Foreign experts deported after night attack on Nasa vote centre

Saturday August 5 2017

Nasa members Senator James Orengo (left) and Dr Oburu Oginga

Senator James Orengo arrives at the office which, according to Nasa, was raided in Westlands, Nairobi on August 5, 2017. Police dismissed the claim. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JUSTUS WANGA
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Four foreign nationals linked to the National Super Alliance (Nasa) were said to have been deported on Saturday hours after what is thought to be a tallying centre was attacked on Friday night, prompting the opposition to accuse State agencies of mounting a crackdown ahead of the elections on Tuesday.

Mr John Aristotle Philips (American), Mr Andreas Katsouris (Canadian) and two unnamed Ghanaians were bundled into planes destined for their respective countries after hooded men gained entry into an office in Nairobi’s Westlands and carted away computers and laptops.

RAID

Nasa claims the men are police officers.

The US embassy confirmed the deportations. It did not however provide reasons for the action.

“US Embassy Kenya and Canadian High Commissioner are in touch with Kenya Government and one American and one Canadian detained August 4.

"They are safe and departing Kenya,” US envoy to Kenya Robert Godec said.

SUPPORT

Mr Philips is the chief executive officer of Aristotle Inc, a reputable Washington-based data mining firm, which had been contracted by Nasa to design its political strategy, while Mr Katsouris is listed as a senior vice-president in the same company.

Aristotle spokeswoman Brandi Travis, too, confirmed the deportation.

“We pick our international campaigns very carefully. Mr Odinga was a candidate we really believed in,” she told the Associated Press.

WORK PERMIT
Sources in government pointed out that the decision was informed by the fact that the four did not have work permits and were “assisting the opposition to engineer a regime change”.

Speaking on behalf of Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga, Siaya Senator James Orengo accused the police of staging the attack, which left electronics strewn on the floor of a secluded building in the Westlands suburb.

“This was not a robbery. It was not an assault but State sponsored terror carried out by a Gestapo,” he said.

The police have denied any knowledge of the attack.

DETAINED
Mr Orengo said the two westerners were picked up from their homes in the neighbouring apartments on Friday at around the same time as armed and disguised people raided a Nasa vote counting centre.

They were later held by the immigration officers overnight, indicating official involvement.

The staff, numbering about 15, were also ordered to surrender their mobile phones, Mr Orengo added.

Nasa claims the purpose of the raid was to, among other things, steal a database of their polling agents from across the country with a view to intimidating them into supporting the ruling party.

FALSE
But even as the US Embassy announced the deportations, there was confusion as the police insisted that they were not aware of such an attack.

On Saturday, Police Spokesman George Kinoti said no-one had come forth to report the attack.

“Our attention has been drawn to claims in the media that police broke into some offices belonging to a political party on the night of Friday August 4.

"The allegations are untrue and, further, we wish to state that no such report of burglary has been made to any police,” he said.

IMPUNITY
It later turned out that the report had actually been made at Parklands Police Station under OB number 31/05/08/2017.

According to Mr Orengo, the two Ghanaians were not even allowed to officially disembark from their planes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

The Senator also said that Mr Philips was bundled into a car when he picked up an argument with the attackers on why he was being arrested yet he was in the country legally.

“Aristotle was badly mishandled,” he said.

MISCONDUCT
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, when contacted over the deportations, said she was out of station and that she would respond to Sunday Nation enquiries.

“I have seen the tweet by Ambassador Robert Godec (US envoy), let me get back to you,” she said, but had not yet done so.

Spokesman for the Interior ministry Mwenda Njoka, on Saturday, was non-committal on circumstances under which the foreigners were deported but inadvertently offered a hint when he said, “to be deported, you must have contravened conditions of your visa”.

GUARD VOTES
He said that the individuals had been on the government’s watch for a while.

“Deportation is an elaborate procedure, you do not just wake up one day and execute it,” he said.

Ghanaians are allowed to visit Kenya for a maximum of 90 days without a visa.

While the two west Africans were set to join their counterparts who have been in the country training the opposition on how to monitor and “guard” their vote in the face of a serious onslaught from Jubilee, Mr Philips and Mr Katsouris, coming from some of the most established democracies in the world, were helping with their expertise on strategy.

STRATEGY
The opposition’s “vote protection” plan referred to as adopt-a-polling station heavily borrows from what Ghanaian opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) employed against the incumbent John Mahama of National Democratic Congress last year to send him packing.

Mr Mahama is leading a team of Commonwealth election observers in the country ahead of Tuesday’s watershed polls.

Largely opposed by the government, adopt-a polling station involves tallying of votes before the electoral commission officially announces results.

The opposition has labelled the break-in “Nasagate” an allusion to the Watergate scandal, which happened after headquarters of the Democratic National Party in the US were broken into in Washington DC on June 17, 1972.

WATERGATE
The incident brought President Richard Nixon’s reign tumbling down.

He later on resigned after the conspiracy and complacency of his government was discovered.

Addressing their last rally at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, on Saturday, Mr Orengo provided names of police officers who allegedly conducted the raid.

The Sunday Nation could not immediately confirm if the names provided were indeed those of serving officers.

TALLYING CENTRE

When news of the attack first broke out on Friday night, the indication was that it had happened at Sifa Towers near Yaya Centre before further details emerged.

Nasa would later explain that the confusion may have arisen from the fact that not all among its rank-and-file know the exact locations of all the tallying centres.

At the same time, Nasa downplayed the impact of the raid despite reporting a loss of 20 computers, servers and mobile phones in the 8pm incident that has attracted wide condemnation from its supporters.

“This is just one of the tallying centres, there are many others spread across the country.

"So if the intention was to stop us from tracking our vote, they have missed it,” he said, indicating they had always anticipated such a move from the government.

STAGE-MANAGED
Jubilee avoided the subject with those we reached out to saying they were either not aware of the attack or did not want to speak about it.

There had been suggestions that the raid could have been staged by the opposition, something that Mr Orengo denied.

The confiscated gadgets were to be used in receiving results from across the country.

MANUAL BACKUP

Nominated MP Oburu Oginga also accused Jubilee of plotting to scuttle electronic systems to force electoral commission to revert to manual voting.

“We will not allow one part of the country to vote manually and the other electronically.

"Like we have insisted, we shall count as they count and announce as they announce,” the Nominated MP said.

Mr Orengo explained why no video footage of the raid was available despite the fact that the premises had CCTV cameras.

“The CCTV system was bumped down by the police, that was their first assignment,” he said.