Two foreign advisers to Kenyan opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga, who were expelled from the country days before tomorrow election, said they had been seized from their homes by plainclothes policemen who also confiscated their computers.
American John Phillips, chief executive of political consultancy Aristotle, and Canadian Andreas Katsouris, a senior executive at the firm, were detained late on Friday and deported from Kenya on Saturday.
They were consultants for Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA). Odinga is hoping to unseat President Uhuru Kenyatta in the Aug. 8 vote, but opinion polls suggest the two candidates are neck-and-neck, leading many Kenyans to fear a disputed result and possible violence.
Phillips and Katsouris told Reuters yesterday that they were taken from their apartments in western Nairobi at 8 pm on Friday by around 15 men in plain clothes who said they were police.
“They handcuffed me and put me in the hatchback of a car,” Phillips said by phone from Frankfurt.
Katsouris said they were manhandled after the police arrived. “One man had a picture of me on his mobile phone,” he said, speaking by phone from Delft, the Netherlands. “Another guy grabbed me by the arm and grabbed my glasses from my face.”
After being bundled into separate cars they were driven around for several hours, while being questioned, and then taken to holding cells at the airport, they said. Their laptops and other equipment were confiscated. Phillips refused to give his password and Katsouris said he did not have a password. When police opened Katsouris’s computer, they demanded Phillips’ passwords, which Katsouris did not have. Their equipment was not returned before they were deported at the weekend.
Phillips said one of Aristotle’s jobs was to monitor the transparency of the election. The two had been in Kenya for around two months and were doing polling, data analysis and monitoring the election process. Kenyans will be electing a new president, lawmakers and local representatives.
“We could help pinpoint and bring problems to the appropriate people’s attention, like the press or foreign governments,” Phillips said.
Interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said via a text message on Sunday that Phillips and Katsouris had “contradicted the terms of their visa”. When asked how, he replied “ask them”. Odinga has said the president can only win the election by rigging the vote. Kenyatta, the son of the country’s first president, has challenged Odinga to show proof of his claims.
Kenya’s last two elections were marred by problems.
In 2013, there was widespread failure of electronic voting equipment and in 2007 tallying was abruptly stopped and authorities announced the incumbent had won. If the opposition feels cheated this time, Odinga may call for demonstrations, as happened in 2007. Around 1,200 people were killed in the protests and ethnic violence that followed.
The deportation of Phillips and Katsouris follows opposition claims that one of their own vote-tallying centres was raided by men in plain clothes on Friday. Chris Msando, the top election official in charge of electronic vote tallying, was murdered last week.