(Nairobi) – Kenyan authorities should urgently investigate the abduction and killing of a high-level official of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), Human Rights Watch said today. A family member said police had taken the body of Christopher Chege Msando, the commission’s acting information and communications technology director, to Nairobi’s City Mortuary but failed to notify the family.

Chris Msando, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) acting Director for the Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), at the commission's headquarters in Nairobi, July 6, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

“The killing of Christopher Msando is catastrophic for his family and for the country’s preparations for election day on August 8,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should do everything possible to investigate and ensure that those responsible for his murder are held to account.”

Msando was a key official at Kenya’s electoral commission. He was one of a handful of officials who had the electoral commission’s computer system passwords and knew the exact location of the servers to run the election. Msando’s death was confirmed less than an hour before he was scheduled to oversee the test run of the live results transmission system. He had been promoted to acting director of information and communications technology in May, after the then-director was sent on compulsory leave over a failure to cooperate with a computer systems audit.

Without knowledge that police had already recovered Msando’s body the previous morning and taken it to the mortuary, the family reported him missing on the evening of July 30, after he had failed to return from a television interview on the evening of July 28. Local newspapers reported that his body was found and taken to the City Mortuary at 11 a.m. on the morning of July 29, a day before his family officially reported him missing. The body of an unidentified woman with a single gunshot wound to the head was found alongside Msando’s. The electoral commission confirmed that his vehicle was found on the morning of July 31 near Nairobi’s Thika Road Mall.

The live transmission of results via computer systems is particularly controversial in Kenya, as the opposition has alleged that the rigging of results occurs during electronic transmission. The commission has prohibited all alternative transmission systems, and the authorities threatened to cancel licenses of any media houses that reported results before the commission.

“Msando’s killing could have huge ramifications for Kenya’s elections given his pivotal role in the preparations,” Namwaya said. “The authorities need to investigate and to reassure Kenyans that the government is committed to a free and fair election.”