A defense lawyer challenged the testimony of Witness 508 at the International Criminal Court (ICC) that Kikuyus in the North Rift region of Kenya were never aggressors and acted only in self-defense when attacked during the violence that followed the December 2007 election.
Essa Faal, who represents Deputy President William Samoei Ruto, also told the court on Tuesday that the Mungiki criminal gang took part in the violence in the location where Witness 508 lived. The witness said he did not see them.
Witness 508 began his testimony on Monday and is the 14th witness to testify in the trial of Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. Ruto and Sang each face three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the bloodshed that followed the announcement of the presidential results the December 2007 poll.
Trial lawyer Alice Zago concluded her examination-in-chief of Witness 508 on Tuesday morning. She was followed by the lawyer representing the victims, Wilfred Nderitu. Most of his questioning took place in private session. Faal began cross-examining Witness 508 after Nderitu.
Before Faal began questioning the witness, Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji asked him whether it was necessary to do so because since the witness had not mentioned Ruto during his testimony. Faal explained that it was part of the defense strategy to question the witness.
“Some of the issues that the witness testified about seem to confirm the prosecution’s theory of the case. It is important to put an alternative narrative to what has happened,” Faal elaborated.
Eboe-Osuji asked Faal to proceed but cautioned him not to question the witness for a full day as Faal had indicated earlier. Eboe-Osuji explained he was giving this directive because it was the judges’ duty to manage the case as much as it was the defense team’s choice to cross-examine a witness irrespective of whether that witness had mentioned their client.
Faal asked Witness 508 about the administrative structure of government in Kenya from the village upwards as it existed in 2007. He also asked the witness about the individuals who were assistant chief and chief in different districts of Eldoret. He questioned the witness on his statement made to the prosecution and when it was he made changes to it. He also questioned the witness about the rumours that circulated around the time the election results were trickling.
Witness 508 did acknowledge he made some changes and clarifications to his statement but Faal did not question him about any of the changes he made. The witness told the court that he was not aware of any rumours that were circulating as the elections results were being tallied in 2007.
It is after these sets of questions that Faal challenged Witness 508 on his testimony.
“Are you aware of any instances where Kikuyus in fact attacked their neighbours?” Faal asked.
“There is no incident where Kikuyus attacked their neighbours. They only defended their property,” Witness 508 replied.
Faal then asked the witness whether he was aware that in a place called Langas, which is near Eldoret town, Kikuyus attacked some people from the Luhya and Luo ethnic groups, beheaded some of them and put their heads on sticks. He also asked Witness 508 whether he was aware that in another place called Munyaka, Kikuyus attacked people from the Kalenjin ethnic group and burnt their homes. Faal also questioned the witness about Kikuyus attacking Luos and Luhyas in Huruma and forcibly expelling them to an area called Kipkelion. To each of these questions, Witness 508 answered he was not aware.
It was after this that Faal asked Witness 508 whether he knew that in his location the Mungiki criminal gang took part in the violence. The witness replied he did not see them. Mungiki is a group made up of mainly young Kikuyu men that was formed in the 1990s. It began as a group promoting and reviving Kikuyu traditions but has since transformed into a criminal gang. The role of Mungiki is one of the areas of focus of the separate Kenya case at the ICC against President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.
Faal also asked Witness 508 about whether he knew that two Kikuyu individuals in his location had G3 rifles and used them during the violence. The witness said he did not know. He also said that he did not see any machetes used by Kikuyus in his location as they tried to defend themselves against Kalenjin attackers.
“Are you trying to diminish Kikuyu involvement and role in this violence?” Faal later asked him.
“I am not trying to,” the witness replied.
When Faal concluded his cross-examination, Sang’s lawyer, Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa, said he had no questions for the witness. Zago also said she did not wish to re-examine the witness.
Witness 508 completed his testimony on Tuesday. The court took a break on Wednesday to allow the ICC’s Victims and Witnesses Unit complete its processing of the next witness.
The trial is scheduled to resume on Thursday.