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Uhuru hires British expert to boost image

Sunday October 14 2012

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta (right) attends a hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague last year. Photo/FILE

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta (right) attends a hearing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague last year. Photo/FILE 

By PAUL REDFERN, NATION Correspondent in London

Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has hired a British 'spin doctor’ to help deflect criticism that he should not stand for election because of charges he is facing at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It was revealed on Sunday that Mr Kenyatta has appointed Ed Straite, a former adviser to Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance minister) George Osbourne to boost his public image in the wake of concerns that he should not be running for Kenya’s highest office.

According to the Independent on Sunday newspaper, Mr Straite and his team are operating from offices in London and Nairobi in an effort to “try and neutralise criticism of Mr Kenyatta in the run-up to the General Election in Kenya and his trial next year”.

The ICC intends to begin the trial next April, with key witnesses currently located in secret locations in Europe under the ICC protection programme.

Mr Kenyatta, Eldoret North MP William Ruto, former Civil Service boss Francis Muthaura and radio presenter are facing crimes of humanity charges following post election violence in 2007/2008.

Mr Kenyatta claims the accusations are politically inspired and according to the Independent, instructed BTP Advisers, where Mr Straite is an associate, after being indicted.

This is not the first time a UK adviser has been involved in working behind the scenes on behalf of a senior Kenyan politician.

Dr Atul Vadher, a political adviser to the former Liberal Democrat leader Sir David Steel, was closely involved in Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s campaign in previous elections.

The Independent says BTP’s media campaign over the next three months will involve online monitoring, including on Twitter, and “digging up information on opposition candidates.”

Mr Staite told the newspaper: “I am happy to say I have provided media and skills training to the National Alliance Party in Kenya during this year.”

Mr Staite was recently involved in controversy when UK reporters posing as representatives of a City (business) fund secretly recorded him saying that they could “communicate their priorities” by funding a “policy group”.

He later denied that this was to buy influence with Mr Osborne.