NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 3 – Eldoret North Member of Parliament William Ruto kicked off his defence on Saturday when he called his two witnesses in an attempt to counter allegations levelled against him at the International Criminal Court.
Mr Ruto called retired GSU Commandant Samson Cheramboss, who has also been identified by the ICC Prosecutor as one of the commanders who perpetrated the post election violence, and his long time neighbour Henry Kiptoo Murei alias Abdi.
During the hearings which entered its third day at The Hague, Mr Cheramboss, who was first to take the defence stand, maintained that he had never at any point met Mr Ruto or his co-accused to plan the violence.
He however revealed that he had informally met the Eldoret North legislator in 2007 during the elections campaign and again in 2010 when Mr Ruto paid him a courtesy call at his home. He also revealed to the Court that his home was about 130 kilometres away from Mr Ruto’s home in Sugoi maintaining that he had never paid him a visit.
“Mr Cheramboss please tell the Chamber whether you have been to Mr Ruto’s home,” asked Mr Ruto’s lawyer Kioko Kilukumi.
“I have never ever stepped at his compound or been in his house at any given time,” he maintained.
Trial lawyer Cynthia Tai tried to put Mr Ruto and Cheramboss together at the preparatory meetings and even tried to show what role Mr Cheramboss allegedly played at the violence. She sought to know what kind of training Mr Cheramboss had received as a GSU commandant and whether he had been taught how to handle weapons.
“As a paramilitary man definitely I was trained on weapons. You are trained on how to maintain law and order by using pistols, grenades, AK-47s, G3s, up to a certain limit in accordance with the country’s laws,” replied Mr Cheramboss.
He further argued that the accusations of heading militiamen who were used to perpetrate the violence were just rumours.
Mr Murei on the other hand admitted that there had been four meetings in Mr Ruto’s Sugoi home in 2007 but vehemently defended them saying no weapons were dished out as alleged.
He explained that the meetings were used to prepare for the elections and were not used as a preparatory venue for the violence.
Mr Murei, who spoke through a translator, described the Eldoret North MP as a man of the people who mingled with his neighbours freely among them Kikuyus, Luhyas, Luos and Kisiis.
“I would like to tell this Court that no weapons were distributed at the meetings, which I attended. I attended all the four meetings,” he said.
Although he admitted to knowing Mr Cheramboss personally and for over 20 years, Mr Murei said that he never attended any of the meetings in Mr Ruto’s home.
Mr Murei, who is a member of the peace committee in Eldoret, also said that when the violence broke out in Eldoret he and others were instrumental in protecting all the communities that were viewed as outsiders at the time. He further blamed the police whom he accused of being lax in responding to distress calls further claiming that they killed five Kenyans of the Kalenjin community.
He explained that over 100 people found themselves in immediate danger when the violence broke out and he and others took them to Rebecca Moturi (a Division Officer in Turbo division) to seek shelter.
The witnesses’ rights were read out to them before the beginning of each session before they were warned of providing false testimonies.