SECTIONS

Kin’s agony after ex-ICC witness against Deputy President William Ruto disappears

Emily Buret during an interview when she visited the Standard Group offices. Emily is looking for her father, Jonah Kipng’etich Bureti, a former ICC witness who went missing on March 8, this year, in Malindi town, Kilifi County.  [Photo: Kelvin Karani/Standard]

By Standard Team

Kenya: Police in Malindi are under pressure to establish who could have kidnapped or is holding onto a former witness in the case in The Hague against Deputy President William Ruto. But it is worse for the family of former Party of National Unity (PNU) activist and farmer, Mr Jonah Kipngetich Buret, who want to know where he is and, amid fear and trepidation, what exactly happened to him.

Buret, who was initially an International Criminal Court (ICC) witness, disappeared in Kilifi where he has been living since fleeing his native Uasin Gishu County home.

It is reported that Buret was apparently kidnapped or arrested by unknown people after staying at his supposed hideout for just three weeks, according to police and family sources.

His vanishing has reportedly sparked anxiety within the Malindi District Security Department with the Divisional Police Commander Mr Kiprono Langat only saying, “The matter is being handled by the DCIO.”

That the matter was a closely guarded security operation was discernible from his refusal to comment further on the matter.

The Standard independently learnt that Buret’s disappearance was reported at Malindi Police Station on March 10. “The matter was reported at this police station by his wife, but is being handled by senior police officers,” said an official who cannot be named for security reasons.

Hostile neighbours

 The officer did not specify the “senior police officers’’ handling the matter.

Buret, a father and husband, fled to Kilifi last month after being banished by hostile neighbours despite recanting his testimony as ICC’s prosecution witness number 397.

The Standard covered his tribulations on December 31 last year indicating that he withdrew his co-operation with the ICC on April 5, 2013.

Despite withdrawing from the case, he still fled his native Beshabor village in Uasin Gishu after neighbours descended on his homestead wielding weapons and baying for his blood on December 29 last year.

The story showed that the invaders burnt and wrecked his homestead despite assurance of safety by security chiefs.  In that article, Buret was quoted as saying he was willing to return to the ICC witness programme and accused the Government of failing to protect him.

In the story he claimed he was being chased “up and down like an antelope” and blamed a local chief and a teacher for his troubles.

He claimed the teacher wanted to occupy his farm while the chief was aware of his tormentors.

In order to inflame hatred against him, Buret claimed, his local rivals had accused him of being a sorcerer.

Vanished

On Wednesday, Buret’s distraught daughter said after fleeing Uasin Gishu, Buret settled in Kilifi at a location she declined to identify.

“Our family has been living in fear after being harassed for long,” said a visibly shaken Emily Buret.

Quoting her stepmother, Emily said her father disappeared on March 8 after being accosted by “people who identified themselves as policemen”.

“After fleeing our home (in Rift Valley), he settled in Kilifi with the family and enrolled the children in a local school,” Emily said, adding that on March 8 he was riding on a boda boda when it was flagged down by the alleged policeman.

“Those people, who identified themselves as policemen, took him away,” she narrated tearfully.

Buret’s wife Esther said she first learnt of her husband’s disappearance from the boda boda driver and after two days of agony she reported the matter to the police on March 10.

She said: “We have been living in this place for three weeks.”

She said her husband kept most of his secrets to himself and did not discuss the ICC or other matters openly with her.

Esther also disclosed that Buret remained in contact with one of his brothers in Uasin Gishu, adding that men in a taxi flagged him down after someone spoke with Mr Buret on his or the rider’s cellphone.

“The boda boda man told me the men in the taxi identified themselves as policemen who wanted to talk to him,” Esther told The Standard on phone from Kilifi.

Ride outside town

She also alleged that the strange men also forced the taxi driver to accompany them on a ride outside town where they abandoned him with his motorcycle.

She claimed the rider told her that as her husband was being bundled into the taxi, one of the strangers climbed onto the motorcycle and directed the rider’s movement out of Kilifi town.

Now Esther claims the motorcycle rider gave her a fake number after reporting her husband’s disappearance. She also alleges that he did not disclose if her husband was taken away willingly.

Both Esther and Emily insist Buret had not spoken about the ICC matter to them lately although the latter disclosed that her father was reluctant to disclose his new residence to many people.

Emily says they last spoke on cellphone about three weeks ago while Esther says she spoke with him on March 9 “when he told me he was going to pay school fees for the children”.

Both claim Buret’s cellphone has been switched off since March 8.

Last evening, ICC Field Outreach Coordinator for Kenya Maria Kamara told The Standard ICC does not disclose or discuss the identity of its witnesses even when they withdraw from its process.

We had we sought to know from her if Buret was ever engaged with the ICC. “All ICC witnesses remain confidential and protected even when they withdraw,” she said and indicated she was unable to discuss the matter further.