Witness clarifies he did not say attackers had guns

A witness clarified to the International Criminal Court (ICC) that no attackers carried or used guns during a four-day attack in Yamumbi, a statement that had been mistranslated in his testimony the previous day.

The issue came up as Essa Faal continued his cross-examination of Witness 423 on Friday. Faal, who represents Deputy President William Samoei Ruto in the case, had sought to confirm whether the witness had seen the Nandi attackers carrying guns and other weapons during their attacks. The witness did not understand the question and asked Faal to repeat it. Witness 423 is testifying in Kiswahili, so there are interpreters who translate the questions that are asked in English into Kiswahili for him. Similarly, the witness’ testimony is translated into English.

Philemon Koech, one of the lawyers representing former radio presenter Joshua arap Sang in the case, stood up to explain that the translators were confusing the Kiswahili word for weapons that the witness was using with the Kiswahili word for gun, or bunduki. Using Koech’s advice, Faal then asked the witness whether when he said the Nandi attackers had guns he was referring to bunduki. The witness replied no. Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji followed up and asked the witness whether he observed at any time in 2007 whether the assailants he described as Nandi attackers used bunduki. The witness replied no.

This is not the first time that there has been a problem with the Kiswahili interpretation in the court. When other witnesses who only speak Kiswahili have appeared before the court the Kenyan lawyers present have had to interject on occasion to offer the correct translation. Friday’s interjection by Koech, however, was not simply about the correct word. The mistranslation had altered the witness’ testimony.

Friday’s hearing went on until lunch time and then the court adjourned to take a recess. Before breaking for recess, Faal sought clarification from the witness about his recollection of the deaths he referred to on Thursday. He challenged the witness about whether he saw one of the victims disemboweled because according to the death certificate, the man in question died of cardiac arrest and only cuts to his head were recorded. Trial lawyer Lara Renton stood up to say that the prosecution did not contest the date given on the death certificate. Faal said that he would not pursue that line of question because the prosecution had conceded that point, but he also observed that there was nothing to support the witness’ statement that the man had been disemboweled.

Faal also asked the witness whether he knew about violence in Langas, which is also in the greater Eldoret area and borders Yamumbi. The witness said he did not. Faal asked the witness why he did not leave Yamumbi before the violence started when he was warned it would happen. The witness said he did not take any steps to leave Yamumbi with his wife and children, but he also sought to explain why he took that decision. The court went into private session to hear his reasons. Faal ended his cross-examination of Witness 423 just before lunch. Sang’s legal team did not have any questions for the witness and the prosecution did not wish to re-examine him.

Judge Eboe-Osuji said that the court would adjourn until November 21. He said the judges decided to allow Ruto not be present in court on November 21. This is after his lawyers applied that, in case the judges decided the trial would resume on November 18, then they should allow Ruto to be absent until November 21. David Hooper, another member of Ruto’s legal team, said that President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta is scheduled to attend a joint summit of African Union and the Arab League leaders set for November 19 and 20 in Kuwait. Hooper argued that because of the constitutional condition that the president and his deputy cannot be absent from the country at the same time, the court should allow Ruto to be absent from trial until Kenyatta returns to Kenya from Kuwait. Judge Eboe-Osuji said that the judges will give their reasons for granting Ruto a one-day excusal later.