AMSTERDAM, Sept 2 (Reuters) – Two Kenyan politicians offered people money to attack rivals’ supporters after a disputed election in 2007 and gave them weapons and maps of where the targets lived, the International Criminal Court heard on Friday.
Prosecutors told the court the two politicians — William Ruto, who plans to run for president in the next elections, and Henry Kosgey, former industrialisation minister — referred to their opponents’ followers as “spots” and “weeds” who must to be expelled from Kenya’s Rift Valley.
Ruto, a former education minister, Kosgey, and Joshua Arap Sang, a radio presenter, attended confirmation of charges hearings which opened this week at The Hague-based court and which will determine if they should eventually stand trial.
More than 1,220 people were killed in tribal violence after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, an ethnic Kikuyu, was declared the winner of a presidential election in 2007 that was marred by alleged vote-rigging.
In all, six high-profile Kenyan politicians and officials are accused of crimes against humanity related to the violence, including murder, rape and forcible transfer of people.
Their aim was take control of the area to secure a large number of votes for future elections, the prosecution said. They offered money, land and livestock as rewards to attackers.
Prosecutors said witnesses saw Ruto and Kosgey handing out money at meetings and that they supplied food and livestock to attackers. Witnesses said that Kosgey told them: “Don’t worry, we will be in power later and we will take care of you”.
A witness was cited saying attackers were offered money for killing a Kikuyu and told they could also get land. The witness said the person who paid the rewards was Ruto, the prosecution said.
Ruto also distributed weapons to the attackers and they were provided with maps showing the homes of potential victims, prosecutors said.
Ruto, Kosgey and Sang are from the Kalenjin community, which was reported to have instigated the attacks against the Kikuyu ethnic group. Ruto has a sizeable following in the Rift Valley, Kosgey is a politician from the region, while Sang is a presenter on Kass FM, which broadcasts in Kalenjin language.
Prosecutors told the court that Ruto attended a meeting before the December 2007 election where the agenda was to “plan for war”. The slogan was “it is now Kenyans versus Kikuyus”.
Their targets were civilians perceived to be supporters of the Party of National Unity (PNU), a coalition formed by Kibaki. Sang used his popular radio programme to incite the attacks, prosecutors said.
David Hooper, defence counsel for Ruto, later on Friday told the court the trial should not proceed as it would interfere with his client’s political career. He said that the evidence was weak, based on just seven witnesses and not supported by any telephone records or radio transcripts.
The three suspects deny the allegations.
“If you are in the court and you are innocent, people know the difference between what is going on here and the truth. You cannot auction, buy or sell the truth,” Ruto told reporters.
“I am very confident that ultimately these concoction and fabrication of lies would fall apart.”
Hearings are scheduled later this month for the other suspects who include President Kibaki’s ally, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, and Francis Muthaura, the Secretary to the cabinet and Kenya’s top civil servant.
Kenyatta, who is the son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, is a member of the same ethnic group as Kibaki, the Kikuyu, which is Kenya’s largest tribe.
Kenya’s government had objected to the ICC proceedings because it said its adoption of a new constitution and other reforms paved the way for it to carry out its own prosecutions.
It was overruled because it had failed to show it was conducting its own investigation of the six suspects.
If the ICC case goes ahead, it will cast a shadow over the run up to elections in 2012 in the East African country. Ruto and Kenyatta have both said they want to run for president.