The violent and untimely death of Chris Msando, Director of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) ICT Department, has sent shockwaves throughout Kenya and around the world. With the upcoming elections, Kenyan citizens are still coming to grips with what yet another death means for the fragile state of politics in the country. Msando was reported missing by his family on Friday July 30th, 2017. Amidst the highly anticipated general elections, Kenyans have lost perhaps the most instrumental person for ensuring credible elections.
The body of Msando was discovered by poachers in Kiambu County. The local police took his body to City Mortuary in Nairobi with reports indicating that he had injuries on his hands and head. It is highly probable that Msando was tortured to death given the deep cuts on his arms. As the nation mourns his death, IEBC head Wafula Chebukati expressed his concerns for the country stating that the elections could be mishandled following Msando’s death. Given the short amount of time left until the elections Msando’s death has raised fear not only in citizens, but also in the opposition party. A few weeks ago, Msando reported that there were threats made on his life, and indicated that he was in danger. It is not clear if his concerns were addressed at the time, or if he received any protection. On July 28th, Msando appeared on NTV Live Edition at 8 am, assuring Kenyans of a free and fair election come August 8th. Msando stated that the IEBC had used the utmost level of encryption that would not allow third parties to intercept or decrypt encoded data. He also assured the country that the results would be counted as valid and electronically transmitted.
Two days later, Chebukati issued a statement regarding a senior official’s disappearance. Chebukati stated that the official was last seen on Friday night. In the statement, he neither mentioned Mr. Msando’s name nor stated the duties of the missing official, most likely, to protect Msando’s identity, given his position in the commission. Msando had kept a low profile, including a self imposed four month exile because of the sensitivity of his role. According to the IEBC, Msando’s last communication was a text message to one of his colleagues acknowledging that he would attend the next scheduled meeting. This was at about 3:00 am on Saturday morning. In the message, the ICT head sounded alert and fully responsive; he was aware of the day’s itinerary. In the missing person report filed by his wife at Embakasi Police Station, it was noted, alarmingly, that Msando’s three mobile phones were unanswered.
IEBC’s officials said at the time that there were efforts being made to locate him given that the same report had been issued to the police. According to a senior criminal investigation officer, Msando had been spotted driving on Mombasa Road, allegedly, in the company of an unknown woman. Although the CCTV cameras captured the vehicle, the identity of the female passenger was not captured. IEBC stated that the search was still on. On Sunday, Mr. Joseph Boinnet, the Inspector General, issued a statement at a news briefing. He stated that the police department had received the missing person’s report and that his team was tasked with the investigation. He, however, withheld further information regarding the investigation.
Prior to Chris Msando’s appointment as ICT manager, James Muhati was in charge. Muhati, however, failed to cooperate with the government agencies in charge of auditing systems, which lead to a compulsory leave. Msando was appointed as a replacement , and his disappearance, approximately ten days to the long awaited elections has placed a significant spotlight on the persistent concerns the opposition, The National Super Alliance (NASA), has been raising. Although NASA raised multiple concerns regarding the inconsistencies of IEBC and concerns regarding the credibility, they have strongly condemned the murder of Mr. Msando, stating that the act “has put a dagger in the heart of the upcoming elections.” NASA has expressed condolences to the family and friends of the slain ICT manager.
Msando: What We Know
Chris Msando was a smart, intelligent citizen who met his death in the cruelest manner. Having lived a life away from the public, it is probable that he was best placed to deliver credible elections come August 8th. In his numerous jurisdictions, Msando was in charge of the entire body of electoral information that is concerned with the coming elections. He was also in charge of the Kenya Integrated Elections Management System, KIEMS. This system comprises voter identity verification, transmission of results, as well as the tallying process.
He will be remembered for constructing a system that would prevent fraud in the coming elections.
By: Leah Awiti
Awiti is a Kenyan contributor living in Nairobi. She enjoys writing about politics, business, and culture.