The awkward moment at Bomas of Kenya on Friday night was when Wafula Chebukati, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman, asked everyone in the auditorium, including senior State officials, to rise and observe a minute’s silence in honour of the late Chris Msando and another election official.
Mr Msando’s murder a few days to last Tuesday’s elections had cast a dark shadow especially on the presidential vote that would shortly be declared for the incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee Party and disputed by Raila Odinga, the Nasa candidate.
At the time of his murder, Mr Msando was the ICT manager at the IEBC and presumably held key information about its integrated election management system.
His recent appearances on national television to explain how the system works, including safeguards against vote rigging, had helped inspire a measure of public confidence in the IEBC.
The opposition saw his murder as part of an alleged vote rigging plot by the State through the breach of the IT system, which has become a major battlefront in Kenya’s elections following claims that the IEBC servers were breached in 2013.
The fact that the police have yet to arrest Mr Msando’s killers or make public the status of its investigations beyond releasing inconclusive CCTV camera captures of his movement on the night of his death has only served to entrench the State conspiracy theories.
Of course, the suspicions could well be unfounded. Yet the timing and nature of his murder – he was tortured and strangled, according to the post-mortem report – means that 2017 has almost certainly gone down in history as the Msando Election.
Kenyans tend to remember particular elections more for some key happenings defining them than who won them.
Mention ICC, for example, and 2013 comes to mind; post-election violence (2007); Narc wave (2002); Multiparty (1992); Mlolongo (1988).
And nothing defines the 2017 election better than the murder of Mr Msando.
Even in death, he is at the centre of the presidential election dispute, Nasa having alleged that someone used his details to gain access to the IEBC system.
FREE AND FAIR
The murder formed the common sounding board for the international observer teams, with former US Secretary of State John Kerry notably calling on Kenya to hold a free, fair and credible election in honour of Mr Msando.
The observers’ statements echoed similar public pronouncements made earlier by the IEBC chairman on the day he led his team of commissioners and managers in viewing Mr Msando’s body at Nairobi’s City Mortuary.
Both the IEBC and the observers on Friday declared the election free, fair and credible.
Yet for a country with a history of unresolved political murders and an entrenched culture of election rigging, their position will do little to dispel the public suspicions around the electoral commission’s ICT manager lying in the morgue on the day the incumbent President is declared the winner.
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