Monday, January 7, 2008

Old Etonian led Kibaki's "dirty" re-Election bid

Eton-educated Marcus Courage has been accused of spreading defamatory pamphlets about opposition leader Raila Odinga

The controversial re-election campaign of Mwai Kibaki was masterminded by an Old Etonian public relations consultant who previously promoted Bob Geldof’s Live 8 campaign to tackle poverty in Africa.

Marcus Courage oversaw the communications team for Kibaki, whose government faces possible European Union sanctions for alleged vote-rigging. Kibaki has said that he is ready to form a government of national unity to steer the country back from violence that has killed more than 300 people and created a humanitarian crisis, but this has been outrightly rejected by the opposition. Courage said he played a “central role” in organising the Kibaki campaign for the most aggressively fought election in Kenya’s history. Courage, whose firm Africa Practice was contracted by Kibaki, denies any untoward behaviour and described the opposition claims as “rubbish”.

He first worked for Kibaki in 2002. Last month, a United Nations-sponsored report said a quarter of Kibaki’s £4.8m campaign costs were funded by money siphoned from the state. Courage denied that he had been paid with any corrupt monies and says funds were raised legitimately from Kenyan donors.

Courage’s role has angered the opposition, who accuse him of spreading defamatory pamphlets of their candidate, Raila Odinga. “He has personalised and played up the ethnic differences in this country . . . when we get into government [Courage] will be persona non grata [in Kenya],” said Ahmed Hashi, Odinga’s communications director.

In 2005 Courage became an adviser to the Make Poverty History campaign. Africa Practice later solicited support for African “trade justice” from business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson, Tom Glocer, the Reuters chief executive, and Sir Terence Conran.

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