September 28, 2017 / 8:22 AM / in 3 years

Kenyan opposition leader targets Safaricom staff over election

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has asked his lawyers to prosecute six employees of telecoms operator Safaricom for conspiring with election board officials to rig the nullified Aug. 8 presidential poll.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga (C), the presidential candidate of the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition speaks during a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The Supreme Court annulled President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election on Sept. 1, citing irregularities and illegalities in the transmission of results, and ordered another election within 60 days.

Kenya used two systems to transmit results from polling stations: paper forms and the electronic transmission of the vote tallies plus scanned copies of the forms, using three local telecoms firms and hardware from French IT firm OT-Morpho.

Odinga accused Safaricom of failing to alert the authorities about illegal activities during the electronic transmission of results. He said they were sent to a server in Europe rather than the election centre in the Kenyan capital.

“The time has come to conclusively deal with all those entrusted with responsibility and would seek to profit from the stealing of elections,” he told a news conference on Tuesday.

He also said 100 biometric voting kits stolen from the election board before the vote were operated illegally on Safaricom’s network but the company failed to notify the authorities.

Safaricom denied all the accusations and said it was ready for any investigation or private prosecutions by any party.

“Safaricom is deeply concerned that the NASA (Odinga’s coalition) statement has recklessly gone ahead to mention innocent Safaricom staff members needlessly endangering them and their families,” the company said in a statement.

“This action is callous and unnecessary.”

Safaricom is East Africa’s biggest company by market value. It is a subsidiary of South Africa’s Vodacom, which is in turn a subsidiary of Britain’s Vodafone.

Kenya’s telecoms regulator, the Communications Authority (CA), said no cases of transmission failure were reported by the three telecoms operators contracted by the election board.

“We implore politicians to report any alleged election malpractices on the part of industry players to the relevant law enforcement agencies instead of engaging in blanket ‘lynching’ of investors in this strategic sector,” CA said in a statement.

Safaricom shares were unchanged on Wednesday at 26 shillings.

“The opposition leader’s comments about Safaricom have been discounted to zero,” said Aly Khan Satchu, an independent trader and analyst.

After last month’s election, Odinga’s coalition urged its supporters to boycott products of Nation Media Group, the region’s biggest news publisher, accusing it of unfair coverage. The NASA coalition later dropped the boycott call after the Supreme Court nullified the election.

Editing by David Clarke

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