By FELIX OLICK IN THE HAGUE
Deputy President William Ruto has opened fire on former President Kibaki over the horrific 2008 post-election violence as he fights to defend himself at The Hague.
Ruto now seems to be shifting from former Prime Minister Raila Odinga as the architect of his woes in his new legal strategy.
Observers of the International Criminal Court are unanimous that unlike the pre-trial hearings when Ruto largely questioned why the prosecution picked on him and not Raila who led the ODM brigade, this time, he has trained his guns on Kibaki and his former allies. “It is indeed true that Ruto’s strategy has changed,” noted Donald Rabala, Senior Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.
“The reason is that he has since realised that the only defence plausible for him right now is to state the facts as they happened,” he said.
On Thursday, Ruto’s defence lawyers tore into the character of Kibaki as they rebutted the testimony of the sixth prosecution witness insisting that he openly rigged the 2007 presidential polls.
Ruto’s lawyer David Hooper, painted the picture of the retired president as a dishonest man who planted the seed of tribalism in Government and watered it with corruption.
Plotted to rig
“As the election came closer, was it right that there was apprehension that Kibaki would not deal fairly and squarely with the election process,” asked Hooper and the witness, the first Kalenjin, agreed.
The British lawyer maintained that Kibaki plotted to influence the poll outcome by single-handedly appointing 19 out of 22 Commissioner to the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK).
He said that even the late ECK Chairman Samuel Kivuitu expressed his reservation with 9 of the commissioners ahead of the polls and called them ‘riggers.’
Hooper even claimed that on the night of December 30th, 2007, unknown people broke into the presidential tallying centre at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi. “I understand that on the night of the election on December 30th, 2007, some people broke into the tallying centre. Did you come to hear about that? asked Hooper
Mr Hooper: For the ordinary Kenyan seated at home, would you agree that there would be sufficient evidence that the elections had been stolen?
The European Union, the USA, the United Kingdom and Kenyan observers were dissatisfied with the way the elections had been conducted. Would that be fair to say?
Njahira Gitahi of Strathmore Law School says that Ruto is fighting for his life and would undoubtedly leave no stone unturned in his quest to be vindicated of the serious charges.
“It is said that a dying man will clutch at a straw. This is not to say that Ruto is already losing his case, but is instead trying to exploit all avenues to shift the blame away from him,” she told The Standard on Sunday. “His counsel might be employing this tactic due to a lack of options. Perhaps, being unable to prove why Ruto is not guilty, they intend instead to prove why other people are more guilty than Ruto is,” says Gitahi.
Her sentiments are echoed by Rabala who says that Ruto is compelled to “put the blame where he thinks it belongs because its now about self preservation and securing his freedom and clearing his name.”
After he was committed to full trial, Ruto fired some of his lawyers including Kenyan Attorney Kioko Kilukumi and adopted nearly the entire defence team of former Civil Service Chief Francis Muthaura.
During the explosive and tense cross-examination Thursday, Hooper maintained that Kibaki betrayed the hopes and aspirations of a better future Kenyans had in the Narc Government after his overwhelming victory in 2002.
He pointed at Kibaki’s failure to honour his memorandum of understanding with Raila, failure to deliver a new Constitution in 100 days and an alleged failure to ‘de-ethnicise’ the civil service and weed out corruption. “By 2007, there was a perception that he had created an over powerful presidency, a regime that had a criminal element. Would you agree? posed Hooper and to which the witness said yes.
The Queens counsel claimed that after Kibaki took over power in 2002, he sacked many senior Kalenjins in the civil service, in the military and in the police
Quoting from an excerpt of the Waki Commission report on inquiry into post-election violence, Hooper said Kibaki’s administration retreated into an ‘ethnic enclave’.
He singled out the Anglo leasing scandal and the cocaine haul as evidence that Kibaki had failed to tackle corruption.
But this was not the first time Ruto is blaming Kibaki for his tribulations since his trial opened at The Hague on November 10.