Witness describes meetings in which Ruto was declared Kalenjin spokesman

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) about two meetings that took place in 2007 during which decisions were made on who the Kalenjin would support in that year’s election and who would be the community’s spokesman.

Today, Witness 356 described a meeting he attended that took place at the Eldoret home of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto. The witness also described another that took place at the Eldoret Sports Club. Witness 356 was not present at the Eldoret Sports Club meeting, but he described what he saw on a television news broadcast.

He said the main topic of the meeting at Ruto’s Eldoret home was whether to support the presidential candidate of the Orange Democratic Movement party, Raila Odinga, who was challenging the incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki. Witness 356 said that Ruto and another member of parliament, Franklin Bett, were among the leaders present who were against supporting Odinga’s candidacy.

Witness 356 said that other participants supported Odinga candidacy and claimed the majority of the Kalenjin shared their view. At the meeting they were trying to persuade Ruto and other leaders to change their minds, the witness told Trial Chamber V(a). He said he even told them that the Kalenjin people were already, figuratively speaking, on their way to Kisumu, the capital of the region Odinga comes from. The witness also told the court that Sang was the master of ceremonies at that meeting.

In November 2007 there was a meeting at the Eldoret Sports Club during which Ruto was declared the sole spokesman for the Kalenjin and designated the community’s “king,” the witness told the court. He said he saw the event on a Citizen TV news item.

The witness said soon after this meeting Sang told his listeners that Ruto had been selected as the Kalenjin’s spokesman and whatever he said the Kalenjin would follow. Witness 356 also said that he was a regular listener of Sang’s radio program, and he observed that politicians of all parties were invited to the show but were not treated the same.

He claimed Sang would insult politicians from Kibaki’s party on air after they had left the studio. The witness also said Sang used derogatory Kalenjin words to describe the Kikuyu. He said that even Kalenjin professionals who were not supporters of Ruto or the Orange Democratic Movement had bitter exchanges with Sang during his program. The witness said Sang only had positive things to say about the Orange Democratic Movement party and its leaders. At the time Sang hosted a morning talk show on Kass FM, a station that broadcasts in the Kalenjin language.

Towards the end of the day, trial lawyer Lucio Garcia played excerpts of a video of the Eldoret Sports Club meeting and asked the witness to identify some of the leaders present and confirm whether the translations of some of the speeches was correct.

At the beginning of the proceedings the judges issued an oral ruling declining to order the prosecution to give the defense the video of the preparation sessions the prosecution had with Witness 356. The judges said that the defense teams did not raise the legal basis for making such an order nor did they give concrete evidence to indicate that the witness may have been coached by the prosecution.

Witness 356 will continue testifying on Wednesday.