Witness describes four-day attack in Yamumbi

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that groups of men attacked an area called Yamumbi for four days after the results of the December 2007 presidential poll were announced, setting hundreds of homes on fire and killing many people.

Witness 423, who spoke in Kiswahili, told the court on Thursday that homes burned down belonged to Kikuyus and many of the people killed were also Kikuyus. He said the attackers were from the Nandi ethnic group, which is a sub-group of the larger Kalenjin ethnic group. Yamumbi is located in the greater Eldoret area in the Rift Valley region. Eldoret is one of the key towns in that region. Witness 423 told the court that the attacks began soon after the presidential results were broadcast on December 30, 2007.

He said that the attackers were transported to Yamumbi in large open lorries, and they began setting fire to the houses one night at around eight o’clock. The witness said that during the first night about 10 houses were burned. The following day he estimated that about 300 houses were burned. He said his house was among the ones burned at night. He managed to get his wife and children out, and they fled into a nearby forest. Witness 423 said he remained behind, hiding so that he could not be seen during the night attack.

Witness 423 told the court he saw a neighbor during the attacks who was guiding the attackers because he knew the area well. He identified the neighbor as number six on the protected information sheet that the prosecution provided to him. As the witness is testifying in anonymity, he has been provided with a protected information sheet that has numbers against the names of people he knows. The sheet is used for him to testify in open court without naming people close to him and to protect his identity. Witness 423 said that he recognized other people during the attack but their names were not on the protected information sheet. The rest of his testimony about the identity of the attackers continued in private session.

The witness also said that he saw his cows being driven towards the compound of a rich man called Maiyo who lived near Yamumbi, and police officers escorted the men who had taken his cows. He said he had heard that those policemen were sent to protect Maiyo’s farm and home by William Samoei Ruto, who at the time was a member of parliament. Ruto is now Kenya’s deputy president and is one of the accused facing charges at the ICC for his alleged role in the violence that followed the December 2007 presidential poll.

Witness 423 told the court that the police were present in Yamumbi every day during the attacks. He said they shot in the air, and this made the Kikuyu homeowners in the area run away in fear. The attackers then moved in to burn the homes, and the policemen moved to another area. When prosecution lawyer Lara Renton asked what ethnicity the policemen were from, Witness 423 said he did not know but heard two of them speak in Nandi, a language the witness said he also understands though he is a Kikuyu.

He also told the court that he regularly called policemen he knew to ask them what was going on. Their reply was, “We had requested for work to continue,” the witness said. The then President Mwai Kibaki’s campaign slogan during the 2007 election was a Kiswahili phrase, “Kazi iendelea,” which in English means, “let the work continue.” Renton asked the witness which people the police were referring to when they said, “We had requested for work to continue,” and he replied the police meant the Kikuyu. Kibaki is a Kikuyu.

Witness 423 told the court that he saw an old man being killed during the day as the man tried to put out the fire that was consuming his house. The witness explained that he saw what happened because he was some distance away with other Kikuyu men. He said they stayed out of range of the arrows that the attackers had used to kill people. The witness said the attackers he saw killing the old men hacked him into small pieces. He also said that some of the attackers carried guns.

He told the court that he saw a man who owned an expensive home in the area killed. Witness 423 said that the man had been in town and returned with police me to try and recover some of his property. The witness said that the man had paid the police to protect him, but when they arrived at his home, the attackers were already there and hacked the man in the presence of the policemen. He said the man was taken away by a driver in a very poor state, with his intestines spewing out.

Essa Faal, one of Ruto’s lawyers, began cross-examining Witness 423 in the afternoon. Most of that testimony was in private session. The witness will continue testifying Friday.