Kenya's Vice-President was forced yesterday to listen as a witness testifying at his trial for crimes against humanity told the court how a machete-wielding mob set fire to the church where her family had sought refuge.

The witness choked with emotion as she gave evidence against William Ruto, accused of provoking a wave of murder for political gain after Kenya's contested 2007 elections.

She told the International Criminal Court at The Hague that armed men with painted faces and carrying cans of petrol trapped mostly women and children from a rival tribe inside the church on New Year's Day 2008.

Reliving the night, she said: "The door was barricaded with bicycles, and we were all trying to escape. I threw my child out of the window."


Twenty-eight people were killed and dozens wounded in the attack, which became one of the most notorious events of the six weeks of post-election violence which left 1300 people dead and 600,000 homeless.

It was the first time Ruto had been forced to listen directly to court testimony from a victim. He is charged with Joshua arap Sang, a radio executive. Both deny all charges.

Ruto faces three counts of crimes against humanity, including being an "indirect co-perpetrator" of murder, persecution and forcing people from their homes.

Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's President, faces similar charges in a separate case due to start in November.

The first witness was hidden from the public gallery by a curtain, her voice was distorted and her face pixilated for screens outside the courtroom.

She said people were forced back into the flames or shot with arrows as they tried to run from the wooden Kenya Assemblies of God church in Kiambaa, in Ruto's support heartland 300km northwest of Nairobi.

The mob was from Ruto's Kalenjin tribe, the witness said. She and those seeking refuge in the church were Kikuyus, the tribe whose political leader, Mwai Kibaki, was said to have stolen the election days earlier. The trials are expected to last several months, or even years.