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Threat to Kenya's ICC witnesses: Traitors will be dealt with 'ruthlessly'

Top International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, has named six Kenyan leaders for crimes against humanity this week, but witnesses have been threatened or bribed not to cooperate.

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An unforgiveable breach?

“Witnesses” like the elder face not only physical danger, but also the possibility of being ostracized by their community. In a highly tribalized society such as the Kalenjin community of the Rift Valley – as well as among other ethnic groups across Kenya, such as the Luos, Kikuyus, Luhyas, and Kambas, there is a propensity for putting the needs of the community ahead of the ambitions of the individual, and speaking against a member of one’s own community is often seen as an unforgivable breach.

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Yet a small but courageous number of Kalenjins from Eldoret say they feel no choice but to speak up in order to prevent the type of violence they saw supporters of Ruto carry out against enemies nearly three years ago.

One young witness of the violence told the Monitor that he attended numerous 2007 campaign rallies in which Ruto was present, and at which Ruto’s supporters incited young Kalenjins to carry out violence if necessary to secure a victory for Ruto.

The young witness spoke at a national commission of inquiry held in Nairobi, chaired by the Kenyan Appeals Court Justice Phillip Waki. The Waki Commission handed over its report to the Kenyan government in October 2008, and its report forms at least part of the evidentiary trail toward key Kenyan politicians such as Ruto.

“Ruto was there,” says the witness, who spoke to the Monitor on condition of anonymity and has also gone into a foreign witness-protection program before testifying at the ICC. “What I saw was incitement. The leaders were giving speeches, saying that the Kikuyus have to leave. And in December, Ruto said that the youth should prepare for violence, that the women should start crying in public to encourage the men to do violence.”

Several of the witnesses interviewed by the Monitor said they had been followed by strangers and had received numerous death threats.

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