Kenya deports US expert who was supporting opposition candidate days before election

US Embassy in Kenya says that an American and Canadian are ‘safe and departing’ the country

Tom Odula
,Christopher Torchia
Saturday 05 August 2017 15:43
Kenya goes to the polls to vote in a tight presidential election on 8 August
Kenya goes to the polls to vote in a tight presidential election on 8 August

A US-based campaign data company has said that its CEO faces deportation from Kenya after working on the opposition’s campaign ahead of a tightly contested presidential election.

The detention of the CEO of Aristotle, Inc has raised concerns about the upcoming vote just days after a top Kenyan election official responsible for the electronic voting system was found tortured and killed.

An Aristotle representative said CEO John Aristotle Phillips, an American, and Canadian staffer Andreas Katsouris were detained on Friday night and faced deportation later Saturday. Mr Phillips is at the US Embassy in Nairobi.

The two men were assisting opposition candidate Raila Odinga with issues including strategy and data analysis and had chosen to get involved in the Kenyan election because they thought it had the potential for irregularities, Brandi Travis of Aristotle told The Associated Press.

“We pick our international campaigns very carefully,” Ms Travis said. “Odinga was a candidate they really believed in.”

Both Mr Odinga and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta were in their final day of campaigning on Saturday as some in the East African nation worried that the vote could turn violent, as it did a decade ago. Kenyatta is the son of Kenya’s first president; Mr Odinga is the son of the country’s first vice president and has run in vain for the top post in three previous contests.

Recent elections in the East African high-tech and commercial hub have been hotly contested, and more than 1,000 people were killed in post-election violence in 2007. Mr Kenyatta prevailed over Mr Odinga in a 2013 vote that was mostly peaceful but tainted by opposition allegations of vote-rigging. Former US Secretary of State John Kerry is among the thousands of expected election observers this time around.

Some in the nation of 44 million people have been leaving the capital because of the threat of chaos, while many are simply going home to vote.

The torture and killing in recent days of an election official, Christopher Msando, in charge of the electronic voting system, has some concerned about the possibility of vote tampering. No arrests have been reported.

On Saturday, Kenya’s main opposition party said the American and Canadian who were assisting its campaign were taken from their homes on Friday. James Orengo, a senior member of the opposition National Super Alliance, identified the American as Mr Phillips.

Mr Orengo told reporters that Mr Phillips was “very adamant about his rights under the constitution, civic rights, was molested, thrown into the boot, and taken away with his colleague.”

The US Embassy in Kenya said on Twitter that the American and Canadian, without identifying them, were “safe and departing” the country. The embassy said US and Canadian officials had been in touch with their detained citizens as well as the Kenyan government.

The detentions occurred at around the same time that armed and masked police raided an opposition vote counting centre, intimidating workers and seizing equipment, Orengo said. He also said two Ghanaians working on the opposition campaign have been deported.

Kenyan police denied allegations that officers broke into political party offices on Friday, saying no report of a burglary has been made to any police station.

Associated Press

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