A senior electoral official in Kenya has been found dead, with one of his arms cut off, eight days before Kenyans go to the polls to elect their next president. The official, Chris Msando, was found in Kikuyu town, outside of Nairobi, according to authorities. He had been missing since Friday.
As the race narrows between incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta and his rival Raila Odinga, tensions have escalated ahead of the Aug. 8 vote for legislative and regional county representatives as well as the executive office. Over the weekend, a man with a machete attacked the home of Kenyatta’s running mate, deputy president William Ruto. The deputy president was out at the time, but a guard was injured.
Anxiety over the fairness of the upcoming vote has centered on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), charged with overseeing the election. In January, new officials were sworn in after months of protests alleging bias in the previous commission. The IEBC continues to be criticized for inconsistencies in voter registration and not fully explaining how it will ensure accurate vote counting if electronic and biometric voting systems fail, as they did in the 2013 election.
Msando, as head of ICT, had been filling in for a previous director who was put on leave for not cooperating with an audit. Msando was in charge of the integrated management system for voter registration, identification, and most importantly transmitting the results. Kenyans on social media have been posting tributes to the official under the hashtag #RIPMsando.
The specter of violence looms over Kenya as locals and foreigners leave the country, anxious about a repeat of 2007 elections when a contested result caused clashes and the deaths of at least 1,300 people. Others are moving out of mixed neighborhoods, fearing violence along tribal lines.
To assuage those worries, president Kenyatta said that he would concede the election if he were to lose. “I’m the man who abides by the wish of the people and I pray that my opponents do the same. I ask Kenyans to look at one another as brother and sister,” he said over the weekend.
Opposition candidate Odinga has said he will not accept the results of a rigged election. ”If we lose fairly, we would accept, but if we lose unfairly, we would not accept … We are saying we are not going to take it lying down this time round,” he said earlier this year.