Deported US data firm boss Phillips tells of painful experience

Monday August 07 2017

Mr John Aristotle Phillips, executive director of Washington-based Aristotle Inc. Mr Phillips was deported from Kenya. FILE PHOTO | COURTESY



The deported director of a US political consulting firm retained by Nasa said on Monday that unidentified armed Kenyan agents had made him watch “snuff and torture videos” on a laptop as he was driven in handcuffs to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last Friday night.

John Aristotle Phillips, executive director of Washington-based Aristotle Inc, spoke with the Nation hours after being flown to the US via Germany.

READ: Canadian deported from Kenya speaks out

He said he feared for his life while confined to the boot of a hatchback automobile that took a circuitous three-hour route to the airport.



One of the state agents pointed what appeared to be a machine gun in his direction, Mr Phillips said.

The Nasa consultant added he received “rough” treatment at the hands of his abductors but was not injured.

His computer and other communications equipment were seized and not returned by Kenyan authorities, according to an Aristotle Inc spokeswoman interviewed on Monday.

Mr Phillips said he was never given any reason for being forced from his Nairobi residence by about two dozen armed men in civilian clothes on Friday evening.

Andrew Katsouris, Aristotle's senior vice president, was also seized on Friday night.

After arriving at JKIA, Mr Phillips was held incommunicado and alone in a room for several hours, he recounted.

He said he was eventually allowed to speak with US embassy officials who soon arrived at JKIA along with personnel from the Canadian embassy.

Mr Phillips was put on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany, that left Kenya at about 10pm on Saturday, he said.

Mr Katsouris was also flown out of the country.

“I have done political campaign consulting in lots of countries,” Mr Phillips said via phone from Washington on Monday.

“I expected higher standards in Kenya than in other countries, such as, say, Venezuela where I have also done work.”

Mr Phillips suggested that the deportations were intended to divert public attention from what he characterised as Raila Odinga's strong challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“What happened to us is a sideshow,” Mr Phillips said.

“And the way we were treated is nothing compared to what they did to Chris.”


Mr Phillips was referring to Chris Msando, the IEBC technology director, who was murdered in late July.

No arrests have been made in that case.

“Everything of this sort that happens in Kenya is politically motivated,” Mr Phillips said. “It's symptomatic of a political clique that's losing its grip.”

Revealed: How Chris Msando died

The two consultants had been in Kenya for nearly two months while working for Mr Odinga's presidential campaign.

Mr Phillips declined to specify the nature of that work or to indicate how much his firm was being paid for its services.

Aristotle Inc is known for its ability to collect and analyse copious data on voters and electoral patterns that can then be used to help devise campaign strategy.

Mr Odinga is likely to win tomorrow's election, Mr Phillips said.

He described President Kenyatta's no-show at a televised debate as “the turning point in the campaign”.

Mr Phillips vowed to return to Kenya despite his frightening eviction from the country.