U.S., U.K. Offer to Help Probe Murder of Kenyan Election Official

  • Key electoral official found dead week before elections
  • U.S., U.K. embassies express grave concern about killing

The U.S. and U.K. embassies in Kenya offered to help investigate the murder of a key electoral official a week before the East African nation holds presidential elections.

The body of Chris Msando, a systems development manager at the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission who went missing on the night of July 28, was found on Monday at a mortuary in the capital, Nairobi. Msando had been scheduled to lead a test of an electronic election-results transmission system on Monday, according to the main opposition National Super Alliance.

“The U.S. and the U.K. are gravely concerned by the murder,” U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec and U.K. High Commissioner Nic Hailey said in a joint statement emailed from Nairobi. “We have offered our assistance in the investigation.”

Elections in Kenya are fraught times for investors because a dispute over the outcome of a 2007 vote triggered two months of violence that left 1,100 people dead. Last month, Kenya’s main opposition leader, Raila Odinga, accused the IEBC of plotting to rig the election. The former prime minister, who’s challenging incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, has warned there may be violence if the electoral authority fails to ensure this year’s process, to be held on Aug. 8, is credible.

“It is critical that Kenya has free, fair, credible and peaceful elections on Aug. 8, and protection for IEBC staff is essential to achieving this goal,” the ambassadors said.

Victim Tortured?

Msando’s body showed signs of having being tortured, according to Wafula Chebukati, the chairman of the IEBC. The commission is working with the police to ensure the killers are caught, he told reporters on Monday.

“This gruesome murder, just a week before hotly contested elections, should sound alarm bells for the Kenyan government and highlight the need for them to up their game in terms of ensuring the safety of key officials at this tense time,” Abdullahi Halakhe, a researcher at human-rights advocacy group Amnesty International, said in a statement emailed from Nairobi.

Kenyatta said on Tuesday that Kenyan institutions would handle the investigation into Msando’s murder, “the better to bring the doers of this foul deed to justice,” according to a statement emailed by the presidency. The statement didn’t make any reference to the U.S. and U.K. offer of assistance.

The IEBC postponed testing of its election results-transmission system and will announce a new date soon, Chebukati said. The commission is working to ensure all of its employees’ lives are “secured” before voting day, he said.

The National Super Alliance, which is backing Odinga’s bid for the presidency, condemned the killing and had urged the government to accept the offers of assistance. Addressing reporters in Nairobi on Monday, alliance spokesman Musalia Mudavadi said Msando’s responsibilities included systems dealing with voter identity verification, electronic tallying and transmitting results.

“He was at the nerve center,” Mudavadi said. “It’s telling that the key person has been eliminated at this delicate time.”

On Tuesday, Mudavadi called for Msando to be replaced by an international expert and for the IEBC to accept expertise on technology from the Commonwealth or the United Nations to ensure the election system hasn’t been compromised.

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