A senior Kenyan election official has been found dead just days before the country goes to the polls.
Chris Msando was head of information technology for Kenya’s Integrated Electoral Management System. His department was responsible for voter identification and result transmission technology for the August 8 elections.
Msando had last been heard from early Saturday – when he sent a text message to a colleague.
“We learned in shock, the killing and murder of our employee, Chris Msando. There’s no doubt that he was tortured and murdered,” Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati said Monday. Msando’s death has raised fresh fears over Kenya’s ability to deliver credible elections.
“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,” Chebukati said.
Election observers from the nongovernmental watchdog Carter Center said in a pre-election statement that the smooth functioning of the voter-identification system was key to “preventing malpractice on election day.”
Chebukati, who addressed journalists outside the Nairobi’s city morgue, said the voting authority is working with police to find those responsible for Msando’s death. The bodies of the election official and an unidentified woman were found on the outskirts of the city on Saturday, according to The Star newspaper.
Efforts by CNN to get a comment on the case from police were not immediately successful.
Kenyatta opposed by longtime rival Odinga
Voters in the east African nation are due to go to the polls next week with incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta looking to secure a second five-year term.
He is facing longtime rival and opposition leader Raila Odinga in an increasingly close race. To win the election outright, a candidate must receive 50% of the votes plus one – as well as at least 25% of the votes in half of Kenya’s 47 counties.
If no winner is declared, the election will go to a runoff, which would be a first in Kenya’s history.
Otsieno Namwaya, an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, issued a statement urging Kenyan authorities to “urgently” investigate the circumstances surrounding Msando’s death.
“Msando’s killing comes as the electoral management-body was due to audit its systems, a week away from the election day,” Namwaya said.
Amnesty International’s Kenya researcher Abdullahi Halakhe said the death so close to election day should be a red flag to Kenyan authorities.
“Next week’s vote will be extremely close and there is a very real danger that the situation will erupt if the authorities do not ensure that the Kenyan people are able to cast their votes free from intimidation, threats and violence,” Halakhe said.
Msando had been due to oversee public testing of the election-management system Monday.
In 2013 a breakdown in voter identification technology was a primary reason that Odinga contested the results, taking the case to Kenya’s highest court, which ultimately ruled in Kenyatta’s favor.