Firm behind IEBC technology withdraws suit against Raila Odinga

NASA leader Raila Odinga. French firm Safran and OT-Morpho sued him for defamation. [File, Standard]
The French firm that supplied poll equipment has withdrawn its defamation case against Raila Odinga and other opposition leaders arising from vote rigging claims in the August 8 presidential election.

Safran and OT-Morpho, which is now going by the name Idemia Identity and Security France, alongside it’s top level managers- Laurent Lambert, Alex Lambert and Bavly Farag- in April this year sued National Super Alliance leaders Raila, Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetangula, Junet Mohamed and communication manager Phillip Etale.

The firm wanted the six blocked from making further rigging claims against it and also compensation for alleged defamation.

But in a turnaround last Thursday, it asked the court the court to close the file as I did not want to pursue the case anymore. It however did not give reasons for withdrawing the suit.

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The French company supplied the information technology equipment that were deployed by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission(IEBC).

It supplied the Sh3.8 billion Kenya Integrated Election Management System(KIEMS) kits which were used to identify voters biometrically.

They were also linked to the results transmission system (RTS).

According to Safran, the claims by NASA leaders were lies that have allegedly hurt its reputation.

 The firm had said its business to supply security and identity gadgets in the country and abroad is in jeopardy out of the claims by the three leaders.

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 “The plaintiffs are apprehensive that the first plaintiff(Safran) may not be contracted to supply similar security and identity in Kenya or elsewhere in the world,” the court papers filed before Justice Joseph Sergon read in part.

As to why Safran did not file a suit immediately after the August 8 election, it explained that it sent them demand letters expecting that they would soul search and apologize.

According to the company they never replied.

“Although the publications have been running from September 2017, the plaintiffs did not lodge this suit immediately in hope that the defendants would heed to the requests or demands to heed the plaintiffs to cease publishing defamatory statements or pull down the defamatory statements in the media,” the judge was told.

  The company believes that the former Prime Minister and his team meant that it was to blame for the bungled election.

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  It complained, “The statements published by the defendants have the effect of portraying the plaintiffs as persons who committed crimes with IEBC during the August 8 election. They further allege that the defendant rigged Kenya’s August 8 election.”

Safran was also aggrieved by a letter dated September 7,2017, written to the French Government by NASA in which they wanted the company’s head of the Kenyan project Mr. Laurent Lambert and head of analytics Mr. Axel Gaucher punished.

 The letter which was also copied to the French Ambassador to Kenya claimed that the two were involved in unethical acts in the country. The opposition wanted the French Government to initiate both administrative and criminal proceedings against the two.

But the firm in its suit alleges that they are lies.

 “Rigging of elections is a serious and emotive issue in Kenya which in the past has resulted to violence. The plaintiffs are apprehensive that the defendants continuing to make allegations o rigging of elections against them will continue to suffer irreparable losses not only in relation to their reputation but also in loss of their business,” Justice Sergon heard.

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But the opposition leaders in their separate replies denied defaming the company. The former Prime Minister in his reply denied that he was the author of the letter to send by NASA to the French Government.

 In his reply dated May 23 this year, he argued that his sentiments on rigging emanated from the Supreme Court’s judgement that the Presidential election was done in a sham manner.

 “The first defendant denies that it authored or cased to be authored the letter dated September 7, 2017 or provided defamatory information against the plaintiffs,” Raila replied though his lawyer Jackson Awele.

 Raila also wanted the company to deposit Sh 5 million each so that it would be deducted as costs in the event he wins the case.

At the same time Kalonzo and Mudavadi fronted a similar defense, denying that they defamed the company. Kalonzo in his reply says that he was a stranger to the claims raised by the firm.

 On his end, Mudavadi asked the court to affirm that the company gave Kenyans a low deal and also order that it should not be awarded any public tender in the country.

 “The contract between he first plaintiff(Safran) and the first interested party(IEBC) was illegal for want of necessary legal guarantees. In addition, the same is a fruit of poisoned tree being violation of procurement laws,” he claimed in his reply filed last month.

He continued, “As a result of the first plaintiff’s breach of contract, legal and Constitutional obligations, the public has suffered huge financial losses.”

 What remains now is whether the company will pay costs of the case.

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