Revealed: Why Raila rejected Cambridge Analytica

Leaked documents from disgraced lobby group Cambridge Analytica now show that the company had initially reached out to the Raila Odinga-led ODM before settling for the more receptive The National Alliance (TNA) party whose presidential candidate in the 2013 elections was Uhuru Kenyatta.

Correspondence between employees of the CA’s mother company- SCL- and Kenyan contacts show the company, in looking to gain a foothold in the country had drawn up a proposal that would help ODM secure the presidency.

However, the emails between the British firm and a Kenyan contact posted by whistleblower site HindsightFiles, show that the Raila camp was not receptive to the proposal.

“Last time we had a fruitful engagement which led to a meeting with Marcus Beltran of SCL and ODM top bras…,” a December 2, 2013 email from the company’s Kenyan contact reads.

Conducting research

“It was truly unfortunate that ODM were too confident and thought that the services of SCL would best serve them in 2017 elections when they were already in power. The results of their overconfidence is well known.”

It is the rebuffing by one of Raila’s then powerful aides that led the company to adopt their proposal to the Kenyatta camp, a relationship that saw them work well past their initial 2013 arrangement and into the 2017 elections, which again, Raila lost.

More details have also emerged over the sheer amount of money spent by TNA and later the Jubilee Party with regard to their first election and the subsequent re-election bid in 2017.

In 2012, as ODM was preparing to tour the country for political rallies, Cambridge Analytica was between April and June 2012 conducting research interviews around the country. Some 47,000 interviews were conducted by a team of some 234 local staff.

The research, in form of a survey, explored the political views of Kenyans, the then governance structures, perceptions on the International Criminal Court, trust of various leaders and the reasons Kenyans had for voting.

“Average interview was 45 minutes. Ten different groups were identified based on their support (or potential to support) Kenyatta; insights were used to produce messaging to appeal to target groups. Issue hierarchies and propensity to change vote scores were produced for each group. Influencers, reward structures and motivations for each group were also identified,” reads a section of a confidential document by the company to TNA.

The results of this surveys were then used to move the TNA juggernaut towards State House, or at least shape perceptions that President Kenyatta’s march to the presidency was inevitable. “Research was used to produce a raft of creative materials from T-shirts to billboards, multimedia advertising, slogans, flyers and an entire campaign theme built around an inspirational message – the I Believe Campaign,” reads the document.

The research was also used to develop a manifesto, a PR and Media strategy, hold campaign events and conduct monthly polling. All this at a cost of close to Sh150 million excluding expenses.

Even after their contract to deliver the 2013 elections came to an end, the company still kept tabs on political events in the country. In 2016, emissaries from the company were sent to the Office of the President to invite Uhuru to a function where former clients speak about the successes they have enjoyed by engaging CA services. It is not clear whether President Kenyatta honoured the invite.

“So far we have a ‘NO’ from Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Lauretta as well as Vice Mayor, and we can say a tentative yes from the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Kenyatta. However as you know, these are to be confirmed by the end of the month,” reads the email from Livia Krisandova, an Operations Executive at the company.

At this time though, communication between CA top employees shows that the Raila camp was willing to get CA’s services after missing out in 2013. “Whilst working for a top Nairobi based businessman, he got me a meeting with seemingly all of Raila’s senior staff and they were interested,” Marcus Beltran says in another email.

Bigger payday

But CA was weary of working with Raila’s camp when they were looking to bag another big contract with the Kenyatta camp. As a result CA stuck to their original candidate, with this came a bigger payday, some Sh250 million.

The contract between CA and Jubilee involved the identification of opportunities for promoting a more aggressive and positive communications strategy, and work with government officers to design a vigorous PR and communications strategy.

“Furthermore, we will identify opportunities to vigorously promote the positive achievements of the administration. SCL will work with the government officers to highlight Kenya’s reinforced and renewed position in the region and continent as a whole following its defeat of the erroneous ICC charges and its continued political, economic and military prominence in the region,” reads part of CA strategy paper.

After losing again to President Kenyatta, Raila and his backers accused CA of election malpractice.

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