Kenyan voting official found dead as opposition cries foul ahead of general election

Kenyan voting official found dead as opposition cries foul ahead of general electionKenya’s opposition said it had abandoned all hope of a free and fair general election next week after a key official responsible for protecting the vote from electronic manipulation was found dead. The apparent murder of Chris Msando, the electoral commission’s acting technology director, raised fears that an already acrimonious poll could be marred by the type of violence that killed 1,300 people in Kenya ten years ago. Two days after Mr Msando’s disappearance, colleagues at the commission said they had formally identified his battered body after finding it at a mortuary in the capital Nairobi.  Wafula Chebukati, the commission’s chairman, said it was clear that Mr Msando “had been tortured” before his death. There were injuries to the dead man’s head, back and belly, deep cuts on both hands and one arm appeared to be broken, according to witnesses who saw the corpse. Unidentified relatives of Chris Musando, cry after seeing his body at the city mortuary, in Nairobi With tension already mounting ahead of next Tuesday’s election, Mr Msando’s death could undermine the credibility of the result even though there is as yet no proof to link the killing to the vote. Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, has already repeatedly accused Uhuru Kenyatta, the president, of trying to rig the vote in order to secure a second five-year term.  Salim Lone, Mr Odinga’s spokesman, said that the killing had removed the “one last hope” of an honest election. “It is unbelievable,” he said. “It shows that those who want to subvert this election will stop at nothing to achieve their goal and they do not care if Kenyans know what they are doing.” Mr Msando held the encryption codes that ensured the integrity of results transmitted from polling stations to the electoral commission’s central headquarters.  Were the codes to be compromised, the results could potentially be tampered with — although observers also said that any such fraud would be quickly identified. Campaign posters of candidates for the role of local representative are seen on a water tank in the Barut ward, Nakuru Credit: REUTERS Mr Msando had only recently been appointed to the post after the suspension of his predecessor, James Muhati, who was accused by auditors of impeding them from assessing electronic systems. In a country deeply divided by tribal animosities, suspicions have been further fuelled by the ethnicity of the two men. Mr Muhati is a Kikuyu, like the president, while Mr Msando is a Luhya, an ethnic federation that mostly supports the opposition. The death is the latest in a series of mysterious killings blamed — not always credibly, critics say — by the opposition on the government.  Mr Kenyatta, who holds a narrow advantage in opinion polls, has accused his rival of making unsubstantiated claims and has persistently denied any plan to rig the election. Nonetheless Kenya has a history of questionable elections. The most dubious was in 2007 which led to widespread ethnic violence after a badly flawed poll saw Mr Odinga beaten into second place. Amid fears of a repeat, some people — particularly Mr Msando’s fellow Luhyas — have begun fleeing slums in Nairobi for the countryside.

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