A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) that a former cabinet minister spoke in code during a campaign rally ahead of the 2007 election, asking the Kalenjin to remove non-Kalenjins from the Rift Valley region.
Witness 409 said on Thursday that Henry Kosgey, the member of parliament of the constituency that covers the Nandi Hills area, said this at a rally at Nandi Hills stadium. The witness said Kosgey spoke in Kalenjin at the rally saying that the Kalenjin do not want trees brought by the whites. The witness said that most of the crowd cheered when Kosgey said this.
Witness 409 is only referred to by his pseudonym because he is testifying under protective measures. These measures include a screen blocking him from view of the public gallery. His voice and face are also distorted on the court’s video stream to further protect his identity.
According to witness 409, the trees Kosgey referred to were Kikuyus, Kisiis, Luhyas, and Luos who worked in the homes of the British living in the Rift Valley during the colonial times.
The witness also said Kosgey told the crowd in Kalenjin that they had allowed grass to get even into their homes. Kosgey meant that non-Kalenjins had bought land in the Rift Valley, said the witness.
The prosecution had brought charges against Kosgey together with Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. The charges against Kosgey were dropped in January 2012 when judges concluded that the prosecution failed to show it had substantial evidence against Kosgey.
Kosgey’s name has featured before, but Thursday was the first time a witness had alleged in open court he spoke in code calling for the removal of non-Kalenjins from the Rift Valley region. Kosgey was a long-standing cabinet minister and member of parliament before he retired from politics last year.
The witness said Ruto spoke at the rally at the Nandi Hills stadium. He said that Ruto spoke in Kiswahili and asked the crowd to vote as a bloc and vote for Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) candidates. The witness said that Ruto later switched to Kalenjin and repeated what Kosgey had said.
Ruto’s lawyer, Karim Khan, objected to this, saying prosecutor Lorenzo Pugliatti should just ask the witness what Ruto said in Kalenjin. He also objected to Pugliatti asking the witness to start by translating into Kiswahili what Ruto said.
Khan said the prosecutor should ask the witness to state in Kalenjin what Ruto said and then translate it into Kiswahili. Pugliatti said that he began with the Kiswahili translation of what Ruto said in Kalenjin so the examination-in-chief would be smooth.
Witness 409 is testifying in Kiswahili, with a court interpreter translating what he is saying in English or French. Anything said in Kalenjin has to be first stated and each word spelled out for the court’s record and then translated.
Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji said the Kalenjin words first or the Kiswahili translation first was permissible.
The witness said in Kalenjin what he said he heard Ruto say at the rally and then the day’s hearing came to end.
Witness 409 will continue testifying on Friday.