Deputy President William Samoei Ruto’s lawyer challenged a witness on his recollection of statements Ruto made during the 2005 constitutional referendum and on the eve of voting day in the December 2007 elections.
Shyamala Alagendra also questioned Witness 800 in some detail on Monday about his relationship with a particular investigator working for the International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) Office of the Prosecutor, who was not named in open session.
The trial of Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang has been ongoing since September last year. Both Ruto and Sang are charged with three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the bloodshed the followed the December 2007 elections.
During the mid-morning session Alagendra questioned Witness 800 about his testimony on November 17. The witness testified that during one campaign event of the 2005 referendum, Ruto had said he could still see white mushrooms in the area and they should be uprooted. The witness had said he understood Ruto’s comments to mean the Kikuyus in the area should be expelled because many of the Kikuyus where he lived go to churches where they are required to wear white headscarves or turbans.
On Monday, Alagendra played a video of a church procession of men and women wearing white headscarves or caps. She asked the witness whether he recognized which group the people belonged to. He said the Divine Church. The witness explained that although members of the Divine Church are Kalenjin and Luhya, he understood Ruto to mean only the Kikuyus when he talked of white mushrooms because Kikuyus were expected to vote in favor of the draft constitution in the 2005 referendum. At the time, Ruto was a key member of the Kenyan African National Union political party that was opposed to the draft constitution.
After this testimony, Alagendra corrected the witness and said the people in the video were members of the Africa Israel Church, and the members of this church were mainly Luo and Luhya. Witness 800 said that in his area the members would be predominantly Luhya.
Alagendra took the witness through a report on the referendum campaigns of 2005 by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Kenya Human Rights Commission that listed individuals the two organizations had determined made speeches that warranted them being charged for incitement under Kenyan laws. The witness noted that Ruto was not named in that list. He also noted that Ruto was not named in a list of individuals whom the two organizations had determined had made statements that amounted to hate speech. Alagendra said that the only list Ruto appeared on was for making gender insensitive speech, constituting derogating women.
Alagendra then began a new line of inquiry, questioning whether the witness was at the Eldoret police station on December 26, 2007 as he said in testimony he gave on November 18. Alagendra said that the defense conceded that Ruto was at the police station on December 26, 2007 and that he addressed the crowd. She challenged Witness 800, however, on whether Ruto told the crowd about doing to the Kikuyu what they did to witches.
She said when Ruto talked to the crowd he sought to calm them down and assured them that the leadership of Orange Democratic Movement party was aware of the rumors of rigging. Witness 800 said that was not all Ruto said. He said Ruto did not speak of witches in Swahili or English, but it is when he addressed the crowd in Kalenjin that he talked of witches.
“Sir, I put it to you that in any language Mr. Ruto did not say the word witches,” said Alagendra.
“It’s wrong,” answered the witness.
Alagendra then showed the witness handwritten notes of a monitor of the Kenya Human Rights Commission who was present that day at the Eldoret police station, which made no mention of Ruto talking of witches. She also showed him a newspaper report of Ruto’s address at the Eldoret police station reflecting the same. Witness 800 stuck to his previous testimony that Ruto spoke of witches.
At the beginning of the day, Alagendra spent the first session asking Witness 800 about the close relationship he had with a particular investigator. She read a series of excerpts from an investigator’s report provided by the prosecution and asked the witness several questions on those excerpts. The witness said he considered the investigator in question a friend as he did all the other investigators he has interacted with.
One of the excerpts Alagendra read out was of an interview the investigator conducted with the witness about 12 days before the Ruto and Sang trial began in September last year. In the excerpt, the investigator expresses his disappointment at the witness having been unreachable a little earlier just as the prosecution is preparing for the opening of the trial. The witness explains in the excerpt that the people he dealt in trying to handle his concerns were too slow to give him feedback, which is why he disappeared. The investigator then explains to him that if that was the case he should have gotten in touch with people at the ICC headquarters because some of the individuals in the field did not have decision making powers.
Following that conversation, the witness’s wife contacted one of the field officers who sent an email on August 30, 2013 to the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) informing them that the wife wanted to be given money for rent and sustenance, according to the excerpts Alagendra read. The VWU wrote back that she should not be given anything. The wife’s name was not given in open session.
The report Alagendra read in court noted that when the witness’s wife received the response from the VWU, the witness sent a text message to the investigator he had been dealing with. It read, “Bye bye forever. You have been good to us.” Alagendra asked the witness whether it was on that day, August 30, 2013, that he signed an affidavit to recant his testimony. He said it was not that day but sometime after his conversation with the investigator.
Witness 800 will continue testifying on Tuesday.