Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga has, for the first time, reacted to apocalyptic campaign adverts ran against him in the 2017 campaigns, saying it depicted him as the “devil incarnate.”
The videos and the divisive campaigns that reportedly started in 2013 have since been linked to British firm Cambridge Analytica and Harris Media, with the former said to have mined personal information from social media giant Facebook to craft and target personalised messages at voters.
In an interview with British Channel 4 TV, the station that exposed the data firm bragging to its undercover reporter of having fixed the Kenyan elections for President Uhuru Kenyatta in both 2013 and 2017, Mr Odinga said he will sue both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
“I am disappointed that Facebook agreed to cooperate in this clandestine enterprise. I have been very disappointed, and we are actually contemplating legal action against Facebook. . . We will do it outside Kenya with Kenyan lawyers and others from outside,” he told Channel 4 News, calling for legislation to stop such further infringement in Kenya.
On whether he will also sue Cambridge Analytica, he answered in the affirmative, saying “most certainly.”
Mr Odinga, who was speaking for the first time about the allegations levelled against the British firm, which it has denied, said the company took advantage of the impressive internet penetration statistics in Kenya.
“The Real Raila Odinga in those videos was a very evil man. . . The devil incarnate,” Mr Odinga told the British station in an interview aired on Monday night.
The ‘Real Raila’ videos, which depicted Mr Odinga as violent, incapable of leading, and a man who should not be allowed to lead, were made by Harris Media, a report by Privacy International had said last year.
In the interview, Mr Odinga said Harris Media and Cambridge Analytical were no different.
“The net result of the work by Cambridge Analytica and Harris Media, which worked for the same client, is that this was a very negative campaign,” he explained.
In the secret Channel 4 investigative video aired last week, the firm brags that it “rebranded the (Jubilee) Party twice, wrote their manifesto, done to rounds of 50,000 or so surveys, as well as writing all its speeches.”
Its effect, Mr Odinga explained: “I think we were one of the first guinea pigs in this experiment. In 2013, we were new to this kind of thing, and we did not know how to deal with it. And then they came in 2016, and this time, they had perfected the art of manipulating data.”
Cambridge Analytica has since suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix, whom they said did not, in the Channel 4 News video, depict the values the company stands for.
President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party has denied working with the firm in both its 2013 and 2017 campaigns, but party vice-chairman David Murathe, without expounding, has said that the party had paid for “branding” in the 2017 presidential election from SCL, an affiliate of Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook, on the other hand, has apologised to its users, saying that the data was irregularly given to the firm by a second party, who had wanted to use it for academic purposes, without its consent.
Mr Odinga warned that if left unchecked, the campaign tactics taken by the British firm will kill democracy.
“The introduction of this system brought by Cambridge Analytica is a danger universally… if this development is allowed to succeed, then there is no point of having elections, because it will not be the will of the people. The people will be turned to robots,” Mr Odinga said in the TV interview.