A Kenyan election official who was found murdered earlier this week died from manual strangulation and had incision marks on his right forearm, Kenya’s chief government pathologist told CNN on Thursday.
The official, Chris Msando, was head of information technology for Kenya’s Integrated Electoral Management System. His department is responsible for voter-identification and result-transmission technology for the national elections that take place on Tuesday.
Msando had last been heard from early Saturday – when he sent a text message to a colleague.
Wafula Chebukati, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, expressed the voting authority’s shock at their colleague’s death on Monday, suggesting to reporters outside Nairobi’s city morgue that Msando had been tortured.
“We learned in shock, the killing and murder of our employee, Chris Msando. There’s no doubt that he was tortured and murdered,” Chebukati said.
But pathologist Johansen Odour was unable to confirm to CNN whether Msando died from torture, saying, “It could be in line with torture. Other than those marks [on the arm] there are no other marks”
He was also unable to provide more information about what object had caused the incision. The rest of the body was intact, he said, contrary to other media reports that Msando was missing an arm when he was found.
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.
Rights groups urge authorities to act
Msando’s death has raised fresh fears over Kenya’s ability to deliver credible elections.
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.”
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.