Below is a draft post I wrote but did not publish back on May 10, 2017:
Uhuruto re-election and Cambridge Analytica coverage in The Star: why now?
Today, the Star, Nairobi’s previously opposition-leaning third daily newspaper (a must read together with The Daily Nation and The Standard) ran a story announcing the arrival of a team from Cambridge Analytica for the Uhuruto/Jubilee re-election campaign.
Note the attribution to “well placed sources in the Office of the President.”
Generally speaking the Kenyan media declines to cover the foreign firms working the Kenyan election campaigns, especially for an incumbent president. That type of thing is in the category of “we are a ‘free press’ but not free like that”. For the “foreign correspondents” the Western campaign operatives are fellow habitues of the expat “circle of trust” or omertà or whatever you want to call it: sources not subjects of reporting.
So why this story today? If I can put myself in the loafers of an Uhuruto campaign operative rather than just a bystanding fan of “truth, justice and the American way of life” I might want this for a couple of ressons that I can think of: 1) this could be what has been famously termed a “limited modified hang out” – if information is starting to leak you might want to seize control to misdirect attention by putting out a shaped half-truth version; 2) this could be a way for the Uhuruto campaign to “signal” the idea that it has powerful support in Washington and London in response to the black eye received in the form of the USAID suspension of Ministry of Health funding due to corruption which went public Monday. Of course, this is all just hypothetical/conjectural “thinking out load” from someone who is not involved.
One of many fruitful questions for further review now is the extent to which these operations were run by Government of Kenya officials out of Government offices.
Was Cambridge Analytica given access to Government of Kenya data? On the pattern of use of State resources for the Jubilee campaign, beyond running the campaign through office holders and out of the Office of The President and State House, note this from The Star story;
Aspirants who won nominations in the just-concluded Jubilee primaries will be expected to campaign for Uhuru in their home areas.
A deal has been offered to nomination losers to stick with Jubilee and be rewarded with state jobs after the election.
Here is yesterday’s Reuters report with the first “on record” confirmation from Jubilee after the now-infamous Channel 4 undercover expose and leaks regarding Facebook that it used SCL/Cambridge Analytica in the campaign.
And please remember as well the role of the American firm Harris Media: “Don’t Mess From Texas: disturbing Privacy International report indicates Uhuruto re-election campaign bought Texas-based negative propaganda campaign.”