Israeli hackers allegedly hacked into the private conversation of two aides to Kenya’s President William Ruto during last year’s election, a new investigation has claimed.
The investigation – carried out by a consortium of journalists and published in outlets including Israel’s Haaretz and The Guardian of the UK – claims that days before Kenya’s 2022 election, a hacker “gave a demonstration of his capabilities, showing how he could use hacking techniques to infiltrate the messages of political advisers”.
The undercover reporters, posing as potential clients, were given “a guided tour of the hacked Telegram and email accounts of five different targets in Kenya” including Dennis Itumbi, who was a political adviser for William Ruto, then vice president, and Davis Chirchir, the former chief of Staff.
The report identifies the alleged hackers as former Israeli special forces led by an operative called Tal Hanan. Mr Hanan is quoted as saying that he had led a team called “Team Jorge” to access Mr Chirchir and Mr Itumbi’s accounts as part of “an intelligence-gathering and disinformation campaign against Ruto’s campaign team”.
Mr Itumbi has since said via his Twitter account that he was aware of “increased activity” on his Telegram account towards the end of last year’s campaign and he stopped using his Telegram for any communication.
The investigation does not reveal who hired the hacking team. Neither the state nor the opposition has commented on the report.
The alleged attempt at interference did not prevent Mr Ruto from being declared president. Main opposition leader Raila Odinga challenged the results on grounds that the final results were manipulated in favour of Mr Ruto, but his petition was thrown out by the courts because of insufficient evidence.