International Justice Monitor

A project of the Open Society Justice Initiative

Answers Needed in Eldoret

Elizabeth Evenson is a senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Open Society Justice Initiative.

John Kituyi, a veteran journalist and editor of the Kenyan Mirror Weekly newspaper, was murdered on April 30 as he walked home from work. The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that unidentified assailants beat Kituyi severely. He later died in Eldoret Hospital.

Kituyi’s family, fellow journalists, and human rights activists in Eldoret have linked his killing to a recent article about the case against Deputy President William Ruto and the former radio journalist Joshua arap Sang before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ruto and Sang are facing charges stemming from brutal attacks during Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence, of which Eldoret was the epicenter.

Kituyi’s family—backed by a local parliamentarian—called for a full investigation, and the police have confirmed one is underway.

Kituyi’s killing is not the only one in the Eldoret area in recent months raising questions about a possible link to the ICC’s investigations.

On December 28, Meshack Yebei was abducted from nearby Turbo trading center. After his abduction, Ruto’s ICC defense team said it had planned to call Yebei as a defense witness, while the ICC prosecution claims it has evidence of Yebei’s involvement in a network to bribe or threaten prosecution witnesses in the Ruto and Sang case.  In February, officials of Haki Africa, a Mombasa-based human rights organization, discovered Yebei’s body by chance in a Voi mortuary.

Yebei’s family, and Ruto’s lawyer, who says Yebei was threatened with abduction last year by an unidentified ICC prosecution witness and had denied the prosecution’s allegations against him, called for an investigation, and the ICC prosecution and the court’s registry offered to assist. The police opened an investigation but with no public results so far.

At the time of Yebei’s disappearance, journalists in Eldoret who had written about his abduction received threats, forcing some journalists or human rights activists into hiding or to abandon the story altogether.

We do not know what happened to Kituyi or Yebei, but credible investigations are urgently needed. Several witnesses in the ICC Kenya cases changed their minds about testifying, citing security concerns. The deaths of Kituyi and especially Yebei are likely to further raise alarm among victims and witnesses—whether for the prosecution or the defense—about their safety. Getting to the bottom of whether there is any link to the ICC’s investigations in these killings is important to address any such fears.

Unfortunately, there is real cause to be skeptical about whether there will be genuine investigations. There have been allegations of pervasive interference with ICC witnesses and hostility towards the ICC justice process in Kenya, and a dismal record of any meaningful response by the Kenyan authorities.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose similar charges before the ICC were dropped late last year, campaigned with Ruto on a joint ticket in 2013, pledging their personal cooperation with the ICC.

Once they were in office, though, their administration waged a political assault against the ICC, casting it as a “toy of declining imperial powers.” The government has cooperated in facilitating the appearance of some prosecution witnesses in the Ruto and Sang trial.  However, according to the ICC’s judges, the government withheld cooperation in the case against Kenyatta, compromising the prosecution’s investigations.

Social media and blogs in Kenya have been used to expose the identities of purported ICC witnesses. This has led to threats against some individuals erroneously identified as witnesses. The authorities know at least some of those behind the blogs but have made no apparent effort to address speculation about witnesses.

One of the last scheduled witnesses in the Ruto and Sang case has refused to take the stand, citing profound security concerns.

The ICC has already issued an arrest warrant for another Eldoret-based man, former journalist Walter Barasa, on charges of attempting to bribe witnesses in the Ruto and Sang case.  A Kenyan court issued a warrant for Barasa, but Barasa has appealed.

Kenya’s authorities should be determined to get to the bottom of what happened in both killings. Credible investigations would be a first step to provide answers for the families of these two men. But if there is a link to the ICC prosecutions, investigations may also expose wider efforts to undermine the judicial process. It is late, but not too late, for the Kenyan government to show it will pursue the truth in these cases, wherever it may lead.

