Lawyers for Kenya’s opposition are poring through a British broadcaster’s investigation to see whether legal action is possible against data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica over its role in last year’s disputed presidential election, an official said Wednesday.
Cambridge Analytica already is being investigated by British and U.S. authorities over allegations the firm stole data from 50 million Facebook users and used it to manipulate elections.
A legal team will look into whether Cambridge Analytica was involved in what Kenya’s opposition claims is a hack of the electoral commission and manipulation of results in favor of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the August election, National Super Alliance chief executive Norman Magaya said.
In the Channel 4 report this week based on undercover video, Cambridge Analytica took credit for stage-managing Kenyatta’s campaign. It denied any involvement in inflammatory videos targeting Kenyatta’s opponents. There was no discussion of mining Facebook data.
“This is sophistications that have not been there in the Kenyan elections,” Magaya said of the opposition claim of hacking. “This is where Cambridge Analytica came in to help (Kenyatta’s party) and even after running the propaganda campaign they were not sufficient to win an election and they resorted to manipulating election results,” Magaya said.
Kenyatta ended up winning a fresh election after the Supreme Court nullified the August vote over “illegalities and irregularities.” The court said it did so partly because the electoral commission refused to allow court-appointed technology experts to scrutinize its servers.
The Cambridge Analytica developments come after Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga this month shook hands and appeared to make peace after sometimes deadly political turmoil. After Odinga boycotted the fresh election, he held a mock inauguration in January as the “people’s president.”
The longtime rivals Kenyatta and Odinga announced a new initiative to deal with deep-seated hatred among communities in the East African nation, which have led to sometimes deadly tensions along ethnic lines.
Odinga has been silent about Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the elections. His spokesman Dennis Onyango did not respond to requests for comment.
But Odinga’s party on Wednesday urged Kenyatta’s party to “come clean” on the role Cambridge Analytica played, “especially in the newfound spirit of dialogue in the country, so that we can openly deal with the rifts created by these political mercenaries on the fabric of Kenyan society.”