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The danger that comes with international consulting was spotlighted over the weekend after practitioners working for the opposition presidential candidate were deported from Kenya.
John Phillips, who heads Aristotle International, was handcuffed by plainclothes security officers and deported after being taken from his apartment in Nairobi on Friday night. Phillips arrived back into Dulles International Airport on Sunday evening.
Andreas Katsouris, a Toronto-based SVP of Aristotle, was also detained and deported. Both men had their computers confiscated by the authorities. Phillips’ computer was password protected, but Katsouris’s was not.
Katsouris, who had been in the country since late June, described being on his way to dinner in Nairobi on Friday when he was surrounded by plainclothes policemen who demanded he take them to Phillips. After they got to the apartment where the men were staying, the authorities became aggressive when the consultants resisted their demands to pack up and leave.
“One guy also grabbed the glasses off my face. I’m pretty much blind without my glasses, and then I was like ‘OK we don’t have to do things this way,’ and then he put them back on,” Katsouris told the Toronto Star. The police also accessed his two cellphones.
Phillips and Katsouris were driven away in separate cars. Eventually they were taken to the airport and held before boarding flights back to North America.
A government spokesman told Reuters that Phillips and Katsouris, who were both in Kenya on tourist visas, had "contradicted the terms of their visa.”
Aristotle was working in Kenya on behalf of presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his National Super Alliance. Their purview included strategy, polling data analytics and advising on technology, according to Brandi Travis, a spokeswoman for Aristotle.
Travis said that other U.S. consultants were assisting Odinga’s campaign, but declined to name them.
In March, Vanguard Africa, a NGO advocating for fair elections, which is advised by Joe Trippi, hosted Odinga “for a range of high-level meetings” in D.C. The trip sparked online allegations — complete with forged documents — that Vanguard Africa was financially supporting Odinga, something the organization denied.
Meanwhile, Cambridge Analytica has been working with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Jubilee party since at least May, occupying the entire floor of a building in Nairobi, according to a local report.
With a tightly contested presidential election and down-ballot election slated for Tuesday, Kenya has seen an uptick in election-related violence. Chris Msando, an official in charge of the country’s computerised voting system, was found murdered last week. He had been extremely tortured, prompting an international outcry over the credibility of Kenya’s vote.
Around the same time that Aristotle’s team was being detained, an opposition spokesman said that masked police raided an opposition vote-counting centre.
Travis said that Aristotle, which had previously worked in neighboring Uganda, would continue to do international consulting.
“If [John] had his choice, he’d definitely still be there,” she told C&E. “It’s not going to deter them from going back and doing more work. Their whole mission is going and furthering democracy. It’s not always safe.”