Witness Says Sang Advocated Peace but Also Incited the Kalenjin Against the Kikuyu

A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) Joshua arap Sang used to broadcast messages of peace and advocate for the Kalenjin to coexist with people from other ethnic groups, while also broadcasting messages inciting the Kalenjin against the Kikuyu.

Witness 800 said this while being cross-examined by Sang’s lawyer, Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa on Wednesday. Kigen-Katwa spent much of the day playing a selection of radio broadcasts featuring Sang and other radio presenters while asking the witness to confirm the nature of the broadcasts or whether he heard them before.

Sang was the star presenter of Kass FM, a radio station that broadcasts in the Kalenjin language. He is on trial on three counts of crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the violence that followed the December 2007 presidential poll. His co-accused is Deputy President William Samoei Ruto, who also faces three counts of crimes against humanity.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, it emerged that Witness 800 regularly listened to Kass FM between 2005 and 2012. Following on that, at one point Kigen-Katwa asked the witness whether he heard Sang explicitly ask the Kalenjin to coexist with other ethnic groups.

The witness said yes, but he went on to elaborate, saying he heard Sang call on the Kalenjin to live with others but also incite them against others.

“So the Sang of the right part that he was speaking clearly on air, would speak on coexistence, the need to stop the war and so forth. But when he turns to be the Sang of the idioms that has a hidden meaning then you will get a different message,” said Witness 800.

During the second session of Wednesday’s proceedings, Kigen-Katwa asked Witness 800 about a Kalenjin song called “Kimi beek kwenet,” which translates to mean “we are in the middle of the sea.” He questioned Witness 800 about it because the witness had told the prosecution in his statement that Sang frequently played this song on his show on Kass FM to incite Kalenjins against the Kikuyu.

Kigen-Katwa asked the witness whether in the song’s lyrics there was any mention of Kalenjins or Kikuyus. The witness said no. Kigen-Katwa asked the witness whether in the lyrics there is mention of Kenya or any other country. The witness said there isn’t. Kigen-Katwa asked whether in the song there was mention of HIV/AIDS. The witness said in the part of the song he knows there is no mention of it.

After several other questions along the same line, Kigen-Katwa then had portions of an 11-minute video of the song played. In the portions he played there was mention of other African countries, HIV/AIDS, and other things in Kalenjin. After each section of the song he played, Kigen-Katwa read out a translation of the lyrics, which the witness accepted is what the singer was singing about. (The song can be heard here.)

Kigen-Katwa asked the witness whether after listening to the song at length he still maintained he had listened to the song. The witness said yes. He said that on Kass FM the song was not played in full, and only parts of it were played.

“My testimony is about the hidden meaning and how that song was used at that time. I have no problem with your translation,” Witness 800 said.

Earlier, Witness 800 had explained that he understood the chorus of the song, “we are in the middle of the sea” to have a hidden meaning. He said the “we” referred to the Kalenjin and the song meant that the Kalenjin will remain in the middle of the sea unless they took the power that was at the other end of the sea. He said he understood the song to also be saying that the Kalenjin were being kept in the middle of the sea by non-Kalenjin groups.

At the end of the day’s proceedings, senior trial lawyer Anton Steynberg reexamined the witness. He began by recalling that on several occasions during the cross-examination by Ruto’s lawyer, Shyamala Alagendra, it was suggested that the witness agreed to testify at the ICC to get money and benefits.

“Did you in fact make money from the ICC?” asked Steynberg.

“No,” Witness 800 replied.

Some of Steynberg’s other questions were asked in private session. When the court returned to open session, Steynberg asked the witness whether people called into Sang’s radio show using pseudonyms. The witness said that happened. He was asked to give examples. He gave one name, Tindinyo, which he said was Kalenjin for bad person. Steynberg concluded his reexamination by asking the witness to give his interpretation of a sentence in one of Sang’s broadcasts. Witness 800 then concluded his testimony and was discharged from court.

Witness 658 is scheduled to begin testifying on Thursday.

15 Comments

  1. Anyway, this gentleman is a very big lier. Why does he want people to belief in his misrepresentation of facts. For example the same songs are still being played today, same words being used today. Who has it incited? He is just employing words and leaving their crrect meaning behind for his own wild imagination … with his mind trained for monetary gain!

