the men even showed him bows and arrows that he said would be used in the attacks. Witness 423 also said he observed large rocks being transported to a neighbor’s house, and he saw young men between the ages of 18 and 30 breaking up the rocks into smaller ones. He said the neighbor was a Nandi as were the young men breaking the rocks. The witness told the court that in 1992 in the same area, Kalenjins stoned Kikuyus in the lead up to the elections that year.

Witness 423, like those before him, is testifying under protective measures that include his being given a pseudonym to be identified with in open court. His face and voice are distorted in the court’s video stream. Anyone in the public gallery cannot see him because there is a screen blocking their view of him. Whenever he enters or leaves the courtroom, the blinds on the window separating the courtroom from the public gallery are brought down, so only those present in the courtroom can see the witness. Whenever his answers touch on information that could make it easy to identify him, the presiding judge or the lawyer questioning him ask that portion of his testimony be heard in private session, which means the public is shut off from hearing what is being said. On Wednesday, a significant part of his testimony was heard in private session.

For much of Wednesday’s afternoon session, prosecution lawyer Lara Renton asked Witness 423 about a rally that took place in a forest called Kapseret. The witness did not attend the rally himself, but he was told about it by someone who did. He said it was a major campaign rally in the area in the lead up to the 2007 elections. Witness 423 told the court that he was told the main speaker at the rally was Deputy President William Samoei Ruto, who at the time was seeking re-election to the National Assembly. He said he was told other political leaders spoke at the rally and that words such as madoadoa were used to describe the Kikuyu. Madoadoa in Kiswahili means spots. He also said that speakers at the rally called for the Kikuyus to be chased out of the Rift Valley.

Renton repeatedly asked him if he knew whether the participants were told how this would be done, but the witness just repeated that he lost his property and his house was burnt after the 2007 elections. This area of questioning led Essa Faal, a member of Ruto’s legal team, to seek the court’s guidance. Faal argued that the questions went beyond what was in the statement Witness 423 had made to the prosecution ahead of the trial, so the prosecution was introducing new information into the case that the defense had not been notified about. Faal, however, also said that the defense would challenge the information when it is their turn to cross-examine the witness. Presiding Chile Eboe-Osuji allowed Renton to continue with the questions on the basis that the prosecution may have been laying the foundation for the witness to testify about what he saw or experienced.

Witness 423 will continue his examination-in-chief on Thursday.