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Key Election Chaos Witnesses to Be Flown Out

Published on Monday 17th May 2010

Key post-election violence witnesses are set to be moved to foreign countries under the witness protection programme, the Nation learnt on Sunday.

Those close to the recent visit by ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he had identified witnesses he wants to use against six suspected masterminds of the violence.

"Mr Moreno-Ocampo made contacts with the witnesses during his recent visit and he has identified those he plans to use against key perpetrators of post-election violence," an official close to the on-going investigations told the Nation on condition that he is not named.

He said plans were underway to identify suitable locations where the witnesses, whose number he did not disclose, would be moved.

Some of the protected witnesses are people who were assigned key roles in the post-election chaos, while others are those who handled some victims and are privy to sensitive information.

A third group comprises those who have direct information on the atrocities and how they were executed.

There are also those who found themselves on the wrong side of key suspects after the chaos. This group has information that implicates top security people.

Two of the witnesses who have left the country hold crucial information on the killings that were carried out in core areas of the violence in the Rift Valley.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo has given clear indication that he will pursue two sets of crimes and in each prosecute two to three suspects: those that were committed by sponsored militias and other gangs; and those committed by state agencies.

The prosecutor was in the country this last week where he met different players. They included post-election violence victims from different parts of the country, suspected perpetrators and witnesses.

But even as the ICC process begins in earnest, many victims and witnesses of the violence whose participation will be key to ensure justice is done are still living in fear, according to Mr Ndung'u Wainaina, the executive director of International Centre for Policy and Conflict.

Mr Wainaina said scores of victims and witnesses continue to hide due to lack of security from the government.

He asked why the Internal Security minister had not found it important to order for action against those who constantly keep threatening the victims.

"We want the government to ensure that all victims of the violence are guaranteed their security and safety in order to allow them participate effectively in the ICC process," he said.

Reports of threats against potential witness have been on the increase with the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights warning that the ICC may not succeed in its mission unless security was provided.

Mr Wainaina who was speaking in Kisumu at a public forum organised by Citizens Against Violence Initiative (CAVI) and ICPC also called on the government to provide medical care to the violence victims, many of who were shot by police in the region.

"Many of these victims have bullet injuries, open wounds, a few still have bullets lodged in their bodies and others were raped," he said.

"Some of the victims have been denied their medical records and as such cannot file cases against their violator," he said.

Mr Wainaina said the fear has been made worse because many of those who masterminded the killings are still in key government positions.

The director said that about 95 per cent of those who died in western province, Nyanza and the coastal region of the country were killed by the security forces mainly from the police.

"We have reports that some police officers from these regions have been keeping track with the victims and their relatives with a view to intimidate them and ensure they do not speak out on the killings," he said.

Other sources said at least 20 witnesses considered to hold crucial evidence on post-election violence crimes have been placed under protection.

Many are being protected in safe houses in various parts of the country by civil society organisations.

They include seven people thought to have crucial evidence that could nail the masterminds of two of the worst atrocities committed in the Rift Valley during the violence.

The scheme under which the witnesses have been placed is managed by the civil society and international agencies and is not the one operated by the government.

No fewer than 1,133 people were killed and some 650,000 driven out of their homes during the murderous violence that followed the declaration of Mr Mwai Kibaki as president in a close contest with rival Raila Odinga in December 2007.

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