Mathews Ndanyi and Nzau Musau: Ocampo witness sent Sh3,000 for his coffin - The Star

A prospective key witness in post election violence prosecution yesterday received a parcel containing cash and a note instructing him to buy his own coffin in readiness for death.

The parcel was delivered to the man's wife in Western Kenya by two men driving in a Toyota Prado, The woman, who works at a sugar company said the two men arrived, told her they had a special message for her husband, handed over the parcel and drove off without identifying themselves.

The woman called her husband who came to collect the parcel. "When we opened it, we found Sh3,000 and the note informing us to use the money buy a coffin for my husband who will soon be dead", the woman told The Star.

The parcel and the intimidating note are the latest in a series of threats and harassment that people who have been identified as having information about the perpetrators and financiers of the violence have been facing since early last year.

Human Rights organisations at the time said they had assisted several witnesses to leave the country after they started getting threats.

The harassment and threats have intensified after Chief mediator Kofi Annan handed over a list of top people implicated in the violence to the International Criminal Court in late July.

Since then, many witnesses have gone underground and others have been killed to stop them revealing what they know about the violence that killed 1,500 people and left at least 350,000 others displaced.

Yesterday, the woman whose identity cannot be revealed for fear of exposing her husband to more danger said her brother-in-law was killed last week by a gang which had been following him and which mistook him for her husband.

The young man had just left the house a few moments before he was waylaid by the gang that hanged with a rope from a nearby tree.

The Center for Human Rights and Democracy was making efforts to relocate the witness to a safe house. "It-appears there is real determination to eliminate this key witness and everything has to be done to save his life", said Ken Wafula who revealed the man had given written as well as audio recordings of his testimony to the Waki commission.

Like relatives of other witnesses who have received threats, the woman said she had opted to report the incident to the human rights organisation instead of the police because her husband had indicated that some of the people who had been trailing him were policemen.

"It will be foolhardy for him to expose him to the security agents if he fears they are the same ones following him," Wafula said.

Yesterday's development triggered a wave of condemnation from human rights lawyers on the government's inability to provide witnesses with protection. They said some of the violence suspects were behind the threats and intimidation.

Human right lawyer and director of Haki Focus Harun Ndubi said it was clear the government was not interested in the safety of witnesses and instead asked the ICC to expedite decision on the Kenyan case in order to enable their protection.

According to Ndubi, the witnesses of post election violence do not qualify for protection under the Wit-ness Protection Act or the ICC since they have not been bonded as witnesses in any court of law.

"Noting the government's lack of interest in this matter and helplessness of the situation as far as security is concerned, we can only ask the ICC victims in as far as their to expedite its admission of the case to enable the prosecutor to offer protection," he said.

He said the Witnesses Protection Act which is placed under the office of the AG is at the moment "useless" as it places protection at the hands of the very people issuing the threats.

The International Centre for Policy and Conflict executive director Ndung'u Wainaina said even with ICC's involvement, the government had refused to take up the responsibility of protecting the witnesses.

Most of the 18 key witnesses who are likely to testify before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague have received death threats or even offers of money in an effort silence them.

Six of the witnesses in Naivasha have been offered scholarships or cash to study and do business abroad on condition that they will not accept to testify anywhere on the poll violence even if they are called as witnesses.

One of them who declined the offer was killed by a gang in Naivasha and his brother who is a policeman was under strict orders not to discuss the matter.

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