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  2. Truth or lie, but in my view i dont think any sober person can believe him. Any way he was paid to say that, let leave to the judges.

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  3. All the cases taken there were politically motivated and they should be cleared immediately.Bensouda is fond of insisting the trio as if they are guilty.The court will pay this guys dearly and its reputation will be ruined!!!

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  4. The witness admitted under cross examination that non Kalenjins who had lived in the area for long understood the kalenjin language. Would it be right then to assume that they would be able to understand the “hidden” message in the broadcast by Sang and the song “kimi beek kwenet?”
    It would also be interesting to know if all the Kalenjin sub tribes use the same words to describe things and situations; for the communication to be effective. If it took pace. From my interactions with some of them, I have seen them switch to Kiswahili/English to avoid doubt and in some cases embarrassment when talking to members of other sub-tribes in the community.

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  5. I am slightly concerned that this trial could be determined from statements made in private session…

    The same way the OTP came up with its conclusion as to whom to take to trial, is the same way a verdict can be given… In private. This is not to throw distrust on the ICC, no. All courts must be seen to be open and impartial throughout its proceedings. These private sessions while rightfully protecting the witnesses, also hide the type of evidence being considered, from those who sort the courts help.

    I hope this position can be remedied before the end of trial. A simple summary of the type of evidence discussed would go a long way in keeping up with the trial in an informed manner.

    For example, ‘Private session 41 explored evidence about persons the witness/accused met with on a specific date where planning of PEV was discussed. The defense indicated that they have phone records showing the witness/accused/persons indicated were not at the location stated during, that period. The witness insisted they were there recounting specific details of their conversation….’

    It doesn’t need to have any details just a pointer to the type of evidence being discussed, with no details of material evidence.

    One hopes…

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    1. Nikolas, I need not say more on that, it is spot on.

      Now to this witness. Songs, poems,lullabies, and storie are presented in hidden and sometimes figurative language which contains metaphors, similes, idioms so as not to make its meaning too obvious.
      In other words the message will be lost by the mere fact of its simplicity, while its life span will be too short.
      On the other hand, messages presented in these forms can be interpreted a million times depending on the intention of the listener. It is only the presenter who can decipher the accurate message of his composition.

      So the icc may consider calling the composer of the said song to court, which no doubt will shame the witness who has arrogated himself expertise of a composition not of his making so as to secure the goodies.

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  6. It is unfortunate that witness 800 has misinterprated kalenjin words such as ‘tindinyo’ this word means keep touching me but not bad person. the prosecution need to thoughrourly investigate witness’ evidence before presenting to court.

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  7. I believe M.K. Ronoh is a kalenjin and so is witness 800. Why is it that “tindinyo” means two different hings to the two people? Knowing that words sometime acquire meaning depending on the context in which they are used, It would be helpful to get the verbatim quote of text and get an expert interpreter to translate for the purpose of arriving at an accurate meaning?

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    1. I do not know Tindinyo personaly but I often hear him participate on Kalenjin FM radio stations.

      While I do not speak for him while holding a positive interpretation of his name, I suppose the witness is privy to dangers of litigation for spoiling character of another person by imputing improper motive.

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  8. Compare witness.no.800,statement with the late otieno kajwang, song of ” mapambano”when sang by pastor it, Will mean war against the enemy of God-satan,but when sung by a politician it means,struggle against a atyrant régime and the ruling political party but the song mapambano does not in anyway contain the word satan or sirikali(Goverment).By the way witness.800 is short of telling the jury what political statements by the radio presenter acompanied the song,the judges know better than the kass FM.

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    1. Wesonga, I hasten to add that while the the Kalenjin lyric was played by the studio’s gramophone/chip, ‘Mabambano’ was sang to crowds in a rally.

      I had expected those who belted out the tune to appear before the court as their intention was clearly to prepare and agitate their listeners to something sinister in nature!

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  9. Tindinyo means keep touching me,it is also a name of a village in nandi close to river yala.how then can a village have a bad name.This witness distorts kalenjin words for his own benefits and makes wild interpretations.for instance luo call nandi jalango but we dont consider it derogatory or keiyos call nandi chemwal but it ok.I doubt whether this witness did his research and his mustery of nandi is very doubtful.

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  10. How do you say you love the song yet you do not know the whole song.i believe the witness distorted the context in which the song was played for his own benefit.

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