Witnesses who ditched Bensouda speak out
Untold details of how the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) allegedly used local agents to recruit and coach witnesses have been emerging, as witnesses who have recanted their testimonies start speaking up. This is happening as Kenyans anxiously await resumption of Case One at The Hague-based court, against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang, that was postponed last week for failure by the first witness to appear.
This week, three lead witnesses in the Ruto-Sang ICC case, Samuel Kosgei alias arap Cheburet, Joseph Kosgei alias arap Titiwa and journalist Paul Kwambai alias Ng’ombe 50, who had earlier recanted their statements, spoke to the media, adding weight to defence claims that witnesses were recruited for financial gain and coached. In exclusive interviews with The People, the former witnesses corroborate their common claim that their recruitment and coaching was a well coordinated affair by a group of local human rights lobbies with logistical support of two international non-government organisations.
The two international NGOs, with branch offices in Kenya, are understood to have links with western intelligence organs and have been playing key roles in gathering information on terrorist activities in Somalia. The local NGOs who enlisted the so-called ICC witnesses had set offices in Eldoret early in 2008.
Two of the witnesses, Joseph Kosgei and Samuel Kosgei hail from Kaplemoru village in Mosop constituency of Nandi County, to where their families had migrated from Trans-Nzoia County. Before his recruitment as an ICC witness, Samuel Kosgei says he had been part-time student at DALC education campus in Eldoret, pursuing a bachelors degree in Bio-Chemistry and engaging in growing onions on rented farms.
“I was financing my education by hawking onions in Eldoret town,” he told The People. Joseph Kosgei, on the other hand, a shy man who spots a brown beard, said he had been a livestock trader and a familiar face at the cattle auctions held at Kipkaren market in Mosop. He was a well-known youth winger in the Narc party and later PNU during the 2007 election campaigns, hence being spotted by the NGOs as the “right” person to testify against the Deputy President who was then in the opposition ODM, he says.
“Immediately after the 2007 elections, we were first recruited as agents of peace by the International Crisis Group (ICG),” he says. The NGO had pitched camp in areas hardest hit by the 2007 post-election chaos. Others recruited with him were a freelance journalist, David Chumo arap Ng’enda from Tapsagoi village in the neighbourhood of William Ruto’s Sugoi home, and David Koech, a former pastor with the SDA church.
Tellingly, the freelance journalist and his colleagues Kwambai, alias Ngombe 50, had both been sacked from Kass FM where Ruto co-accused, journalist Joshua Sang worked. Kwambai told The People he had agreed to testify against Sang to “fix him” as he believed he was the man behind his sacking at Kass FM where he was a radio presenter. Samuel Kosgei, who has since recanted all his “evidence” to ICC, disclosed they were summoned to several meetings by NGO operatives where they were coached to be ICC witnesses.
“The meetings were held every Saturday at secret locations in Eldoret town and we were given an attendance allowance of Sh5000 a day,” says Samuel Kosgey. After the “coaching” sessions, he says, “We were handed written statements and told to memorise them as that would be exactly what we would be required to say when time came.” “We had our statements taken by two representatives from an Eldoret-based NGO and another one by officials of an NGO based in Nairobi,” Kosgei said in an interview from his hide-out.
Also present at the coaching sessions, he says, were then Ruto’s political rivals in his former Eldoret North constituency. Among them was a former nominated Narc councillor at then Eldoret Municipal Council. Three “permanent” recruitment centres which the former ICC witness freely names were later set up in Eldoret town, where he says coaching was conducted in the presence of two senior officials, whom he names, from a well known human rights organisation in the country, and another from a well-known Eldoret-based human rights group.
The human rights executive from Eldoret had two research officers who provided data which the “witnesses” were to use in writing their “statements” against the ICC suspects. After Parliament declined to form a local tribunal in 2008, the “witness- es” who had the most incriminating statements against Ruto and Sang were relocated out of the country, says the former witness. At the time, he says, they were first relocated to Uganda and Tanzania, but he claims they had no idea exact- ly what was contained in their respective “testimonies”.
A case in point was one Bethwel was asked to own up an affidavit prepared for him to say that he was at the ceremony and heard Ruto speak in vernacular. Samuel Kosgei says he was asked to sign up an “affidavit” that stated he was at another meeting where Ruto and others planned torching of the Kiambaa PAG church. He says: “I don’t know where Kiambaa church is. I had never been there. Neither had I attended a meeting ad- dressed by Ruto all my life.”
Another time, Samuel Kosgei says, he was given a sketch of Ruto’s house at Sugoi and asked to “study and memorise it”. He was to testify that Ruto distributed 47 guns to kill Ki- kuyus on a particular day that he was at the deputy President’s home. He says: “I had never been to Ruto’s home. I had heard it was near Eldoret town, but can’t tell you where.
I had never seen him one-on-one. I only see him on television and in the newspapers.” The former SDA pastor, Koech, who was a witnesses in former Cabinet minister Henry Kosgey case, which was dropped, was relocated to Texas in the US, his family disclosed to The People this week. By yesterday, another witness, a defrocked Africa Inland Ruto, who at the time of confirmation of the cases facing Ruto and Sang, was called to “confirm” an incident during the burial of a former international Athlete, the late Lucas Sang.
Despite not having attended the burial, he Church clergyman, who had been recruited to testify against Ruto and Sang, called his family to say he was recanting his evidence. Family members in Eldoret said the witness had been living in Australia. Meanwhile, the family of another key witness is crying foul that their son is been held in a foreign country against his wish.
The family from Mai Mahiu is accusing ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of coercing their son to testify in the post-election violence cases despite his desire to pull out. The man, according to the family, went to a NGO seeking help over his brother who was killed in Limuru, only to be coached to testify in the Ruto case and be spirited out of Kenya to a hideout.
“He called last week asking us to plead with the government to assist bring him home. He maintained he would not be testifying since he was not familiar with anything to do with the PEV,” said the man’s father. “He called us last week saying the was among those listed to testify next week, but his phone was disconnected before he could avail more information,” said a relative. A brother to the witness said the isolation had adversely affected them, adding that it was unfair to hold him against his wish. – By DANIEL KIPSANG and KIRERA MWITI