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  • on 28.03.2015
  • at 11:00 AM
  • by Kevin Hind

Ruto ICC witness: Murdered by the state? 0

Human rights groups in Kenya are conducting their own investigation into the mysterious disappearance and death of a man linked to the crimes against humanity trial of Deputy President William Ruto at the International Criminal Court. In their preliminary findings, the groups say Meshack Yebei was murdered in a carefully planned scheme to obstruct justice in the Ruto case.

EDITOR’S NOTE

Meshack Yebei was buried last Saturday at his Kaptebee Village in Uasin Gishu County, western Kenya, more than two months after mysteriously disappearing from home on 28 December 2014. There is still confusion about whether Yebei was a defence or prosecution witness at the International Criminal Court where Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto is charged with crimes against humanity connected with his alleged mastermind role in the post-election violence of 2007-8 in Kenya. He denies the charges. Ruto and Yebei come from the same area, which witnessed some of the worst violence during the crisis.

In January when Yebei’s family claimed a body that was found in River Yala to be his, Ruto’s lawyer Karim Khan announced that Yebei was a “critical” witness for the defence. He wrote to Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss Ndegwa Muhoro seeking a speedy investigation into Yebei’s presumed death. But the ICC said Yebei was implicated in efforts to corrupt prosecution witnesses in the case against Ruto.

The body found in River Yala turned out to be of someone else. Yebei’s body was later discovered inside a national park some 600 kilometers away from his home. The cause of his death remains unknown.

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As human rights groups we have been carrying out parallel investigations since the disappearance of Meshack Yebei. The following remarks are excerpts and highlights from our preliminary report.

Was Meshack Yebei an ICC Prosecution or Defence Witness?

This is a question that has remained unanswered. By the time of his death, Meshack was neither a prosecution or defense witness.

Initially he was one of those individuals who met with ICC investigators. Later he backslid for personal reasons as well as differences with his prosecution handlers and agents.

Later along the way in 2013, a meeting was held by five people at Kaptagat Hotel – that meeting was attended by Meshack Yebei, Philip, Joseph Kering and two others who we can’t name because of their security situation. The agenda of this meeting was to find out ways of influencing and convincing ICC prosecution witnesses who were abroad and those who were still around to recant their statements and withdraw the case against Deputy President William Ruto.

Subsequent meetings were held in Spring Park Hotel, Turbo, where some parents of known witnesses attended.

Two witnesses who were abroad demanded Ksh50 million each when they were approached. Joseph Kering said the amount was too much and requested them to be reasonable.

The relationship between Meshack, Philip and Joseph Kering went on for a few weeks, then one Walter Baraza was brought on board.

The witnesses began to recant their statements after being promised between Sh1.5 and 5 million.

Problems came up after the recanting witnesses were shortchanged after signing affidavits recanting statements. They were given less than 10 per cent of their earlier bargains.

The activities of Meshack with the defense team brokers put him on a collision course with the ICC prosecution who summoned him to Tanzania for interrogation over his role in what they called witness bribery and interference. According to Meshack, who talked to Ken Wafula after returning,

“Things are not good. A warrant of arrest similar to that of Walter Baraza is to be issued against me. I am confused. These guys seem to have used me. They promised to pay me Sh5 million but they have just given me peanuts. I think I would have to cooperate with the prosecution.”

Mid-last year at Hotel Cicada in Eldoret, Meshack met with Walter Baraza in the presence of three other people. A bitter exchange ensued between Meshack and Walter. Meshack stormed out of the meeting. One of the participants remarked as Meshack was leaving: “This guy is becoming stubborn. We will finish him before he finishes us.”

Continue reading on: Pambuzuka

by Ken Wafula

Photo Credit: Flickr/International Criminal Court

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