Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Defence Says Kenyan Broadcaster Called for Rift Valley Peace

Lawyer for Joshua Arap Sang disputes witness’s account of incitement following 2007 polls.
By J.J. Wangui
  • Lawyer for Joshua Arap Sang disputes witness’s account of incitement following 2007 polls. (Photo: ICC-CPI/Flickr)
    Lawyer for Joshua Arap Sang disputes witness’s account of incitement following 2007 polls. (Photo: ICC-CPI/Flickr)

The lawyer representing a former Kenyan broadcaster in his trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) this week challenged a prosecution witness who had testified that the defendant urged listeners to protest against the disputed presidential election of December 2007.

Joseph Kigen-Katwa, acting for Joshua Arap Sang, argued in court that his client in fact advocated for peace in the aftermath of the polls.

Sang, who used to present a radio show on Kass FM, is currently facing trial in The Hague alongside Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto.

Both men are charged with orchestrating the bloodshed that unfolded following the disputed outcome of the 2007 presidential election. They are standing trial for murder, persecution, and forcible population transfer.

More than 1,100 people were killed and 650,000 others forced from their homes in the conflict.

Members of the ethnic Kalenjin community in the Rift Valley predominantly supported the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in the election, while Kikuyus largely voted for the Party of National Unity (PNU) led by the then president Mwai Kibaki.

Prosecutors accuse Sang, who is Kalenjin, of being “the voice of the post-election violence in Rift Valley”.

Last week, the protected witness – identified only by the reference number 442 – told the court that Sang became angry after the election results were announced on December 30, 2007 and Kibaki was declared the winner. According to her, Sang told listeners in the Kalenjin language that they should “come out and demand” their rights. (See Witness Describes 2007 Party Campaigning for more.)

The witness told judges that in January 2008, Sang told his listeners that “the work had been done properly, but there were areas where work remained”. She said she understood to this to mean that attacks against non-Kalenjins in the Rift Valley had been successful.

During his cross-examination this week, Kigen-Katwa played two clips from Sang’s radio broadcasts on January 1 and January 4, 2008. In the first clip Sang, speaking in Kalenjin, was pleading for peace. The witness confirmed the lawyer’s translation of his words.

In the second clip, from January 4 2008, Sang called on people to remove roadblocks in the Rift Valley because they were preventing people from travelling to hospital.

The witness said she had not heard Sang’s peace messages on the days when Kigen-Katwa said they were broadcast, since by that time she had fled the violence.

Kigen-Katwa asked the witness to identify the dates on which she had listened to Kass FM.

“I told you it was about [January] 10, it was not beginning of January and it was not on a day after January 20,” the witness replied.

“Only that I don’t remember the exact date but it is between January 10 and January 20 because it was not on 1st, 5th, 6th or 8th and I have not gone back to the end of January as I did not listen again.”

Earlier in her testimony, the witness said she listened to the station on December 27 and 30.

Sang’s lawyer asked the witness whether she had been aware of a ban on all live broadcasting that was put in place in January 2008. The witness said she had not known about this. The lawyer further asked her whether she was aware that due to the ban, Kass FM mostly carried music and messages of peace.

The witness said this was not the case.

“If what you are saying here that Kass FM had been closed [due to the ban] on that date you mentioned, then that means Sang had his own Kass FM,” she said.

Kigen-Katwa put it to the witness that she did not listen to Kass FM at all in early 2008.

“I have shown you recordings by Kass FM variously on January 31, January 30 and 4 February and you are unable to recognise any of them. And the reason I put it to you, witness, is that you never used to listen to KASS FM and that you just concocted a story against Mr Sang whom you clearly dislike,” Kigen-Katwa said.

But the witness maintained that she had listened to the radio station.

Earlier, David Hooper, who represents Ruto, had continued his cross-examination, begun last week. Hooper tried to show that the witness was lying when she testified previously that a then member of parliament, Elijah Lagat, led two ODM demonstrations against Kibaki’s victory in the town of Kapsabet.

Hooper put it to the witness that Lagat, who had just won the parliamentary seat, was celebrating his victory in Nairobi on December 31, 2007, and that the witness had not seen him in Kapsabet on either occasion.

Following a dispute between the witness and Hooper, presiding Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji intervened to ask the former whether she agreed with the lawyer’s assertions.

“It is a lie. It is a complete lie because Lagat is the one who led the demonstrations,” the witness replied.

Hooper played several video clips of demonstrations on January 3 that showed people calling for peace.

But the witness maintained that the demonstrations were not peaceful. She repeated her earlier testimony that demonstrators were chanting, “No Raila, no peace”, in reference to the losing ODM presidential candidate, Raila Odinga.

“Witness, I put it to you that this was a demonstration for peace, which is why the people were carrying leaves as a symbol of peace. Do you agree?” Hooper asked.

“No, I don’t,” the witness said.

She said the clips did not show groups of demonstrators who went to the police station in Kapsabet where people had taken refuge, and demanded they be brought out so that they could kill them.

Hooper went on to challenge the account the witness gave last week of her escape from her home to the Eldoret showground, via the Kapsabet police station.

The lawyer put it to her that it was her children and not her who went to the police station.

“At no time were you ever there,” Hooper said. “You’ve come here and you’ve lied about your story.”

Judge Eboe-Osuji asked the witness to respond clearly to Hooper’s assertion. At this, she said, “No.”

Hooper produced records from the witness’s mobile phone in order to show that she was not in Kapsabet in early January 2008. The records showed activity in Trans- Nzoia area of the Rift Valley, but the witness insisted she had been in Kapsabet.

The witness completed her testimony on March 11, and the trial will resume again on March 31 after a break.

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.