Lawyer Ahmednassior Abdullahi represented Uhuru and IEBC in the 2017 and 2013 presidential petition. Photo courtesy
Three thoughts on the Cambridge Analytica Kenya story:
By Daudi Were
Firstly, several people who thought they were running a presidential campaign are quickly realising there were not even at the decision making table. They should be very worried about the things done in their name.
Secondly, the main focus at the moment is CA’s activities in Kenya’s 2017 election I think the bigger story is CA’s (and others) activities in the 2013 election. We tend to forget how much of a game changer the 2013 election was and how remarkable the result was. You had what was considered (by several sectors) an un-electable presidential ticket led by individuals who we previously all thought could not stand each other, a presidential ticket whom our key international partners even warned us off with “choices have consequences”. This ticket beat the incumbent PM widely considered the best politician in Kenya of this generation and whom had even hand picked several key members of the election commission. It was a remarkable result to say the least.
In 2017 the incumbent Head of State won an election. Psephologists (those pesky people again) will tell you that 2017 is nowhere as interesting as 2013. As we look at CAs role in 2013 let us also look at the role of the other international tech players in 2013. For example, the 2013 election came two years after the launch of Kenya Open Data platform.
On the taskforce we knew open elections data would be the big test (and big win) for the platform. Plans were put in place to make this a reality. Then the big players came to town. I do hope this spotlight on CA also reveals the informal agreements, MOUs, contracts etc between, for example, IEBC and Google in 2013. Instead of having direct access to the election data, all of a sudden we all had to go through a Google API. We could not get shapefiles for Kenya Constituencies (even if we wanted to pay) yet they were handed over to Google.
Teams of techies even started “liberating” Kenya’s election data from Google’s platform (for example the polling station GPS coordinates which had also been denied to us but given to Google surfaced on GitHub). Funding for independent tech platforms was diverted because there “was no need for replica tech platforms”.
Good meaning friends wrote condescending articles and blogposts arguing that more that one platform was “too complicated” for Kenyans to understand and Kenya did not need an independent platform. When the IEBC results API infamously went down/was shut off/ was hacked those of us outside the IEBC/Google loop were in complete data darkness. Then the biggest bilateral international partners in their post election reports slammed the independent platforms (which they gave no support) for not displaying data they had been denied access to!
I do hope the KE techies who were helping IEBC in 2013 will now publicly share what they know/saw about a mysterious team (flown in at the last minute) that pushed them aside to “solve” issues that they had already solved. These are not hidden stories, they are well known within Kenya’s tech community. Then we turned tech demagogues into tech demigods.
Finally (at the risk of sounding like a record broken for the last 10 years) I hope this CA story impresses all the different sectors of Kenya’s Civil Society that united we stand, divided we fall. Trying to take these guys on alone is too much for one organisation or even one coalition. We need independent platforms, we need to deploy appropriate technology, we need coverage at every single polling station, in every party, in every rally. This is impossible if the people do not work with CSOs. The people will not work with CSOs if CSOs are not united.
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