A witness told International Criminal Court (ICC) judges that one day before Kenyans voted in the December 2007 elections, William Samoei Ruto told a crowd in Eldoret town the Kikuyu should leave town.
On Friday, Witness 658 said Ruto made this statement in an impromptu address to supporters of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party after they had searched for ballot papers that allegedly would be used in rigging the election. The witness said this impromptu address took place near a bridge over the Sosiani River, which is just outside the center of Eldoret town. He said Ruto gave the speech after searches were conducted at the Eldoret police station and the Brookside Dairy’s branch just outside the town center.
At the time he made the address Ruto was campaigning to be reelected the member of parliament for Eldoret North and was a key campaigner in the Rift Valley region for ODM’s presidential candidate, Raila Odinga. Now, Ruto is Kenya’s deputy president. He is on trial at the ICC for his alleged role in the violence that followed that election. Ruto is charged with three counts of crimes against humanity. His co-accused is former journalist Joshua arap Sang who also faces the same charges.
Witness 658 continued where he left off the previous day, narrating what happened on December 26, 2007. When the day’s proceedings ended on Thursday, he had told the court about Ruto leading a search for a vehicle belonging to a transport company called Mololine that was parked at the Eldoret police station. The witness said the search was prompted by Joshua arap Sang announcing on Kass FM that ballot papers that would be used in rigging the election would be brought into town in a Mololine vehicle or a vehicle belonging to another transport company, Citi Hoppa. Both transport companies are owned by Kikuyus.
Witness 658 told the court on Friday that the crowd that had gathered at the Eldoret police station was not convinced when Ruto told them there was nothing in the Mololine vehicle. He said they then moved to the Brookside Dairy’s Eldoret branch because it was rumored the ballot papers could be there. Brookside Dairy is owned by President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta’s family, who are Kikuyus. Kenyatta faces charges in a separate case at the ICC for his alleged role in the violence that followed the 2007 election.
The witness said when the crowd got to Brookside Dairy, some of them poured milk to the ground from containers they suspected hid the ballot papers. He said others went into the dairy’s compound and conducted a search. Witness 658 said he did not know where they went to search inside because he stayed outside the dairy’s compound. He told the court that those who went inside returned to tell the crowd that they found nothing hidden there. He also said Ruto and another member of parliament, Henry Kosgey, who was also ODM’s national chairman, just stood outside and did not participate in any search.
Witness 658 said after this the crowd walked back to the town center. He told the court that it was on the way back that Ruto addressed the crowd close to a hotel called Shakers. He said Ruto spoke using a loudspeaker that was on top of a vehicle that had followed the crowd. On Thursday, the witness told the court that the vehicle, a Nissan Patrol, was Ruto’s, and he knew this because he had seen Ruto being driven in it several times.
The witness said Ruto spoke in Swahili and told the crowd that in a few days “we” would be in State House, referring to the official residence of Kenya’s president. The witness told the court that Ruto continued, stating that all tribes supported ODM except one community. He said Ruto asked the crowd, which one, and they responded Kikuyu. The witness said it was after this that Ruto talked of the Kikuyu leaving Eldoret.
“All of them we shall put them in one pick up, the Kikuyus, and send to Othaya,” said Witness 658, stating what he recalled Ruto said on December 26, 2007. Othaya is the constituency that was represented by then President Mwai Kibaki, who is a Kikuyu and who was seeking reelection that year.
Witness 658 said when Ruto finished his speech, he went away as did Kosgey. The witness said that the crowd continued to the town center. There some of the men in the crowd blocked some of the town’s streets for the rest of the day, while others ran around town.
The witness concluded his testimony about events on December 26, 2007, and trial lawyer Lucio Garcia started questioning him on other issues. Witness 658 talked about the vote counting process concerning a contest for councillorship that he followed. He said a Kikuyu woman called Jane Wangui was leading throughout the count, but in the end a Kalenjin man, whom he named by only one name, Kiptum, was declared the winner. Witness 658 said he was told by other people that Ruto ordered the returning officer to declare Kiptum the winner, and if Wangui wanted she could challenge the result in court. The rest of Witness 658’s testimony was in private session.
The day began with the lawyers and judges discussing the schedule up to December 12, when the trial is scheduled to adjourn until the new year. This discussion took up an hour of the morning session, and most of it took place in private session.
Witness 658 will continue testifying on Monday.