While on a visit to the United States in November 2010, Mrs Jayne Kihara received a curious call from a Kenyan Cabinet minister.
The request from the caller in Nairobi was as ominous as it was pregnant: Now that she was in the US, would she be kind enough to travel through The Hague in the Netherlands for an interview with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on her way back to Kenya?
The request startled Mrs Kihara, a former MP for Naivasha Constituency. For one, she was no longer a legislator or assistant minister and was, therefore, not obliged to inform the Kenyan Government whenever she left the country. How then did the minister know she was in the US?
She believed her American interrogators at the John F. Kennedy International Airport could have shared information with the ICC, leading the prosecutor to make this request through the emissary.
She declined the request, reasoning that going to The Hague was not part of her itinerary and, in any event, she needed her lawyers to be present when speaking to the prosecutor, Mr Luis Moreno-Ocampo, in relation to the 2007/2008 post-election violence.
Mrs Kihara flew back to Kenya in December 2010. Soon after, Mr Moreno-Ocampo, the flamboyant ICC prosecutor, named six prominent Kenyans for their alleged role in the worst political and ethnic violence in the country’s history.
Today, only the case against Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang is ongoing. Charges against President Uhuru Kenyatta were withdrawn last December while former Civil Service head Francis Muthaura, former Police Commissioner Hussein Ali, and former ODM chairman Henry Kosgey were cleared earlier.
In 2011, the ICC prosecutor’s office established fresh contact, this time requesting her directly for an interview in relation to election-related violence in Naivasha.
All along, Mrs Kihara told the Lifestyle, she was apprehensive about her future: On the one hand, she was rumoured to have been adversely mentioned in the report by a commission of inquiry on the post-election violence chaired by Justice Philip Waki.
The team had a secret list of names known as the “Waki Envelope”, in which some people speculated she was included.
On the other hand, there were those who were convinced she was a prosecution witness in the ICC cases.
“It had been rumoured in political circles that my name was in the envelope.
Though I had been accused of fanning conflict from the PNU side, no one in government had ever talked to me. In one instance, I reached out to a senior government official in the Grand Coalition to tell him that I had been interrogated in the US even before the names had been published,” she said.
The official took particular interest in the matter and invited Mrs Kihara for a meeting in the Office of the President but there was no further communication after that.
“It left me in a precarious situation. I did not know what the prosecution was planning against me and some people, likely my political detractors, had managed to start rumours that I was a prosecution witness,” she said.
As it turned out, Mrs Kihara said the ICC prosecution reached out to her in 2011 and asked for an interview. She declined to travel to The Hague, afraid that she may be detained on arrival. Her suggestion was that they should meet in a neutral venue — preferrably in South Africa or Dubai — but the ICC team said no.
“I agreed to meet them because somehow, my instinct told me, someone was finally interested in listening to my story – I would finally be vindicated. My legal counsel concurred,” she said.
A meeting was finally set up for Arusha, Tanzania, and for two days the former MP answered questions from the ICC investigators.
The interrogators sought to find out whether she organised and funded the attackers who perpetrated violence in Naivasha. It was alleged that she bought 200 pangas for members of the outlawed Mungiki sect to drive non-Kikuyus, perceived to be ODM supporters, out of Naivasha in retaliatory attacks. Further, the ICC investigators told Mrs Kihara they considered her the link in Naivasha for Mr Kenyatta, who stood accused of bearing the highest responsibility for the most heinous crimes committed by the PNU side.
“They kept repeating the same questions in different ways. Over and over, I told them the same answers. I did not need to rehearse. I was just telling them the truth. At the end of the second day, my lawyer and I told them we were tired and the interview ended there. I returned home,” she said.
Mrs Kihara explained that after she lost the 2007 parliamentary election to Mr John Mututho, she retreated to Nairobi to prepare to launch a petition disputing the results.
She told her interviewers that it would have been impossible to be in Naivasha buying pangas in a supermarket on Christmas Day 2007, as alleged, on the same day that she was at PNU headquarters to collect badges and other materials for her agents.
“In any event, I had no reason to remain in Naivasha now that ECK (the Electoral Commission of Kenya, now defunct) had declared who the new MP was in those very dark circumstances and my next major task was to launch a petition,” she said.
The petition she filed was eventually struck out by the Court of Appeal.
Mrs Kihara explained to the Sunday Nation that she told the investigators she travelled to Naivasha on January 4, 2008 to pursue election result forms, which would be the basis of her petition and then on January 20, to attend a Lion’s Club meeting at Las Belle Inn in Naivasha town to plan how to assist those who had been affected by the violence.
The most deadly Naivasha attacks took place on January 28, 2008.
“I was in my house in Nairobi. People were calling me about the violence because I had supporters and I in turn called the then Senior Deputy Commissioner of Police Lawrence Mwadime who sent a chopper to reinforce police on the ground,” she said.
According to Mrs Kihara, Mr Mwadime had suggested that she goes to Naivasha to help in calming the situation but the District Security and Intelligence Committee had advised her against it.
“Of all the accusations put to me by the investigators was one that we had planned the violence with the then Embakasi MP David Mwenje. Poor Mwenje was actually hospitalised. I had been to see him a few times that January.
