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The latest witness to testify against Kenya’s deputy president at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has told judges that he agreed to be paid to give false evidence to implicate the defendant, but later changed his mind.
The protected witness, referred to as P0-637, said that three people from an unidentified organisation promised to give him large sums of money once he testified against William Ruto in The Hague.
“They told me what to say about Mr. Ruto when I go to court,” the witness told judges via video link from an unknown location in Nairobi. “They asked me to say that Ruto was responsible for the violence in the Rift Valley because he was the leader.”
The prosecution witness is the fourth to be summoned to testify by the court, after judges issued an order in April that witnesses who had lost contact with the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) or withdrawn their testimony should still give evidence in the trial.
With co-defendant Joshua Arap Sang, who is a former radio broadcaster, Arap Sang Ruto is charged in relation to mass violence that broke out following a presidential election on December 27, 2007.
At the time, Ruto was deputy leader of the opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta is charged in a separate case. Proceedings against him were meant to start on October 7, but judges have postponed the trial after it emerged that the prosecution still did not have enough evidence against him. (ICC Prosecutor Wants More Time to Get Kenyatta Evidence.)
The Ruto/Sang trial, which began in September 2013, has been accompanied by allegations of witness interference and bribery. A former intermediary for the prosecution has been charged with contempt in relation to allegations of this kind.
Continuing his testimony this week, the witness said he was originally motivated to give false evidence against Ruto and Sang because of the large sum of money he was promised by individuals from an organisation referred to in court only as “number 19”.
However, he said, he decided later not to follow through on the offer.
“I thought about it twice and asked myself, should money really drive me to give false testimony and become rich?” he said. “I decided that I would not take the money and not come to the court to give false testimony.”
Earlier the witness, who was advised by his own lawyer as he gave evidence, explained how he came to provide a statement to the OTP.
He told the court that the three people from organisation number 19 told him to testify that Ruto, as a leader in the Rift Valley region, had led the conflict. They also discussed “subordinates” of Ruto.
He said he first met the three in September 2011 people and at that time informed them what happened during the electoral violence. He met them on five further occasions, and over a period of about four or five months they gave him “training” on his testimony.
When asked to name the subordinates he had mentioned, the witness referred to eight members of parliament, who were identified in court only by numerical codes. He said he was told to incriminate them as well as Ruto.
“I was told to say that they were responsible for war in the area,” the witness said.
He said he was also instructed to incriminate Sang.
Alice Zago for the prosecution asked the witness whether he knew why the three individuals wanted to implicate Ruto and Sang. He replied that he did not know and had not asked the three about this.
Later on in his testimony, he said organisation number 19 wanted the Ruto and Sang to be viewed as “enemies, and not people who had helped the population”.
Witness P0-637 has recanted the statement he gave the prosecution in June 2012. His testimony this week differed markedly from that statement.
This led judges, at the prosecution’s request, to declare him a hostile witness. He is the fourth consecutive witness to be declared hostile. This ruling enables the prosecution to cross-examine their own witness rather than be restricted to asking neutral questions.
The witness also told judges this week that during his interview with the OTP, its staff had stopped recording the conversation and left the room for a discussion. When they returned, they told him to implicate Ruto and Sang.
He said that he was told to confirm the two names “Ruto” and “Sang” because “they were supposed to appear as the leaders”.
Zago told judges that the witness’s allegations against OTP staff were false.
DEFENCE SAYS WITNESS MADE UP STORIES
Although the witness has renounced his earlier incriminatory statement, Ruto’s defence team continued to challenge him on elements of the testimony he gave this week. In particular, defence lawyer Essa Faal questioned him on apparent discrepancies in his description of an organisation he said he was part of, his role in it, and its relationship to two others.
“Mr Witness, the simple truth is you are just making this up as you go along. These organisations do not exist, do you agree?” Faal said.
Faal questioned the witness on part of his original statement to OTP relating to a 2005 referendum on a new constitution. In his statement, the witness said that Ruto’s Orange movement, which opposed the new constitution, wanted to remove ethnic Kikuyu from the Rift Valley.
Faal put it to the witness that this statement was prepared by organisation number 19 and was false.
“Yes, these words are a lie,” the witness said.
Faal then showed the court footage of president Kenyatta and Ruto speaking at the launch of the ODM prior to the 2005 referendum. The witness confirmed that the footage showed Kenyatta wearing a yellow shirt bearing the word “No”. Kenyatta is a Kikuyu.
The witness agreed with Faal that in his speech to the same rally, Ruto rejected tribalism. “He said he wanted peace, he said he wanted people to live in peace,” he said.
The witness will continue his testimony on October 6.
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.
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