Kenya’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.
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.
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,…