Witness Talks of Protests Against Allegations of Vote Rigging Ahead of 2007 Poll

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) allegations of vote rigging ahead of the December 2007 presidential election sparked demonstrations in Eldoret a day before the poll.

Witness 405 also told the court on Tuesday the allegations of vote rigging consisted of claims that there were ballot papers already marked in favor of President Mwai Kibaki that were going to be stuffed in ballot boxes on voting day. Kibaki and his Party of National Unity faced a challenge from Raila Odinga and the Orange Democratic Movement party (ODM). Eldoret was one of the strongholds of the ODM in the 2007 election.

Hearings resumed on Tuesday with the beginning of testimony from Witness 405. There was no hearing on Monday in the trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former 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 December 2007 presidential poll.

Witness 405 said that on the evening of December 26, 2007 he passed people gathered around a milk storage facility, and some of them told him they wanted to burn down the facility because they had heard pre-marked ballot papers were being kept there. It is unclear whether the witness saw the facility being set on fire because trial lawyer Lorenzo Pugliatti asked some of the questions concerning the incident in private session.

The witness did say the milk storage facility belonged to Brookside Dairies. Brookside is a company owned by the family of President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta. At the time of the 2007 election Kenyatta backed Kibaki in his bid for reelection. Kenyatta is facing a separate trial at the ICC for his alleged role in the violence that followed that election.

Witness 405 also described seeing roadblocks in Eldoret on December 26, 2007. He said they were laid by demonstrators protesting the alleged preparations to stuff ballot boxes with ballot papers already marked in favor of Kibaki. He said stalls thrown on the ground formed the roadblocks. The witness said there was no one controlling the roadblocks. He said most of the demonstrators were young people, and the majority of them were Kalenjin.

The witness testified that he heard there are demonstrators who went to make a complaint about the allegations of pre-marked ballot papers at the main police station in Eldoret, and Ruto was with them.

The following day, which was when voters cast their ballots, went without incident, Witness 405 said.

Earlier the witness told the court that in mid-2006 he attended a ceremony during which Ruto was made an elder of the Kalenjin. He said number of members of parliament and traditional leaders of the Kalenjin attended the meeting.

Witness 405 described hiding in the bushes when violence erupted after the declaration of the presidential results on December 30, 2007. He also described some of the violence he saw, but a lot of this testimony was done in private session.

Witness 405 will continue testifying on Wednesday.

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