Today, the trial of William Samoei Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang resumed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) after a six week break. In the first hearing since October 6, a witness told the ICC that Ruto called for the expulsion of the Kikuyu from part of the Rift Valley region ahead of a 2005 referendum on a draft constitution.
Witness 800 said he heard Ruto make this call on October 1, 2005 during a meeting attended by more than 1,000 people, including members of parliament. The witness identified the venue of the meeting in open court as location nine. Witness 800 is testifying under court-ordered protective measures that include using pseudonyms for the witness, people close to the witness, locations, and organizations.
At the time of the 2005 referendum referred to by Witness 800, Ruto was a member of parliament and a key leader of the opposition party, the Kenya National African Union. Today Ruto is Kenya’s deputy president.
Ruto and Sang are on trial on three counts of crimes against humanity each for their alleged roles in the violence that followed the December 2007 presidential election.
Witness 800 told the court on Monday that when Ruto called for the expulsion of the Kikuyu, he did so while speaking in code in Kalenjin. The witness said Ruto told the October 1, 2005 meeting he could see there were still white mushrooms in location nine, and he wanted them uprooted or eaten. The witness explained that he understood the white mushrooms Ruto referred to to mean the Kikuyu because many Kikuyus in the area wore white turbans on their heads as prescribed by the church they followed.
The witness said that the Kikuyu who were at the meeting were not happy with Ruto’s pronouncement. He also said the Kalenjin in attendance approved and applauded what Ruto said. Witness 800 said he thought Ruto made the call because the Kikuyu were expected to vote for the draft constitution that the Kalenjin opposed. He also said that most Kalenjin believed the Kikuyu had taken their lands and controlled the economy and were now seeking political control through the draft constitution.
The witness’s testimony stopped there because he began testifying on Monday afternoon. He has a lawyer present in court to advise him in case his testimony incriminates him. The earlier part of the day was taken up with preliminary issues that the judges and lawyers addressed in private session.
Witness 800 will continue testifying on Tuesday.