Kenyan Official’s Torture-Murder Elicits Fears of More Violence During Upcoming Election

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Members of civil society groups protest the killing of electoral commission information technology manager Christopher Msando. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s president said Tuesday he is “deeply shocked” by the torture and killing of an election official who was crucial to next week’s presidential vote, while concerns grew that the tightly contested election again will face dangerous unrest.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Twitter that investigations into Christopher Msando’s killing should be allowed to “proceed calmly,” and he warned against “careless speculation.”

Msando was in charge of managing information technology systems at the electoral commission. He had publicly sought to reassure voters that the results of the Aug. 8 election would not be tampered with.

Analysts have warned that further violence could accompany the election in which Kenyatta is running again. The country’s elections have turned violent in the past, notably after the 2007 vote that international observers said was flawed. More than 1,000 people died.

A nationwide poll released Tuesday by Infotrak said support for main opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose popularity has been growing in recent weeks, was at 49 percent while Kenyatta was at 48 percent. The poll was conducted between July 27 and 31.

The main opposition group has charged that Kenyatta wants to rig the upcoming election, an accusation the presidency has denied. The National Super Alliance called Msando’s death an assassination and an attempt to disrupt the vote.

The U.S. and British diplomats in Kenya have expressed grave concern about Msando’s death and offered the Kenyan government assistance in investigating.

Dozens of activists on Tuesday marched peacefully to the electoral commission to protest the killing. A former government official turned whistleblower, John Githongo, said there was plenty of reason to believe Msando’s death was related to the election.

The electoral commission chairman, Wafula Chebukati, has called the death a “brutal murder” and called for security for all commission staff.

“Let us remember Chris by voting peacefully,” Chebukati told Tuesday’s gathering. The commission “shall ensure that the ground for voting on the eighth of August is level for everyone. So, we can remember Chris best by participating in free, fair and credible elections.”

Kenya’s police chief Joseph Boinnet has said a special team from the Directorate of Criminal investigations has been set up to investigate Msando’s murder.

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