A lawyer for Deputy President William Samoei Ruto questioned a prosecution witness at the International Criminal Court (ICC) about whether he has been discussing the case against Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang with other prosecution witnesses.
Witness 658 told the court on Monday it was not true that he had discussed the case with other prosecution witnesses. Karim Khan, Ruto’s lead lawyer, also asked the witness whether at a secret meeting with other prosecution witnesses, he hid in the bushes when he saw a vehicle with prosecution staff arrive at the meeting venue. Witness 658’s answer was given in private session.
The witness is testifying in the trial of Ruto and Sang, both of whom face three counts of crimes against humanity. The charges stem from their alleged roles in the violence that shook Kenya after the December 2007 elections.
Khan’s next line of questioning focused on events the witness said occurred in Eldoret on December 26, 2007, the day before Kenyans went to the polls. The witness testified about these events on November 27 and November 28. Khan played in court a news clip aired on the state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. He also showed the witness an article in the Daily Nation of December 27, 2007. Khan did this to show that the claims of election rigging were not restricted to Eldoret. Citizens reacted to those claims by demonstrating and, in some cases, killing administration police who were suspected to be part of the rigging plot.
Witness 658 agreed that there was great tension, and he heard about reactions to the rigging claims in other parts of the country. However, he noted that his testimony was only about what happened in his area. Following up on the issue, Khan played another video, this one of Ruto addressing a crowd. Khan said the video showed Ruto near a bridge over Sosiani River talking to supporters. The witness agreed. The Sosiani River flows just outside central Eldoret.
In the video, Ruto spoke in Swahili about a campaign event for then President Mwai Kibaki at which some of the participants paid one million shillings a plate. Ruto, speaking from the sunroof of a green Range Rover, said he advised Kibaki supporters in Eldoret that if Kibaki owed them money they should ask for it quickly because after December 27 Kibaki’s address would be post-office box Othaya. He repeated and asked the crowd what Kibaki’s post-office box would be, and they responded Othaya. Khan asked the witness whether this is what he heard on the day he said Ruto addressed a crowd near Sosiani bridge, calling on Kikuyus to go back to Othaya. The witness said he did not remember the words in the video. Khan said the video was taken on November 23, 2007.
Khan also showed the witness a photo of a man and asked him whether that was the man he referred to in his testimony on November 27. On that day, the witness had said he saw a fair complexioned man with another man called David Misoi in a Nissan Patrol going round Eldoret on December 26, 2007 mobilizing residents to be alert for ballot papers that could be used in rigging the elections. The witness had said the vehicle belonged to Ruto. Witness 658 said the man in the photo could be the person he was speaking of, but the face looked different. Khan told him the man is a South African citizen named John Perrymore and is married to a Kikuyu.
Monday began with Trial Chamber V(a) giving its reasons for rejecting the Ruto defense’s application to use redacted documents during their cross-examination of Witness 658. Khan had made the request late Friday, arguing it was important to protect the source of the documents, which related to four defense witnesses. The chamber ruled not to allow the redaction of the metadata of the documents. Presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji explained that redactions were to be applied in exceptional cases or where there was potential risk from fully disclosing the documents to the prosecution.
Later on Monday morning, the lead lawyer for Sang, Joseph Kipchumba Kigen-Katwa, applied to be allowed to cross-examine the witness on one more matter. The chamber had originally directed the Sang defense to finish cross-examining the witness by the end of Friday. The chamber granted the request and Kigen-Katwa questioned Witness 658 about a Kalenjin song, Kimi beek kwenet, which translates as “we are in the middle of the sea.” It is sung by Bureti Super Stars. The witness had said on Friday Sang regularly played this song on his show on Kass FM, and his intention, according to the witness, was to whip up the emotions of the Kalenjin.
Kigen-Katwa played the song during the December 25, 2007 edition of Sang’s show. He asked the witness whether the lyrics referred to prayers for elders, women, the rich, and the poor, among others. Witness 658 agreed. He also accepted that it is a gospel song but added that in his view, Sang played the song so that the Kalenjin can feel they are in the middle of problems, and they need to get to the other side. Witness 658 is the second prosecution witness to say in court that Sang frequently played Kimi beek kwenet with the intent of sending a hidden message to his listeners. The first one to testify about the song was Witness 800.
On Friday, Sang’s other lawyer, Caroline Buisman, questioned Witness 658 about his testimony that it was only after Sang broadcast on December 26, 2007 license plates of vehicles suspected to be carrying ballot papers to be used in rigging, people in Eldoret reacted. She also questioned the witness about his claim that Sang promoted Ruto as a Kalenjin leader to the disadvantage of others.
Buisman played excerpts from a December 25, 2007 broadcast in which the main challenger for the presidency, Raila Odinga, is heard speaking in Swahili, making the claims of a plot to rig the elections. In the excerpts, Sang is also heard speaking in Kalenjin with two other Kass FM presenters, Silas Tarus and Kipyego arap Tanui. Buisman read the English translation of the excerpts in court. Sang is also heard calling for people to remain peaceful even as the rigging claims are made. He also questions the claims of a rigging plot.
The witness said he had heard in the excerpts played in court that Odinga made rigging claims on Kass FM on December 25, 2007. He also accepted that Sang questioned the veracity of the rigging claims in that broadcast. However, Witness 658 also insisted that he heard Sang read out license plates of vehicles suspected of carrying ballot papers that would be used to rig the elections on the morning of December 26, 2007. He said it was after this that residents took to the streets.
Buisman then moved to challenge Witness 658 about his testimony that Sang promoted Ruto on his show. She asked him whether he had heard about a 2007 meeting of leaders from several ethnic groups in the Rift Valley region in which they endorsed Ruto as a presidential candidate. Buisman said the meeting took place at Masai Lodge in the area of Kajiado. The witness said he was not aware of the meeting. Buisman asked him whether he was aware of a separate meeting of Kalenjin leaders at which they made what became known as the Eldama Ravine Declaration. He said he was aware of the meeting. She asked him whether he knew that Ruto was endorsed as the leader of the Rift Valley at that meeting. The witness said he did, but he also said this was aided by Sang promoting Ruto on Kass FM and giving little space to callers critical of Ruto’s leadership.
Witness 658 will continue testifying on Tuesday.