Witness: William Ruto okayed displacement of Kikuyus way ahead of 2007 poll

The Hague, Netherlands: Deputy President William Ruto was yesterday alleged to have told a crowd in the Rift Valley prior to the 2007 elections to have members of the Kikuyu community removed from the region.

Deputy President William Ruto (right) talks with his lawyer Karim Khan while journalist Joshua arap Sang enters the International Criminal Court building at The Hague Thursday morning. Photo: Pius Cheruiyot/Standard

According to the fourth prosecution witness, Mr Ruto — in the company of Rift Valley politician and prominent businessman Jackson Kibor — referred to the Kikuyu as madoadoa (stains), that had to be removed.

“He (Ruto) told the crowd that time had come for the people in that area to show their true colours and do all what is necessary and what is available to make sure the madoadoa are removed,” the witness said of an incident in Eldoret town three months to the polls.

The witness described the deputy president as an influential politician with “a lot of respect” and whose word is law among his Kalenjin community.

“Mr William Samoei arap Ruto is highly regarded. He has a lot of respect and his words are highly regarded by his people,” the witness said during his examination-in-chief yesterday, adding: “If Ruto suggests or if he shows his people where he is heading to, the Kalenjin people take Mr Ruto seriously and normally no one would like to go against his direction.”

Answering questions from Lead Prosecution Counsel Anton Steynberg, the witness said that after Ruto uttered the disparaging words, it became part of day-to-day political discourse in the region.

“After that, people would repeat these words most of the time when they met with Kikuyus or during political discussions,” he explained, adding that the word was used to refer to members of the Kikuyu community who had migrated to Eldoret.

Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang face charges of murder, persecution and population displacement.

The wave of violence from December 2007 to early 2008 left 1,100 people dead and displaced 650,000 others from their homes.

The witness described Kibor as an extremely wealthy man who was a staunch supporter of the ODM party during the 2007 presidential campaigns.

He told Trial Chamber V judges that the Kalenjin also referred to the Kikuyu as ‘kwekwe’, which he said translates into ‘weeds growing against plants in the land’.

“In what context was that word kwekwe applied to the Kikuyu?” asked Mr Steynberg.

“It meant that we (the Kikuyu) had grown into a land belonging to other people. Meaning, we are not part of that particular area,” responded the witness.

According to the protected witness whose face was concealed and voice distorted, Langas, where he lived, remained calm on December 28, 2007, after the ballot was cast. However, he narrated that tension started after the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya delayed announcing the presidential results.

“People were now anxious and asking why the delay of the presidential results,” he said, adding, “some time in the afternoon, there were rumours that the PNU presidential candidate had won the election”.

Not spontaneous

But the witness recalled that on December 30, 2007, after retired President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner, tension in the Rift Valley hit a crescendo.

He said ethnic clashes started full throttle the following morning with Kalenjin youths, whom he described as “warriors”, burning houses belonging to the Kikuyu in broad daylight.

“They (Kalenjin warriors) appeared young between ages 20, 21 and 22. They had no clothes on the upper shoulder. They tied their T-Shirts on their waists and I could see bows and arrows,” he said of the youths who set houses belonging to Kikuyus ablaze.

According to the witness, who said he had lived with the Kalenjin for long, that dress code signified only one thing — war. He claimed that the Kalenjin also dressed in the same way during ethnic clashes in 1992.

The witness insisted that as he was unable to identify any of the arsonists, he concluded that they had been ferried from elsewhere.

He, however, said that he identified two of his neighbours, who were older, leading the youths and pinpointing houses belonging to Kikuyus.

He said that from the manner of execution, it was evident that the violence was not spontaneous.

By Felix Olick, The Standard

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