A witness described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) how she slept in the bush outside someone’s compound and at a police station as she tried to flee violence that erupted after the presidential results of the December 2007 election were declared.
Witness 442 narrated to the court how she and her children escaped the violence near her home on January 1, 2008 and what she saw and experienced as she eventually was taken to the Eldoret showground after spending three days at the Kapsabet police station. As she told the court about her arrival at the Eldoret showground, Witness 442 broke down.
Witness 442 told the court on January 1, 2008, she and other women saw two houses being torched. She said they hid in the bush when the second house burned down. While hiding in the bush, she told the court that one person they were with contacted someone else, who was in an another area, to find out where it would be safe to go to.
The witness testified that when it got dark, around 7 or 8 p.m., they left their hiding place and went to the house of someone they knew. She identified the house as number seven on a protected information sheet she had. The sheet is used so that a witness who is being identified by pseudonym and using other protective measures does not reveal any identifying information. Witness 442 said that the children slept inside the house, and the adults slept outside. She said she only slept there for one night because the owner, whom she identified as number 10 on the protected information sheet, said he had been warned that his home would be set on fire if he continued to provide them with shelter.
Witness 442 told the court that on January 2, 2008 she returned to her home to get some things for her children, but that night she slept in the bush. She said she did not witness any violence, but there was a lot of tension.
The witness said that during the day of January 3, 2008 she learned people who were fleeing the violence were gathering at the home of person number six to wait for a vehicle to take them to Kapsabet police station. She said when she got there, she found no one. Later, someone called her, the witness said, informing her they were coming to collect her. When the vehicle got to where she was, the driver asked to be paid, said Witness 442. She said she did not have money so was left behind together with others who also did not have money.
Eventually, another vehicle was arranged to collect them. She said that they passed three road blocks on their way to the Kapsabet police station, and at one road block the policeman who was driving them had to fire in the air to chase away the young men who were controlling it. Witness 442 said that the young men, whom she said were Kalenjin, did not want to allow them to pass unless they paid them money. The witness said they got to Kapsabet police station after about four hours, and she slept there. She estimated there were as many as 4,500 people who had sought refuge there. She said most of the people were Kikuyus, Luhyas, or Kambas.
Witness 442 said that on January 4, 2008, victims arrived at the police station with machete wounds and arrow wounds. She said one of them narrated how he hid in a hole in a tea plantation as others fled attackers. He told Witness 442 he was helped out of the hole and then cut with machetes. He said his attackers left him for dead. He also said that they used dogs to track those hiding in the plantation. Witness 442 said the man had wounds on his arm and his head.
She said she stayed at the Kapsabet police station for three days. The witness said all of those seeking refuge were asked to write down where they would feel safe. She told the court that she wrote Nairobi, however, she said she ended up at Eldoret showground.
Witness 442 said they were taken there in a government vehicle and escorted by armed police. She said they passed eight road blocks that were controlled by young Kalenjin men, and, in some cases, there were women standing on one side. She described how some of the road blocks had a fire in the middle of the road and stones stacked up on either side of the road in order to prevent any vehicle passing on the side. She also said the young men were armed with clubs, bows and arrows, and machetes.
At some of the road blocks, Witness 442 testified, the men wore trousers that were folded up the right leg. She said she later learned from other displaced people at the Eldoret showground that this was one of the ways the attackers identified each other. The witness said that as they passed some of the road blocks some of the men shouted at them, calling them snakes and telling them that their final destination was Othaya. This is a reference to the constituency of then President Mwai Kibaki, who is a Kikuyu. The witness said that the women also shouted at them, calling them black snakes.
Earlier in her testimony, the witness said she asked the Kalenjin who supported Kibaki’s Party of National Unity in Kapsabet why their homes were not burned down. She said they told her they were forced to give three bulls, two cows, and some sheep to the attackers so that their homes would be spared.
She also said that one of the accused in the case, Joshua arap Sang, told listeners on Kass FM, the Kalenjin language radio station he worked for, that Kisumu and Kakamega had done well. She said Sang announced this on January 1, 2008 in reference to people protesting the presidential results in those towns. The witness said Sang wondered why the Kalenjin were staying home when their rights had been trampled on.
Sang is on trial for his alleged role in the violence that followed the December 2007 elections. He is facing, together with Deputy President William Samoei Ruto, three counts of crimes against humanity.
Witness 442 will continue testifying Thursday.