Election Official Found Dead Days Before Kenya Election

Days before the general election in Kenya, which is scheduled for August 8, 2017, Christopher Msando, head of information technology for Kenya’s Integrated Electoral Management System, was found dead on July 31. His department was tasked with voter identification and result transmission technology for the upcoming election. His body was found next to the corpse of a woman in a forest near Nairobi, the capital. With an autopsy, it was revealed that he had been severely tortured and strangled to death, with deep scratches and cuts on his body. The investigation is ongoing, and reports stating that three suspects had been arrested has been dismissed by government spokesperson Eric Kiraithe.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman, Wafula Chebukati, stated that “We learned in shock, the killing and murder of our employee, Chris Msando. There’s no doubt that he was tortured and murdered.” He also added that “The only issue is who killed him and why … I demand from the government that they provide security for all employees of IEBC, for us to give Kenyans a free and fair election.” A joint statement by the U.S. and the U.K. indicated that they were deeply concerned with the murder and called for fair, open, credible, and peaceful elections in Kenya. According to election observers from non-governmental watchdog, Carter Center, the functioning of the voter identification system was key to preventing electoral issues on the day of the election. Otsieno Namwaya, an African researcher at Human Rights Watch, issued a statement that pressed authorities to investigate the circumstances around Msando’s death. He also said that “Msando’s killing comes as the electoral management body was due to audit its systems, a week away from the election day.”

Furthermore, the election in Kenya on August 8 will have Kenyans going to the polls. The incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta looks for a second five-year term. In what is deemed to be an increasingly close race, he is facing opposition leader Raila Odinga. To win outright, a candidate must receive 50% of the votes plus one, along with at least 25% of the vote in half of Kenya’s 47 counties. In 2013, a breakdown in voter identification technology was the primary reason for Odinga contesting the results of the general election that year. The highest court in Kenya ruled in favour of Kenyatta, however.

With the death of Christopher Msando, an important election official, there are significant concerns being raised regarding the state of the upcoming elections. If the security of the elections cannot be guaranteed and the results are consequently brought into question, it can have the ability to weaken the governmental structure of Kenya and disillusion the electorate. With the election happening in just a few days, it remains to be seen what the subsequent consequences of this are. It seems early to point to a widespread issue, but the concerns raised should be considered and kept in mind, especially given electoral problems that occurred in 2013. An investigation into the circumstances, as officials and experts have indicated, is an important step in finding out more about what happened to Msando. Alongside this, there should be an in-depth investigation into any potential attempts to interfere with the election process in Kenya.