A Canadian working on the opposition’s campaign in Kenya was deported Saturday ahead of the African country’s contentious presidential election, his wife says.
Jennifer Mary Bell said she spoke with her husband, Andreas Katsouris of Toronto, while he was awaiting deportation in the Nairobi airport on Saturday.
Katsouris is senior vice-president of global services at Aristotle, Inc., a political consulting firm that provides various services to campaigns, including strategy and data analysis.
He and the company’s CEO, John Aristotle Phillips, an American, were detained Friday night, Aristotle spokeswoman Brandi Travis said.
Safe and well-treated
She said the two men were in the East African country assisting opposition candidate Raila Odinga, and had become involved in the Kenyan election because they thought it had the potential for irregularities.
Bell said her husband wasn’t able to tell her much during their brief conversation, but he did say that he was safe and had been well-treated, despite reports that his colleague Phillips had been assaulted and put in the trunk of a vehicle.
James Orengo, a senior member of the opposition National Super Alliance, told reporters that Phillips was “very adamant about his rights under the constitution, civic rights, was molested, thrown into the boot, and taken away with his colleague.”
And while Bell knows now that her husband is safe, when she first found out what happened, she said it wasn’t clear.
Incident raises questions
“At first, I didn’t actually hear that he was being deported,” she said in an interview from the Netherlands. “I heard that he had been kidnapped or detained.”
Though she said she had a feeling Katsouris would be okay — going into potentially dangerous countries during elections is “kind of his thing” — she acted quickly and called her MP to make sure the incident was on the Canadian government’s radar.
But the incident does raise questions, she said.
“To me the interesting question is why this happened, and why the government would choose to do something so visible with an American and a Canadian,” she said. “It suggests a motive that isn’t necessarily pure.”
Saturday was the last day of campaigning in the election, which is set for Tuesday.
President Uhuru Kenyatta — the son of Kenya’s first president — will face longtime opposition leader Odinga, the son of the country’s first vice-president.
‘The right thing to do’
Odinga has run in vain for the top post in three previous contests.
Recent elections in the East African high-tech and commercial hub have been hotly contested, and more than 1,000 people were killed in post-election violence a decade ago. Kenyatta prevailed over Odinga in a 2013 vote that was mostly peaceful but tainted by opposition allegations of vote-rigging.
Travis said Katsouris and Phillips knew there were risks associated with working for the opposition in Kenya, but they thought Odinga’s cause was worth it.
“They do go into countries that aren’t always safe,” she said, “but they think it’s the right thing to do.”
Travis said the two men were deported Saturday afternoon. Katsouris was to fly to Germany and later join her in the Netherlands, Bell said.
James Orengo, a senior member of the opposition National Super Alliance, told The Associated Press that the detention of Katsouris and Phillips happened around the same time that armed and masked police raided an opposition vote counting centre, intimidating workers and seizing equipment.
He also said two Ghanaians working on the opposition campaign have been deported.
Kenyan police denied allegations that officers broke into political party offices on Friday, saying no report of a burglary has been made to any police station.
Source: The Canadian Press