A witness told the International Criminal Court (ICC) he was standing by his statement to the prosecution that he heard William Samoei Ruto make inciting remarks during a 2005 function at which then President Mwai Kibaki was present.
Witness 658 said this on Tuesday as Ruto’s lead lawyer, Karim Khan, repeatedly asked him whether he heard Ruto call for the eviction of Kikuyus and Luhyas in a video of the function Khan played in court. The function was held on October 19, 2005 to commemorate the centenary of the death of a leader of the Nandi, Koitalel Samoei, who was killed by British colonialists. The Nandi are a sub-group of the Kalenjin ethnic group.
The witness is testifying in the trial of Ruto and former journalist Joshua arap Sang. Both of them face three counts of crimes against humanity for their alleged roles in the bloodshed that followed the December 2007 elections. During those elections Ruto was seeking reelection as member of parliament for Eldoret North, and he was also a top leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party. In 2005, Ruto was the secretary general of the Kenya National African Union (KANU) party, the main opposition party at the time. Today, he is Kenya’s deputy president.
In the video that was played in court on Tuesday, Ruto made some remarks in Swahili welcoming Kibaki and other dignitaries as well as the citizens present. He then switched to Kalenjin and recognized each sub-group of the Kalenjin and emphasized it is important for the Kalenjin to be united. He concluded by saying there are things they need to discuss but because they have visitors, they will do it another time.
Khan read into the record an English translation of what Ruto said in Kalenjin, which the witness said was accurate.
“We’ve played the speech of Mr. William Ruto…will you agree that there is nothing inciting?” asked Khan.
“No,” Witness 658 replied.
The witness pointed out that in his opinion some of the words Ruto used to recognize the different sub-groups of the Kalenjin were inciting. He gave an example of the word “chemusa,” which directly translated means porridge. The witness said it is used in the Kalenjin phrase that refers to the Nandi and such a word is also meant to give someone courage. Witness 658 also said that the inciting comments he had told the prosecution about in an interview on August 6, 2010 were not in the video that was shown in court.
Khan said that it was the position of the defense that the video was complete and reflected what was said during the Koitalel Samoei memorial. Trial lawyer Lucio Garcia challenged that saying the disclosure the prosecution received from the defense only showed the video’s chain of custody and did not show whether the video was a complete recording of the function.
Later in the day Khan played another video of a campaign rally organized by opponents to a draft constitution that was put to a referendum in November 2005. The clip shown in court had Ruto addressing the crowd as well as Uhuru Kenyatta. At the time Kenyatta was Ruto’s boss as the leader of KANU. Today, Kenyatta is president of Kenya.
Khan asked the witness what in Ruto’s address was inciting. The witness said that most of what Ruto said was not inciting, except a Swahili word he used. The word was, “wazembe,” which directly translated means lazy people. The witness said the word was abusive. Khan asked him whether it meant lazy, and the witness insisted it did not just mean lazy even after Khan repeatedly asked him the question.
Towards the end of the day Khan asked the witness about Kalenjin who were killed during the post-election violence. Witness 658 confirmed hearing about a number of cases Khan referred to. He, however, said that in most of the cases he neither witnessed the killings nor was he in the area they occurred.
Witness 658 will continue testifying on Wednesday.