Witness Tells Court He Believes Fires Were Planned

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he concluded that the fires in the North Rift region were planned and coordinated because the attackers stopped or started burning several homes and other property at same time.

Witness 405 told the court on Wednesday that attackers stopped burning homes around midnight on December 30, 2007, and then they resumed burning property around 11:00 the following morning. He said this is what led him to conclude that the burning of property was coordinated and planned.

The witness did not say in public where he witnessed these attacks to avoid identifying himself. Witness 405 is testifying in the trial of Deputy President William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang under court-ordered protective measures, which include him not giving information in public that may reveal his identity. Ruto and Sang each face three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the violence that followed the December 2007 presidential election in Kenya.

Trial lawyer Lorenzo Pugliatti finished his examination-in-chief of Witness 405 in the morning. Next in line to question the witness was Wilfred Nderitu, the lawyer representing victims. Most of Nderitu’s questioning was done in private session. However, in public Witness 405 told the court, in response to a question from Nderitu, that he had also experienced violence in 1992 and 1997 in the area he lived. This violence was between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, the witness explained. Kenya held elections in those two years.

David Hooper, who represents Ruto, then began cross-examining Witness 405 in the mid-morning. Hooper asked the witness whether he was aware that there was violence in other parts of Kenya at the same time there were attacks in Eldoret. The witness said yes but observed that the violence in other parts of Kenya was different from the violence in Eldoret. He said the violence in Eldoret appeared coordinated and planned while the violence elsewhere in the country was haphazard.

Hooper also asked Witness 405 whether he was aware that in Langas there had been a riot on December 29, 2007, a day before the results of the presidential election were declared. The witness said he did and that it was sparked by a confrontation between a Kikuyu and Luo. He did not state what provoked the confrontation. The witness added some people from where the confrontation took place came to where he lived and asked the Kikuyus to go to Langas to reinforce the others who were outnumbered by the Luos. The witness said the riot went on for most of the day, and two people were killed. He said one of them was Kikuyu and the other was a Luo.

Witness 405 told the court that he saw two decapitated heads on a road where other people had gathered. He said this was near or around a place called Kisumu Ndogo, which is located in the Langas area. When asked by Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, he said he was told by people in the crowd that the heads belonged to two Luo men. The witness explained that it was believed the men had been beheaded because some Luos were suspected of breaking into and looting shops belonging to Kikuyus. The witness said he did not know who carried out the beheadings.

Hooper asked the witness whether he remembered saying in his statement to the prosecution that other people told him about three other heads found on other roads. Witness 405 said he did not remember saying that in his statement. When Hooper asked him what he thought the purpose of displaying the heads on the roads was, the witness said he understood it to be a warning to Luos who were suspected of looting and destroying property belonging to Kikuyus.

Hooper concluded his cross-examination of the witness during the mid-morning session. Logan Hambrick, a lawyer for Sang, said she did not have any questions for the witness, and Pugliatti said he did not wish to re-examine the witness.

Judge Eboe-Osuji then asked the prosecution when the next witness was scheduled to appear in court. Senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg told the court that the next witness had some health problems and would not be able to travel before July 5. Steynberg said he expected the witness to be ready to start his testimony on July 10. He said this would be the last witness to testify in this session, which is scheduled to run until July 16.

Steynberg said there are two other witnesses the prosecution will be calling later, depending on the decision Trial Chamber V(a) makes on a submission the prosecution has filed. He said after that the only witnesses left for the prosecution to call are the eight who are the subject of a defense application to the Appeals Chamber. These are the witnesses the prosecution is seeking the court to compel to appear before it.


  1. I note the witness’s ability to categorize violence that took place in his absence whilst being unable to remember “three other heads found on the road.” recorded in his statement.

  2. I note the witness’s ability to categorize violence that took place in his absence whilst being unable to remember “three other heads found on the road.” recorded in his statement. Where are we heading?

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