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Kenya's ruling party says it hired Cambridge Analytica affiliate for 'branding'


Kenya’s ruling jubilee party has admitted that it paid for ‘branding’ in the 2017 presidential election from SCL, affiliate of consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which is at the centre of an election manipulation scandal involving Facebook.

Best known for helping Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential bid in 2016, the London-based consultancy also ran the campaigns of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2013 and 2017 elections, according to video secretly recorded and broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4 News on Monday.

In the video, Mark Turnbull, a managing director for Cambridge Analytica and sister company SCL Elections, told Channel 4’s undercover investigative reporting team that his firm secretly stage-managed Kenyatta’s hotly contested campaigns to run the East African nation.

We have rebranded the entire party twice, written the manifesto, done research, analysis, messaging. I think we wrote all the speeches and we staged the whole thing - so just about every element of this candidate.

“We have rebranded the entire party twice, written the manifesto, done research, analysis, messaging. I think we wrote all the speeches and we staged the whole thing – so just about every element of this candidate,” Turnbull said of his firm’s work for Kenyatta’s political party, known as the National Alliance until 2016, and subsequently as the Jubilee Party.

Kenya’s politicians respond

Commenting on the role that SCL in last year’s ethnically divisive election in which about 100 people were killed, Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe said:

“They were basically branding and all that but not directly.”

It was the first public comment by a senior official of Kenya’s ruling party on SCL’s involvement in the election.

Murathe did not elaborate on the precise nature of the work done by SCL or Cambridge Analytica in Kenya.

Kenyatta came to power in 2013 and won a second and final term last August, defeating opposition leader Raila Odinga by 1.4 million votes. The Supreme Court nullified the vote citing procedural irregularities and ordered a second election that Kenyatta also won.

Kenya’s opposition reacted angrily to the reports of Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the Kenyan elections.

“The same propaganda that they used in Trump’s election is what has been used in Kenya. Cambridge Analytica is now becoming an international propagandist,” said Junet Mohamed, a lawmaker for Odinga’s ODM party and its director of elections.

However, Jubilee senator Kipchumba Murkomen denied any influence on the election, saying that social media were of only marginal influence in Kenya despite its reputation as one of Africa’s most tech-savvy nations.

“Those things don’t influence elections in Kenya,” he said. “Kenya is not America. In Kenya, vernacular radio stations are more influential than those things.”

Scandal tainted Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica denied all allegations made by Channel 4 News, saying it was humouring the undercover reporters and trying to gauge their motives by actively encouraging them “to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions”.

The consultancy is currently facing a search of its London office and questions from U.S. state authorities after a whistleblower revealed it had harvested the private information of millions of people to support Trump’s presidential bid.

Facebook last week suspended Cambridge Analytica over the claims that it had in 2015 obtained Facebook user information of up to 50 million people to support Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign without approval from the social media giant.

The board on Tuesday suspended the chief executive officer, Alexander Nix, saying the comments he made which were secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of Cambridge Analtytica.

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