NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 16 – Kenya’s Witness Protection Agency (WPA) on Friday offered protection to people who feel threatened following investigations into the fate of International Criminal Court (ICC) witness Meshack Yebei.
The agency’s Chief Executive and Chairperson Alice Ondieki said Yebei was however not under Kenya’s protection programme but under the ICC’s Registry.
“Yebei was not our witness. But if anything happens from this investigation that can expose any of the persons involved, including the relatives to any danger, we appeal to them to get in touch with us,” she urged.
According to Ondieki, it was expected that the investigation into the controversial disappearance of Yebei was likely to put lives of some witnesses at risk.
She further clarified that the agency was not protecting any ICC witnesses as it was established two years ago when the prosecution had already enlisted witnesses and victims.
However she said the agency was consulting with ICC to look into areas where they can work together to ensure processes of justice flow with witnesses and victims well protected.
The Witness Protection Agency was established to protect local witnesses testifying in high profile cases likely to threaten their lives.
Ondieki said there were many witnesses who have testified in local high profile cases already under the protection programme.
Being a new State office, the agency experienced teething challenges associated with financial and capacity constraints.
But Ondieki appreciated that the National Treasury has highly recognised the agency and increased funding to support its work.
She however noted that despite the financial support, the number of witnesses under protection was incommensurate with the funding.
Other challenges the agency is facing is to ensure Kenyans understand that it exists and that they can make use of it especially those who participate as witnesses in sensitive or life threatening local cases.
She regretted that the long duration of high level cases in court was a serious challenge to the agency which is charged with protecting witnesses.
She asked the Judiciary to expedite all high level cases bearing in mind that protection of witnesses is sensitive and risky.
The agency also warned Kenyans, conventional and social media to refrain from publishing information likely to lead to the identification of witnesses under the protection programme.
Ondieki raised concerns that several witnesses have been exposed hence endangering their lives.