His situation only got worse and worse and eventually he died. How such a man could have been planning large-scale violence beats me to this day,” she said.
To Mrs Kihara, such “incredible” information collected by human rights groups, and later partly adopted by the Waki Commission, only went to show that the process was a sham.
After taking her statement, Mrs Kihara said ICC investigators later asked for details of her property, bank accounts, employees and a declaration of her financial interests.
What followed next was a question she found startling: “Which country would you like to relocate to?
“I was shocked because all along they had never asked me to be a prosecution witness. They had taken my statement, which I was happy to give to help establish the truth.
I told them there was no way I was ever going to move out of Kenya and I had no reason to migrate elsewhere. They dropped the request and never came back to me again on that matter,” Mrs Kihara said.
Last year, as the prosecutor prepared to go to trial against Mr Kenyatta, who had since been elected President, Mrs Kihara said she was approached by the defence team.
“When Uhuru’s lawyers read my statement at the ICC, they came looking for me. They asked me to be their witness. I said I had already given my statement to the prosecutor.
They explained to me that their request was that I tell it from the defence corner,” she told the Sunday Nation.
Mrs Kihara consulted her lawyer and eventually agreed to sign up as a key defence witness. Her interactions with the lawyers led to questions about her phone records in 2007/2008.
“I told them that at the height of my anxiety, I had written to Safaricom asking them for the records in order to corroborate my oral version of events. Unfortunately, they told me they didn’t keep records that long,” she said.
Nonetheless, Mr Kenyatta’s defence team asked for the phones she was using at the time, which she had long abandoned.
“I could not even switch on one of the Nokia phones on which I had my Safaricom line at the time. These were just mikebes (scrap) but yes I had them,” she said.
She explained that the phones were taken abroad for analysis done jointly by the defence and the prosecution, which revealed her location and the people she communicated with at the time she was accused of organising the violence.
“I was so happy that the information banked in those broken down phones finally corroborated my story,” she said.
But, added Mrs Kihara, her ordeal was far from over. Last year, the prosecution, which was then aware she was a defence witness, asked to speak to her. A meeting was set up in Mombasa where Mrs Kihara was accompanied by her lawyer C.N. Kihara (no relation) and Mr Ken Ogeto from the defence team.
“They (the prosecution) told me that they wanted me to comment on new aspects that had come up in the course of investigations. In actual fact, I felt like they wanted me to change my story. I was interrogated in Mombasa for a whole day by a team who appeared to me to be clutching on straws in an attempt to save the case,” she said.
The politician says that the prosecutor wanted to establish a link between the violence in Naivasha and President Kenyatta through her.
“I told them I could not have been a link. For one, I was running on a PNU ticket and Uhuru was in Kanu at the time. We were not working together politically.
They were obviously unhappy, even disappointed, but I had no reason, from Day One, to ever change my story. Even today, I have no reason to change my story because it is the truth,” she told the Sunday Nation.
As things turned out, Mr Kenyatta’s case was withdrawn before Mrs Kihara could take to the stand — much to her relief.
Recalling the drama, Mrs Kihara blames “activists and political operatives” for peddling lies, letting down the victims and causing innocent people to suffer while the perpetrators roam freely.
Former MP is happy to stay away from the limelight
FORMER NAIVASHA MEMBER of Parliament Jayne Kihara is living a reclusive life after exiting the political stage since her failed attempt to clinch the Nakuru County senatorial seat during the 2013 General Election.
In her own words, the former lawmaker has “gone jua kali,” trying to rejig her life away from the roving public eye. The one-time darling of the Naivasha electorate whiles most of her day in the somnolent Mairungushu village, attending to her normal daily chores.
“I have departed from active political scene at the moment and enjoying my peace while conducting personal businesses,” she told Sunday Nation.
She sometimes drives herself around the streets of Naivasha for the occasional chat with friends and acquaintances. She shuttles between her Nairobi and Naivasha homes, depending on her day’s diary that is not as crowded as when she was in elective politics.
“My days are very flexible nowadays devoid of the mad rush that characterised my parliamentary life,” added the former legislator.
The one time assistant minister has developed business interests and has a registered company that she uses to occasionally bid for contractual jobs, while keeping other family commercial interest running.
But she describes the bidding jobs “as a one off” and has shifted focus to improving education standards in her locality, especially at Mitamaiyu Primary School.
“The education standards in the area are a major concern and that’s why I have started an alumni club to see how best to assist the children improve grades,” said Mrs Kihara.
Being the patron of the alumni club, she has taken it upon herself to initiate meetings and conduct motivational talks involving parent and pupils from the local learning institutions.
Her passion for education has seen Mrs Kihara donate books to other primary schools within her home area.
“I want to start small before expanding my tentacles to other places within Naivasha constituency,” she said.
She also is in the process of reviving her pet project, Naivasha Women Sacco that has being doing badly since she left Parliament.
And about politics she says “it’s too early” to think politics. “I’m taking my time and enjoying the serene state of affairs. At the moment, I want things to stay as they are,” she offers.