Kenya politics: Quick View - Electoral commission's ICT chief killed

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Economist Intelligence Unit
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Politics, News Analysis
Political Geography


The head of information and communications technology at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Chris Msando, was found dead on July 31st, with the evidence suggesting that he had been violently murdered and probably tortured.


It remains unclear at present if the killing was a criminal or a political act, but Mr Msando's demise is fuelling a new wave of tension, given his key role in developing and maintaining the electronic systems to be used in the August 8th election, which is now just seven days away. Assuming the murder was not the result of random criminal violence, it raises several critical questions, such as the identity of the perpetrators and their motives, which cannot yet be adequately answered. That Mr Msando was apparently tortured suggests the attackers may have been trying to extract sensitive information about election hardware and software-with the ultimate aim of manipulating the results-although it is not known if they were successful or even if they had any possibility of gleaning useful, inside knowledge about the electoral systems. The police will prioritise the hunt for the perpetrators, but their record in such cases is poor, and a definitive answer before the election seems unlikely. Protection for both IECB officials (such as Mr Msando) and commissioners will, nonetheless, be stepped up.

The other key question arising from the murder is whether Mr Msando's death will have any impact on the functioning and reliability of the electronic equipment to be used during the election. Mr Msando's close colleagues may have sufficient knowledge to run the system, but the loss of his expertise at a critical time increases the risk of malfunctions. This, in turn, would see the IEBC revert to back-up manual systems, although these are far more vulnerable to manipulation. Disrupting the election electronics and forcing the use of manual back-ups could be a possible motive for the murder, assuming it was a political act. Regardless of the motive, Mr Msando's tragic demise casts a shadow on the coming election and highlights the risk of election-related violence.

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