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.
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.
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.”
We have also been told during our investigations that ever since Meshack came back from Tanzania after meeting ICC prosecution investigators, he constantly engaged in phone arguments with Philip and Joseph Kering. One such conversation and which was listened to by a close relative of his went like this: “Agoi awe ICC, a kwanyun aratepik che chang kabisa.” (I will go to the ICC and mark you I am likely to have many people jailed.)
The bitter differences between Meshack and the defense team were so bad and therefore there was no way Meshack could be a defense witness as claimed by Karim Khan, Ruto’s lawyer at The Hague.
WHO KILLED MESHACK YEBEI?
The people who killed Meshack Yebei were:
a. Afraid that Meshack was planning to go to the ICC and become a witness on the possible charge of witness bribery and interference. They are all known. They all worked with Meshack and they knew what they had done. We have given out their names to the police.
b. Some of them are neighbours; others are leaders while some of them are security agents from the Flying Squad and Special Crimes Unit of the CID. Indeed eye-witnesses attest to having seen two vehicles belonging to the Flying Squad group of police on the 27th and 28th of December 2014. One was stationed in Turbo township while the other was at Jua Kali township. A double-cabin vehicle believed to belong to the Special Crimes Unit of the CID in Nairobi was also seen around Turbo and Eldoret towns a few days before the kidnap incident. One of the key suspects in the murder of Meshack was seen in the company of local police exactly four days before the disappearance of Meshack Yebei.
WHAT WAS THE ENVIRONMENT LIKE ON THE FATEFUL DAY – SUNDAY, 28 DECEMBER 2014?
On that day it could not have been possible for a normal, ordinary kidnap to happen in a village like Turbo. The state and some of its security agents were involved. Why?
On that day the Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya was at his village home. So the entire Turbo area was saturated with security personnel. A kidnap by normal criminals would not have succeeded. The area Member of the County Assembly was at home. The area Member of Parliament was at home. All these people are Meshack’s neghbours. Joseph Kering was at home. Philip was at home too. He actually moved around that particular day trying to find out the whereabouts of Meshack Yebei.
HAVE THE INVESTIGATIONS BEEN DONE WELL BY POLICE?
The investigations into the kidnap, disappearance and death of Meshack Yebei have not only been shoddy but also suspect. The Special Crimes Unit of the CID which is headed by John Kariuki was interested only in coming over to prove that the body that was earlier found was not that of Meshack Yebei but of Hussein Yusuf. After that they left for Nairobi. The group is only interested in knowing who knows what so that they can be silenced.
Instead, key witnesses with information on why and who might have killed Yebei have begun receiving death threats and some black saloon car with armed occupant has been spotted around Turbo area with intentions to kidnap some of the witnesses.
John Kariuki took away the phone and SIM cards belonging to Meshack. He promised to use the information for investigations and return it in a week’s time. To date he has not returned it. Why?
LAWYER KARIM KHAN’S REMARKS
When the first body, that of Yusuf, was found lawyer Karim Khan placed a call within 24 hours to a close relative of Yebei. He asked that they check the shirt , the trouser and shoes and possibly conduct a DNA test. This man does not live in Kenya. More so he does not live in Turbo or Kaptebee. He had not set his eyes on Meashck that Sunday to know what he was wearing! What does he know about Yebei’s death? Especially the fact that Meshack’s body was retrieved from Tsavo National Park without clothes? We insist that Karim Khan should be invited to Kenya to record a statement. Funny enough, when the Voi body was found he went mum!
a. The police should arrest the killers of Meshack Yebei and arraign them in court in the next one week. They are all known. There is overwhelming evidence and motives. There are many witnesses to sustain such charges.
b. The suspects and their networks should stop intimidating and threatening witnesses who have recorded statements with the police.
c. The police should be honest and carry our investigations without fear; otherwise we would want the National Police Service Commission and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to set up a multi-faceted team to carry out this work.
d. The local police officers who were with one of the suspects in Turbo a week before the kidnap and killing of Yebei should be interrogated.
e. The ICC should take keen interest in the killing of Yebei and set its independent investigations to inform the ongoing cases at The Hague.
f. Human rights groups to continue with deeper investigations that could build enough evidence to sustain a private prosecution of the suspects.
* Ken Wafula is Executive Director, Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. (This report was compiled on behalf of the Human Rights Consortium, Justice for Yebei.)
* THE VIEWS OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR/S AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE PAMBAZUKA NEWS EDITORIAL TEAM
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