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Witnesses reveal dark secrets of election violence

Saturday April 10 2010

Key witnesses to the 2007 post-election violence reportedly gave details of how politicians and business people planned and mobilised youths to execute the deadly attacks in Eldoret and Naivasha to an advance team of ICC investigators who flew into the country last week. Photo/FILE

Key witnesses to the 2007 post-election violence reportedly gave details of how politicians and business people planned and mobilised youths to execute the deadly attacks in Eldoret and Naivasha to an advance team of ICC investigators who flew into the country last week. Photo/FILE 

By BERNARD NAMUNANE

Fresh details of an intricate web have come to light, detailing the roles of politicians, business people and security agencies working together to carry out the post-election violence.

The revelations come in the wake of the arrival of a team from The Hague to prepare the ground for the visit of International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo next month.

The triple alliance laid the ground for the violence as far back as the campaigns leading to the 2005 constitutional referendum.

They fine-tuned plans, raised funds and executed the violence after the results of the 2007 presidential election were announced.

Safe houses

Testimonies by seven key potential witnesses, all who have been flown out of the country, and affidavits by other witnesses in safe houses in the country, appear to have given the ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo the confidence to gather evidence that could see at least six key suspects taken to The Hague.

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When he announced plans to come to Kenya next month to begin the investigations, Mr Moreno-Ocampo said: “There are different ways to commit atrocities. It can be by the State, the militia or a network. We will find out what happened in Kenya. We will get the information, the evidence and present it to the judges,” he said.

Civil society and human rights agencies who met the four-member ICC team on Thursday revealed the extent to which some Cabinet ministers, security agents, former security personnel and business people planned, financed and executed the chaos.

Situation on the ground

The ICC team’s task was to establish the contacts of potential witnesses, the risks they face and the situation on the ground in the areas that were most affected. They were also to touch base with government ministries that will be crucial in the investigations.

The witnesses, sources said, will be classified into two groups — insiders and outsiders. Insiders are those who were assigned key roles in plotting and executing the violence, while outsiders are those who directly witnessed the atrocities being committed by the youths and security agencies.

“A lot of the information implicates security people and politicians. The ICC will have to evaluate and plan how to manage these witnesses and the information they have. The witnesses are very scared,” said a member of the civil society who met the ICC team in Nairobi.

Most of the information, in affidavits sworn before the Waki and Kriegler commissions, show how politicians worked hand-in-hand with security agents and business people to plot and execute the violence, mainly in Eldoret and Naivasha.

The information threads the violence back to the campaigns for the 2005 referendum from where a hate campaign was launched against certain communities. It also sheds light on the activities of the masterminds, the logistical support of security agencies recruited by the PNU and the ODM, the financial support from the businesses and the role of the youths.

“The involvement of the media is also detailed,” sources said. Some security people also have vital information on what they saw and those who were recruited to aid in the violence. In the Eldoret case, the killings of more than 30 women and children who had sought refuge in the Kenya Assembly of God church is likely to form the highlight of the ICC investigations.

The burning of the church on January 1, 2008, captured the attention of the world. Witnesses have given information that recounts the hate campaigns that started during the 2005 referendum, the building of tensions between communities and the preparations for the attacks just before the election results were announced.

Some of the affidavits sworn by potential witnesses reveal elaborately planned attacks that were coordinated by former security personnel, training camps for the youth to learn how to use guns and grenades and how they were financed.

They also give details of the arrows and bows that were used by the youth and the vehicles that transported them to execute their mission. Three key witnesses to this incident have been flown out of the country.

Witnesses also speak of meetings held in Nakuru, Nairobi and Naivasha by politicians and business people before the violence in Naivasha. Branded as retaliatory violence, the information indicates that youths from a militia gang were used to carry out the killings between January 27 and January 28, 2008.

“The information details the organization of the violence, the involvement of the security people and those who attended the key meetings that led to the killings,” said the source. The civil society and human rights groups are running a scheme to protect witnesses since the Witness Protection Act , which was amended during the week to provide for an elaborate programme, was not yet up and running.

Even though Attorney-General Amos Wako has promised to move “as fast as possible and have it in place” in the next few weeks, the ICC will use its own witness protection programme.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo, who has said he will go to the hotspots and villages to listen to Kenyans, expects to gather enough evidence to present cases likely to include key politicians from PNU and ODM and business people associated with the two parties and some top security officials.

The ICC prosecutor was granted permission to carry out the investigations last week following his application before the Pre-Trial Chamber.