A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) Kalenjin elders held a cleansing ceremony for Kalenjin youths who had participated in attacks following the declaration of results in the December 2007 presidential election.
Witness 800 told the court on Wednesday the ceremony was held because according to Kalenjin tradition anyone who had taken part in violence needed to be cleansed or else they would be cursed. The witness said he took part in the ceremony.
“All the youths in my village were to attend the same ceremony, and I did not want people to speculate that I was not part of what took place [the attacks] because they would have come for me later,” the witness said, explaining why he attended the ceremony even though he did not participate in the attacks.
Witness 800 said the ceremony took place in May 2008 in Nabkoi forest. He said about 3,000 youths took part in the ceremony, and it lasted about four hours. Witness 800 said at the end of the ceremony each of them received 300 shillings. He said the money was paid by Farouk Kibet, who said he was sent by William Samoei Ruto to distribute the money.
Ruto is on trial at the ICC along with former journalist Joshua arap Sang. They each face three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the bloodshed that occurred between December 2007 and February 2008. During that time Ruto was a member of parliament for Eldoret North and a key leader of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement party. Today he is Kenya’s deputy president.
On Tuesday, Witness 800 had told the chamber about a meeting addressed by Kibet in the lead up to the 2007 elections. When senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg asked him who Kibet was, the witness said he knew him as someone who has been close to Ruto for many years and at present worked as Ruto’s personal assistant.
During the May 2008 cleansing ceremony, Witness 800 said Kibet told the gathering that he had a message from Ruto.
“He said Mr. Ruto was happy from the unity that the people showed during the violence and the unity they had during the hard time that was there during that period and that he had been sent with a little cash to pay as a sign of thanks to the community,” said the witness.
“Who had sent that cash?” asked Steynberg.
“Mr Ruto, your honor,” replied the witness.
Witness 800 said that during the ceremony he saw a bull being slaughtered and its intestines cut into small pieces and mixed with blood. He said the elders and some people selected from among the youth threw those pieces away as the elders said words to chase away any curses.
The witness also generally spoke about Kass FM being used to incite the Kalenjin against the Kikuyu. The details of how, according to the witness, Kass FM broadcast inciting information were given in private session.
Witness 800 also talked about a telephone call he received that made him contact ICC investigators and write a statement. The call was made by someone identified by the pseudonym person number 22.
There was a discussion between Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, Steynberg, and one of Ruto’s lawyers, Shyamala Alagendra, about whether the witness could be questioned in open session about the conversation with person 22. During this discussion Steynberg said that person 22 already knew who Witness 800 was and that he was testifying at the ICC, so there was no need to ask questions in private session. Judge Eboe-Osuji said that despite that, other people who may know person 22 may be able to deduce from the questions and answers the identity of Witness 800. He ruled the questions will be asked in private session.
This discussion took place during the session that follows the morning break. For the rest of the day Witness 800 testified in private session.
Witness 800 will continue his testimony on Thursday.