Defense lawyer challenges witness on his knowledge of Kalenjin

Today, a defense lawyer challenged a prosecution witness on his knowledge of the Kalenjin language and whether his translation was accurate of Kalenjin sentences he claimed were uttered by Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and a former cabinet minister during campaign rallies in 2007.

Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa, who is the lawyer for former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang, questioned Witness 409 about Kalenjin words he said meant remove and work. Kigen-Katwa was referring to two sentences the witness had said Ruto and Henry Kosgey, a former cabinet minister, spoke in Kalenjin that the witness interpreted to mean that the two leaders wanted the Kalenjin to evict non-Kalenjins from the Rift Valley.

One Kalenjin word Kigen-Katwa challenged the witness on was “kesich.” Witness 409 had stated that in five rallies he attended in the Nandi Hills area Kosgey and Ruto had said in Kalenjin, “Kimache kesich kelyek ab ketit,” which the witness translated to mean, “We want you to uproot the trees.” The witness had explained in earlier testimony that he understood the trees referred to non-Kalenjins who had come to the Rift Valley during the colonial period to work for the British who were living there.

Kigen-Katwa asked the witness whether kesich could mean to be born or to produce, and the witness agreed. Kigen-Katwa then asked the witness to say a child is born in Kalenjin, which the witness did using the word kesich. Kigen-Katwa then also asked the witness whether kesich could mean anything else. The witness said the word could also mean remove.

Another word that Kigen-Katwa challenged the witness on was “kazit.” During his earlier testimony, Witness 409 said he heard Ruto say in Kalenjin during the campaign rallies, “Kimache oai kazit komye ne kiagonin.” The witness translated this to mean, “I want you to do the work we gave you in the right way.” He explained that at the time he assumed Ruto was referring to how they will vote in the election, but he concluded that Ruto meant something different when the violence broke out.

Kigen-Katwa challenged the witness that kazit was not a Kalenjin word but a Swahili word for work. The Swahili word for work is “kazi,” without the “t”. Witness 409 insisted that he knew it is a Kalenjin word for work. Kigen-Katwa also asked whether there was another word for work in Kalenjin, to which the witness replied yes and said it was “boisyet.”

The day began with the lawyer for victims, Wilfred Nderitu, questioning the witness. Most of Nderitu’s examination of the witness was done in private session. When the court returned to open session, Judge Robert Fremr asked the witness why he continued attending the rallies after knowing that the speakers would be the same as the ones for the first rally, and they were likely to repeat what they had said. The witness said that he was born and lived in the Nandi Hills area, and he did not know anywhere else he could go.

Ruto’s lawyer, Karim Khan, began questioning the witness at the end of the day. He asked him about his knowledge of the Orange Democratic Movement party and why the witness supported it during the 2007 election. He also asked the witness whether he knew of another rally held at Nandi Hills stadium besides the one he attended. The witness said he only knew of the one he attended.

Witness 409 will continue testifying on Wednesday.