A witness described to the International Criminal Court (ICC) two incidents of arson she saw as she tried to keep her children and herself safe during violence that followed the announcement of the presidential results of the December 2007 election.
The first incident Witness 469 told the court about, she said occurred near a place called Joyland where she and about 200 Kikuyus had sought refuge. She said they were a mix of elderly, middle-aged people and children and they were protected by six police officers armed with guns.
Witness 469 is testifying in the trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang. Ruto and Sang are each on trial on three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the bloodshed that followed the December 2007 election.
In her testimony Friday, Witness 469 said she saw two groups of Kalenjin men gather at separate points before they converged to a location she identified as number four. She identified the location from a protected information sheet she, the lawyers and judges use to avoid giving out details that may identify her when she is testifying in open court.
Witness 469 is under protective measures to prevent her identify being revealed to the public. These measures include the pseudonym she is known by, Witness 469. She cannot be seen by anyone sitting in the public gallery of the court because there is a screen shielding her from view. And her face and voice are distorted on the court’s web stream.
The witness said that when the two groups converged, they started burning houses belonging to Kikuyus. She also said she could not see whether the men were carrying anything like weapons because she was at least 500 meters away from them. Witness 469 said the houses that were burnt were made of stone, some of wood and others of mud. She said the men went on burning the houses for about three hours and they did not torch any house belonging to non-Kikuyus.
Witness 469 said before the burning started the newly elected councillor for the Kimumu ward, Sammy Ruto, and the chief of Kimumu drove between two locations in a pick-up that had black containers in the back. She said they did this for about hour until the two groups of Kalenjin men converged to location four.
The witness said that as the burning of houses went on the police officers with them told them the security situation was deteriorating and everyone would have to take of themselves. She said eventually the police organised for a truck to transport them to the Eldoret police station. She said the truck did four trips between Joyland and the Eldoret police station.
On the way, the witness said, there were several road blocks where there were Kalenjin men and women. She said she did not remember how many road blocks there were but at each one the police officer had to get out of the truck to remove the materials used to block the road. She said as they passed each road block the Kalenjin women called them names in Swahili and both the Kalenjin men and women pelted the truck with stones. Witness 469 said she got on to the truck when it was making its third trip to the Eldoret police station.
Witness 469 said she remained at the police station with her children from December 31, 2007 to January 6, 2008. She said her and all but one of her children were then taken to the Eldoret showground where thousands of other displaced people had sought refuge. The witness said towards the end of January some Kalenjin men tried to burn down the showground but they were stopped before they could go far. She said they burnt a corner of the showground but the police caught them before the men could burn the tents where people sheltered.
In the afternoon, trial lawyer Lorenzo Pugliatti concluded his examination-in-chief of Witness 469 and the defense lawyers of Ruto and Sang began their cross-examination of the witness. Sang’s lawyer, Caroline Buisman, asked the witness whether she was sure the electoral commission had on December 29, 2007 put then President Mwai Kibaki ahead of his challenger Raila Odinga as results continued to be tallied. The witness insisted that was the case even after Buisman played her a recording of a live broadcast of the chairman of the electoral commission announcing that Odinga was ahead of Kibaki on that day.
Ruto’s lawyer, Leigh Lawrie, began her cross-examination towards the end of the day’s proceedings and most of it was in private session.
Witness 469 will continue testifying on Monday.