The nasty political duel between Sports CS Rashid Echesa and Kakamega senator Cleophas Malala degenerated into farce yesterday amid revelations the minister allegedly tried to frame the latter with fake nude photographs.
Rashid, a self-professed ally of Deputy President William Ruto reportedly paid some three journalists to photoshop Malala’s image to portray him in a compromising situation with a non-existent woman.
The strategy was to flood the Internet with the pornographic pictures in a bid to tarnish Malala’s reputation, especially in Kakamega, where their supremacy battles have played out openly.
The vocal Malala, a close ally of Opposition chief Raila Odinga has been chiding Rashid, a former ODM national youth leader, as a Standard 7 drop-out who does not understand his work as CS.
The three journalists – David Ndolo, Stafford Ondego and Alex Njue – alleged to be Achesa’s hatchet men, were arrested on Tuesday evening and locked up at KICC police station.
According to police, the three are accused of taking Senator Malala’s photo image, cropping off the head, placing an unrelated naked body and juxtaposing it next to a nude woman.
“Yesterday in some social media network there was demeaning photos of the CS in an unknown lodging with a woman in compromising situations. When those went viral Rashid looked for journalists whom he sent the photos and told them to Photoshop and replace them with me and release them online. Because I have acumen on intelligence I was able to round up those journalists with the help of police,” Malala told reporters in Parliament yesterday.
Malala said the images were to be used by Rashid to carry out a character assassination campaign.
“Kuna malumbano tuko nayo na CS Rashid. Juzi alikua radio mmoja kule nyumbani akasema mambo mengi sana ambayo sitaki kuyataja hapa juu alikuwa anataka kuniharibia jina. (We have our squabble with the CS. Recently he was on a radio talk show back at home and said a lot of things to defame me),” Malala said.
Malala, also the Senate Deputy Minority Leader, backed up his claims with mobile text messages and WhatsApp communication between the three photojournalists and a number believed to belong to Rashid.
According to the text messages, the CS sent the journalists Sh5,000 through his personal driver. According to Malala, the CS forwarded the demeaning photos directly to his cellphone.
“Seconds after Ndolo sent the Photoshopped images to the CS, he forwarded to me the same. So I am a witness too in this case. We confiscated their phones and laptops,” Malala said, adding that he had instructed Siaya Senator James Orengo as his lawyer and engaged an expert to help with evidence gathering that would eventually be used during prosecution.
Rashid was not available for comment as his phone was off most of yesterday evening.
But last week, the CS launched a scathing attack on Malala, accusing him of branding Deputy President William Ruto as a thief when it is the DP who built him his house in Kakamega.
In the interview with a local radio station that has been trending, Rashid says he introduced Malala, then an MCA in Kakamega, to Ruto who funded him up to Sh7 million to build a house.
“Today, he is not ashamed calling a man who gave him money to built a house where he is bringing up his children as a thief…He is telling churches, don’t accept money from the Deputy President. I am challenging him to knock down that house if its from stolen money,” Rashid said during the interview.
According to the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act enacted in May this year, anyone who knowingly spreads false information electronically is liable to Sh5 million fine upon conviction.
Sharing pornography through various electronic means is punishable by a maximum fine of Sh300,000 or 30 years in prison or both.
Those who intentionally publish false, misleading or fictitious data, or misinform — with intent that it shall be considered or acted upon as authentic, with or without any financial gain — commit an offence.
The law prescribes stiff penalties for false publications, child pornography, computer forgery, cyberstalking and cyberbullying — likely offences the three journalists and the CS could be charged with should the case proceed to court.
Rashid has been embroiled in several incidents since his surprise appointment as Cabinet Secretary by President Uhuru Kenyatta this year.
On July 29, three people were injured after rival supporters of the two clashed in Mayoni ward, Matungu after a rally. Malala complained that the CS had allegedly sponsored the attack on his convoy which he denied.
The row has festered into weekly exchanges on the ground, with Rashid occasionally attacking key western leaders opposed to the DP.
On August 6, Rashid was involved in another altercation with Alego Usonga MP Sam Atandi at Kisumu airport.
The MPs had been infuriated by what he termed as Rashid’s frequent attacks against Nasa leader Raila Odinga. Rashid had accused Raila — whom he had publicly dismissed Raila as a nobody — for pushing to have him dismissed as Cabinet Secretary.
The CS has also had run-ins with other western leaders, including Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula, whom he has criticized for misleading the Luhya community.