Kenya Witness Recalls Defendant's Radio Show
A prosecution witness told judges in The Hague this week that former broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang used his radio programme to discuss land ownership and build support for the opposition party in Kenya.
The witness, subject to protective measures and referred to by the code PO268, described how Sang pushed the line of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and the Kalenjin ethnic group ahead of a 2005 constitutional referendum, and again in the run-up to a general election in December 2007.
“There were specific callers [to the radio programme] whose calls would always go through, and these callers were very vocal about supporting the ODM and the need for the Kalenjin to protect their land from outsiders,” the witness said, discussion the period before the 2005 referendum.
Land reform is a sensitive issue in Kenya and disagreements about ownership have created conflict between ethnic communities. The draft constitution sought to deal with the problem by setting up a land commission, among other measures.
Sang is on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) alongside Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto. Both men are charged with crimes against humanity for orchestrating violence which erupted following the disputed outcome of the 2007 presidential election.
The charge sheet lists three counts of murder, persecution and forcible population displacement relating to attacks in the Rift Valley province.
Prosecutors allege that in late 2007 and early 2008, Ruto’s ODM party planned attacks against supporters of the Party of National Unity (PNU) with the aim of forcibly expelling them from Rift Valley province.
The Kalenjin broadly backed the ODM in the region, whereas members of the Kikuyu group voted mainly for the PNU.
According to the prosecution, Ruto sought “to permanently alter the ethnic composition” of the Rift Valley and consolidate his political power by whipping up local support for ODM through political rallies, speeches and using the media.
In 2005 and until after the violence of 2007-08, Sang was a broadcaster at the KASS FM radio station.
Prosecutors in The Hague accuse him of acting as “the voice of the violence in the Rift Valley”.
In court this week, the witness said that Sang’s radio show Lene Emet (“what the country is talking about”) was used by ODM leaders to publicise their policies and oppose the draft constitution of 2005.
The witness said that it appeared to him from the radio programme that Sang supported the ODM and in particular the party’s 2007 presidential candidate Raila Odinga, as well as Ruto, who at the time was deputy leader of the party.
Asked by prosecution lawyer Lucio Garcia what Sang spoke about on his show, the witness replied, “I can’t remember what exactly, but at the end of the day he would urge people to protect their land saying that, ‘Our land is good’.”
The witness said that in the run up to the 2005 referendum, KASS FM coined the term “No Kikwet” – “No Constitution” – as part of a campaign urging voters to reject the document.
In his written statement to prosecutors, the witness said he heard this phrase used on KASS FM. However, when Garcia asked him for more information in court this week, the witness said he had never heard the term himself, but someone else had told him about it.
The witness also testified about political rallies at which Ruto spoke prior to the 2005 referendum and the 2007 election. He said ODM politicians exploited issues of land ownership to gain support from Kalenjin voters.
“Kalenjins have a history of dearly protecting their land,” the witness explained. “Kalenjins love their land and they cannot allow any idea to the extent that somebody else is going to take it over. Politicians exploited that issue every other time.”
Witness PO268 said politicians made use of land issues by telling Kalenjin voters that their land would be taken away if they elected a Kikuyu.
“Orange team [ODM] particularly rallied in the sense that land was going to be taken away from the masses if they indeed supported the draft constitution. The battle of the constitution was seemingly between Kikuyus [and] other tribes,” he continued.
The witness said that during the 2005 referendum, ODM leaders including Odinga, Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi incited crowds by referring to Kikuyus in as “madoadoa” (“stains”) and “kwekwe” (“weeds”), and saying they should be removed from the Rift Valley.
He told the court that politicians used hate speech during both the referendum and the 2007 election campaign.
“Kenyan politicians have a tradition of using hate speech during elections,” the witness said. “In the referendum you could hear words such as ‘madoadoa’ and ‘kwekwe’, referring to communities who live among communities that didn’t want them.”
The witness also told the court that in 2007, Ruto referred to supporters of the then president, Mwai Kibaki, as “witches”.
He said Ruto was critical of Kenya’s previous president, Daniel Arap Moi – who like him is Kalenjin – for throwing his weight behind Kibaki’s re-election bid in 2007.
“I can’t remember everything, but of course I remember… when Ruto referred to supporters of former president Mwai Kibaki in 2007 as witches,” the witness said. “He spoke in Kalenjin; he chided Moi for supporting Kibaki, and I remember he said something to the effect that Kikuyus are enemies and whoever supports Kibaki is a witch,” the witness said.
Questioned further by the prosecution about specific events around both the 2005 referendum and the 2007 election, the witness was unable to remember several details.
For example, he said he could not remember the how the crowds reacted when speakers used the terms “madoadoa” and “kwekwe”.
Asked whether he could remember Mudavadi addressing the crowd at one particular rally, the witness said that “he must have made a speech but I can’t remember the details of the speech”.
Presiding judge Chile Eboe-Osuji warned the witness that he must be specific in his answers to the court.
Lawyers for both Ruto and Sang raised objections on the grounds that the prosecution was having to repeatedly coax details of events out of the witness.
“It is a memory-refreshing exercise that is being done after this [witness’] statement has been gone through with a fine toothcomb,” David Hooper, from Ruto’s legal team, told the court.
Sang’s lawyer, Joseph Katwa Kigen, made a similar objection.
“The attempt by the prosecution is not so much to call [the witness] to recollect the events of 2007,” he said. “It is more to recollect the events of about five or six days ago when the prosecution had an opportunity to meet the witness and take him through the substance of what he is going to testify.”
Judge Eboe-Osuji warned the prosecution against providing information to the court that the witness himself was unable to directly corroborate.
“We have heard a huge amount of hearsay coming from this particular witness. And it is likely not to be relied on. We now want direct things that he observed,” the judge said. “We do not want an open-door policy of an endless stream of hearsay coming into this court.”
JJ Wangui is an IWPR reporter in Nairobi.
This article was produced as part of a media development programme implemented by IWPR and Wayamo Communication Foundation.