Safran Morpho sues Kalonzo, Raila, Weta and Mudavadi

National Super Alliance principals Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Raila Odinga (ODM) during their rally at Masinde Muliro Grounds in Huruma, Nairobi, March 24, 2017. /JACK OWUOR
National Super Alliance principals Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya), Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress) and Raila Odinga (ODM) during their rally at Masinde Muliro Grounds in Huruma, Nairobi, March 24, 2017. /JACK OWUOR

The French company that supplied information technology equipment for the August 8, 2017, General Election has sued Raila Odinga and the three other NASA co-principals for defamation.

The defendants include Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC's Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula. Also sued are Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, ODM communications director Philip Etale, the Nation Media Group and Radio Africa Group.

Idemia Identity and Security France, formerly known as Safran Morpho, provided electronic systems that identified Kenyan voters and transmitted election results.

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The case was filed in the Nairobi High Court on April 17 by CM Advocates LLP.

The firm wants the politicians and the two media houses permanently blocked from making remarks or publishing defamatory articles against them.

The presidential results of the August 8 election were nullified by the Supreme Court over what it called irregularities and illegalities. A presidential rerun was held on October 26. Raila did not contest.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto of the Jubilee Party were declared winners in the first and second rounds.

The French company says that during and after the election politicians made statements insinuating that it had engaged in irregularities. These statements which were repeated in the media, resulting in damage to its reputation, the company says.

As remedy, the company wants the court to issue an order compelling the media houses and the four politicians to pull down all articles already published on different social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and online relating to the company and the conduct of the general election.

In a sworn affidavit, Yves Charvin, an in-house lawyer for the company, says that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission contracted the company to provide the necessary technology to power the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (KIEMS).

Charvin says the company provided the IEBC with about 45,000 secure biometric tablets for verification of the voters list before the election.

"The plaintiff states that it diligently executed the contract to the expectation of the IEBC and the contract terms," Charvin says in the affidavit.

It is alleged that on various dates after the declaration of the August 2017 presidential election results by IEBC, the politicians and media houses deliberately published defamatory articles against the company on several media, despite having known the information and or publications were false.

The company in its suit papers says that articles in question purport that it helped rig the 2017 election, hence, tarnishing its reputation.

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It says the articles in question portrayed the company as corrupt and unethical.

“The sensational manner in which the publication of the articles were headed was clearly intended to cause irreparable damage to the plaintiffs by ensuring that the whole world learns of the alleged unethical conduct in the most damaging way possible,” the suit papers read.

Idemia says both the politicians and the media houses never bothered to verify the facts, despite knowing the claims they were making were false.

For example, it says, Mudavadi wrote a letter to the French government on September 7, 2017, accusing the company of engaging in unethical acts that may amount to criminal activities under the Elections Act, the court was told.

In his letter, Mudavadi is said to have asked the French government to commence investigations against the company and its employee Laurent Lambert.

According to the French company, the utterances complained of have an effect of denying them opportunity to be contracted for similar security and identity solutions, not only in Kenya but elsewhere in the world.

"By the reason of the defendants' defamatory statements, the plaintiff's reputation has been lowered in the estimation of right thinking members of the public," the company says.

The technology company rebranded itself last year from the OT-Morpho Group and it supplied the Sh3.8 billion KIEMS devices for the August 2017 General Election and the repeat presidential election

The brand change comes just half a year after Oberthur Technologies merged with Safran Identity & Security to form OT-Morpho.

The company provided electronic systems for voter identification and results transmissions.

It supplied the 45,000 tablets that were used to identify voters biometrically, while the results transmission system (RTS) was used to transmit the results of votes counted by electoral officials, as well as a photograph of the paper forms 34A and 34B on which votes were tallied.

The move by the IEBC to re-engage the French firm sparked protests from the opposition alliance NASA.

The four-party alliance urged the French government to investigate Paris-based OT-Morpho and its relations with electoral officials whom, it alleged, may have “acted in complicity and connived to undermine the will of the people of Kenya”.

Charvin denied the allegations in his affidavit, saying that rigging of an election is a serious and emotive issue and saying if the courts will not intervene to stop the eight respondents, the company will suffer "irreparable loss".

The case is set for hearing on May 30 at Milimani law courts.

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