Sarah Cheruiyot Samoei, 73, is fasting and has tightened a traditional leather belt around her waist, wishing her son, Deputy President William Ruto, well.
Every time Ruto travels to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, she ties her stomach with the traditional Kalenjin leather belt known as leketiet.
Leketiet is worn by women so that they can derive strength during trying moments, such as Ruto’s trial at the ICC which
Mrs Cheruiyot says has brought pain to her family.
“Right now, my leketiet is intact, I am involved in prayer and fasting because I am a believer and as a mother, I want the best for my son,” she told The Standard.
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“Each time my son goes to The Hague for his case, I have to put on the belt and go down on my knees in prayer and fast because we all know he did not commit such crimes,” she says.
A mother of seven, Ruto’s mother is commonly known by fellow villagers as Mama Sarah. She is deeply religious and worships at AIC Kamagut West Church in Turbo Constituency.
The Deputy President is her third-born child.
This time, Ruto is not travelling to The Hague, but the significance of today’s ruling at the ICC requires that the leketiet is tightened even further.
ICC is this evening set to make a key ruling to determine whether Ruto and his co-accused, Joshua Sang, have a case to answer in relation to the 2007-2008 post-election violence.
Judges Chile Eboe-Osuji, Olga Herrera Carbuccia and Robert Fremr are expected to make what is arguably the most significant pronouncement since the trial chamber confirmed charges against post-election violence (PEV) suspects. The trial opened in September 2013.
The ruling, to be uploaded on the ICC website, could either end the two cases or send the defence team into the legal drawing board.
Ruto’s spokesperson David Mugonyi said the DP believes he will be vindicated.
He explained that the DP is not anxious about the outcome and will spend the day in the office.
“We will not go into the merits of the ICC, but I can assure you that he will be in the office working. He is an early riser and he works late. He has competent lawyers and he believes that he will be vindicated,” said Mr Mugonyi.
Sang is optimistic too that he will be freed.
“Tomorrow is the day we will know whether we have a case to answer or not. Personally I don’t have a case to answer. I expect them to acquit us,” he said arguing that 29 witnesses demonstrated they were not responsible for the violence.
But he added: “In case they rule against us, this (court) is a process. And a process has a beginning and an end. So if we have a case to answer, we will proceed with it. We have been in it for six years now.”
Ruto’s mother said the case has become a burden to his son and family and that she is looking forward to its end today.
“We are all waiting to hear what the judges will say but our prayer is that they dismiss the case that has caused us pain,” she said.
It is the same optimism that the DP expressed on Sunday during a church service at AIC Pioneer in Eldoret where he called on Kenyans to continue praying for them.
“I want to thank those who have always supported us in prayers and I challenge them to continue because there is hope in life,” said Ruto.
His mother explained that she was unable to join her son in church on Sunday because she was busy fasting and praying for him at home with the hope that ICC rules in his favour.
“My heart was burdened and I spent the better part of the day fasting. I believe that prayer is the only solution towards what is at hand for my son, who has a big task in leading the country along with President Uhuru Kenyatta,” she said.
She was categorical that when the case ends, she will prepare a big celebration at her home in Sugoi to thank the country for standing by her son, whom she said has always showed his perseverance and humility against the ICC tag.
“He has always been optimistic and strong in faith. Had it been any other leader faced with such tribulations, they would have thought otherwise because it is indeed not easy. But he has gone on well with his leadership duties uniting the country,” she said.
In his submissions to court, the victims’ lawyer Wilfred Nderitu told the court to reject Ruto and Sang’s prayers. He urged the court to look into evidence as a whole and not to “cherry-pick” on what was said by the witnesses, as there lay the weight of the case.
The outcome of the case has in recent months divided opinion on implications both at home and abroad.
“This is the only international court, and it has been in existence for over a decade and a half. The world is watching every step it takes. Most significantly, it has substantial membership which is more than half of the membership of the United Nations,” argued Dr Peter Onyango of the University of Nairobi.
University of Eldoret lecturer Philip Chebunet argues that an adverse decision will have ramifications on the local political scene.
“If this case goes against Ruto and Sang, then those people who said they took them to The Hague will be under intense pressure to acquit themselves,” he said.