15 Comments
  1. How I wish the ICC prosecution could persue the truth and nothing but the truth irrespective of the outcome.

  2. Hey, wake up and smell the fart!
    In the real world, Kenya-Govt and Uhuruto is one and the same thing!
    For a realistic chance, ICC will have to wait for the next Govt in 2033.

    • WHAT HAPPENED IN KENYA, ESPECIALLY ELDORET, SHOULD BE A LESSON TO MANY KENYANS. I SUPPORT ICC, AND HOPE SOON VICTIMS WILL GET JUSTICE.

  3. icc lost direction along time ago.how can u held clean people to be responsible to wars that rock this country 207~208.icc rely on waki report &yet waki was a tool used by pnu ruling party to weaken opposition.icc shld have conducted investication.

  4. ICC as it stand on my on my opinion is exerted pressure from western nations.May justice prevail

  5. There is absolutely no case in icc since God Has spoken and false witnesses are mute.Not even the comfort of Europe could make lies viable.

  6. No investigations was done by the OTP.Ask any single victim or a real witness whether he/she ever so the prosecutor, the answer is no.Real culprits are here in Kenya.A real witness/victims stand by the truth but a liar will look at the scapegoat.Even the witnesses who testified have been declared hostile, how can the OTP proof that the statements from the recanted witnesses won’t be declared hostle?

  7. Elizabeth, if you are linking two incidences to the ICC trials, go and tell that to Bensouda. Kenyans are tired of linking their leaders with those murders. You should know that even in the country where you are living, muggings, murders and other crimes take place and nobody including you self have ever blamed the leadership of those countries.

  8. These cases were politically plotted to finish some individuals but God never sleep to allow innocent leaders jailed.Kenyans across the country got involved in what happened then without the accused ordering them,I wonder how a sane person with no geographic knowledge of Eldoret is testifying to the world on what never happened.When a coached witness speaks the truth is called hostile then why case?…Hostile to who?

  9. The case before ICC will become more complicate so long as Uhuru and Ruto are still in power. Although Kenyan Government has been cooperating in facilitating witnesses to to go ICC, there is much happening underground. It is obvious that more and more witnesses will still refuse to give their testimonies at the ICC because they fear being eliminated. Of course one cannot joke with people in high power. Look at what happened to a key ICC witness whose body was found in Coastal region of Kenya, about a thousand kilometers from his home. The case, according to my view, will not end anytime soon.

  10. All those witnesses are false.They were bribed by human right activists to testify against UHURUTO.For that,they sinned.And the wages of sin is……..

  11. ICC is a court set to destroy african leadership, so as to create a room for second colonialization.with the iron lady ready to sell Africa for her gains.
    BENSOUDA
    those involves in 2007/2008 post election were Raila na kibaki.they should have been the first people to be prosecuted.
    raila odinga call for mass demonstrations all the country for he had already loss a political seat.And this is the juncture for eruption of post election violence.

  12. Personally I would hold Ruto responsible to what happened in Eldoret. If the OTP could have come on the ground to unearth the information, I believe Ruto would be in jail right now. Prior to elections, Rutos last campaign left eight households razed down. They belonged to non-kalenjin. Perhaps if OTP would have engaged the people on the ground, then silly comments by people unaware of what happened would mute. On Uhuru failing to help Ruto, its politically right. Perhaps one needs to read keenly the Prince by Nicollo Machiavelli an Italian classical political scientist.

  13. How I wish the ICC had done independent investigation.Had investigation been done it would be known that chaos that rocked Eldoret and other areas of Rift Valley were products of historical injustices especially how land was grabbed from the natives and given to others by the first African government after independence.There is need to address these injustices in view of fixing them and then we can dream of living in peace in future.

  14. Why would Ruto kill his key witness, Yebei? Why should Ruto murder a journalist who wrote a negative story about him and his case at icc? Over 5000 negative stories about icc and Ruto have been written since 2010, and those journalists are still alive.

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