Kenya’s Opposition Coalition Accuses Safaricom, OT-Morpho and IEBC of Colluding to Rig the Elections

Image Courtesy REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Just the other day, Kenya’s electoral body, IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) announced that they had made some changes to the ICT infrastructure and among those changes was that Safaricom would solely distribute KIEMs tablet SIM cards to the 40,883 gazetted polling stations.

This announcement triggered a reaction from Kenya’s opposition NASA (National Super Alliance), who accused Safaricom and OT-Morpho (suppliers of KIEMs) for colluding with IEBC to rig the August 8 elections and planning to do the same in the upcoming October 26 presidential election. During the August 8 election, Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom were all allocated specific zones that they would supply SIM cards and a VPN network to facilitate the transmission of election results. In a press statement, NASA said that “None of the kits under Safaricom’s network ever got their results onto the IEBC’s public web portal.”

NASA goes ahead to claim that between July 25 and 27, hundreds of KIEMs kits were stolen from IEBC and that this theft information was shared with Safaricom. The coalition continues to explain that the stolen kits were allowed to transmit results via the Safaricom network;

On Election Day, the stolen KIEMS kits were allowed to continue operating on the Safaricom network even though the company’s management knew those kits were not under the control of the IEBC. Safaricom allowed this illegality to go on and did not even care to report the various illegal activities of these KIEMS kits. We have the names of the six individuals at Safaricom who had intimate knowledge of this conspiracy and either actively participated or concealed the same. That same team has been reassembled to do what they did back then. We have instructed our lawyers to initiate private prosecution of the officers under the Cyber Crimes Act. Safaricom is yet to come out on this matter even as it prepares to take Kenyans for another charade of elections.

As a response, Safarciom Limited issued a press statement clarifying that results from their zones were transmitted and do reflect in IEBC’s servers. The company then denies that they were informed of any theft of the KIEMs kits, consequently, they had nothing to report. The statement reads, in part;

Contrary to what is alleged in the NASA statement, results from KIEMs kits from Safaricom zones, were transmitted and are on the IEBC web portal. Further, it is factually incorrect and unsupported by any evidence whatsoever that Safaricom was informed that some 100 KIEMs kits, as alleged, were stolen from IEBC. As such there was nothing required for Safaricom to report and in any event, if any KIEMS kits were stolen it the responsibility of IEBC to make such a report and further notify the MNOs to deactivate the SIMs. Safaricom did not receive such a report from IEBC. Safaricom is deeply concerned that the NASA statement has recklessly gone ahead to mention innocent Safaricom staff members needlessly endangering them and their families. This action is callous and unnecessary. Safaricom would like to state that we discharged our contractual obligations strictly in accordance with our contract and the law. Safaricom is ready to face any investigations and/or private prosecutions, brought by any party, on this matter.

Communication’s Authority of Kenya also released a statement on the same which partly reads;

In line with our oversight responsibility as the ICT sector regulator, the Authority directed the mobile operators to report any cases of transmission failure to us.  No cases of transmission failure were reported to us…

…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.

The authority then urges Kenyans not to lose faith and confidence in technology, citing that “ICTs have been successfully deployed and embraced in all facets of life in the country, including banking, business, education, health, agriculture and government services…”

At the time of publishing, OT-Morpho had not yet responded to these claims however, the company has over and over again denied that their systems were tampered with. Speaking to Bloomberg, OT-Morpho Chief Operating Officer, Frederic Beylier, said, “We do not intend to become the scapegoat of the political situation in Kenya. We do not accept that the reputation of OT-Morpho and its employees is tainted in any way by these allegations. This has to come to an end.” The company then said that it is willing to open its system for additional scrutiny by an independent body under the authority of Kenya’s election commission.