World View: Torture and Murder of Election Official Raise Fears of Violence in Kenya

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This morning’s key headlines from

  • Torture and murder of election official raise fears of violence in Kenya
  • Widespread fears in Kenya of a repeat of the 2008 tribal violence

Torture and murder of election official raise fears of violence in Kenya

Election poster in Kenya (Reuters)
Election poster in Kenya (Reuters)

With the minds of the people of Kenya still filled with sharp memories of the massive bloody violence that occurred after the 2007 presidential elections, most people were shocked and disgusted to learn on Monday that the person most responsible for guaranteeing free and fair presidential elections next week on August 8 was tortured and killed on Friday.

Chris Msando, who was in charge of IT systems for Kenya’s electoral commission, went missing on Friday. On Monday, his naked body was found dumped in a forest, with his left hand and fingers broken, a swollen injury on his head, and evidence of strangulation. The body of a woman identified only as Shiru was also found, leading to some social media speculation that the murder was a personal matter triggered by an illicit affair.

However, most Kenyans believe that Msando was murdered to affect the presidential elections next week. Those who support the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, say that polls show that their candidate is likely to win, and therefore the opposition are the likely murderers, with the objective of making it possible to rig the election against the incumbent.

Those who support the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, say that the polls show that the election will be close, and the government had Msando murdered in order to make it possible to rig the election to make sure that the incumbent wins.

On Monday, Msando was to oversee the public testing of a new national computerized voting system, the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System (KIEMS). A similar electronic system that was used in the 2013 election failed spectacularly, leading to manual counting of votes which some have argued allowed for voter manipulation. The test was put on hold following the announcement that Msando’s dead body was found, and it’s unclear what the status of next Tuesday’s presidential elections is now. BBC and Standard Media (Kenya) and The Nation (Kenya) and Standard Media (Kenya) and Deutsche Welle (9-July)

Widespread fears in Kenya of a repeat of the 2008 tribal violence

After the December 2007 presidential elections, there was a period of extremely bloody inter-tribal violence in Rift Valley in Kenya, that began early in 2008. The worst atrocity occurred when 30 people were lured into a church to escape violence, and a young gang locked the doors and set the church on fire, burning everyone alive. All in all, more than 1,200 people were killed in the tribal violence between the Kalenjins, whose nomadic lifestyle was typical of herders, and the Kikuyus, who were mostly farmers.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is from the market-dominant Kikuyu tribe, while his opponent, Raila Odinga, is from the marginalized Luo tribe, which is an offshoot of the Kalenjins. Observers in Kenya are pointing out that the Kikuyus and the Kalenjins have reached some sort of agreement to prevent violence this time. However, as I described in detail in April, the violence between herders and farmers is a classic battle and standard fare in country after country, including America in the 1800s.

In fact, the pre-election violence in Kenya has already begun. As I described in my April article, well-known Italian conservationist Kuki Gallmann, 73, was shot in the stomach by herders who invaded her Gallmann Laikipia Nature Conservancy in Laikipia county in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

Kenya’s last generational crisis war was the Mau-Mau rebellion that began in 1952 and climaxed in 1956. In 2008, Kenya was still in a generational Unraveling era, which made a full-scale war very unlikely, and explains why the violence at that time fizzled fairly quickly. Today, Kenya is in a generational Crisis era, and so the possibility of full-scale war is much greater.

As I described in April, there is a significant generational difference between 2008 and 2017. During the last year, Kalenjin politicians have been inciting violence by herders against farmers. In 2008, the senior politicians were all survivors of the Mau-Mau rebellion, and they would not have incited violence and risked full-scale war. But today, those survivors are almost all gone, and politicians are really playing with fire by inciting violence. That’s the difference between a generational Unraveling era and a Crisis era.

Kenya is headed for an all-out war, repeating the extremely bloody violence of the Mau-Mau rebellion, either now or in the months to come. The torture and murder of Chris Msando sets the stage for accusations of vote-rigging by whoever loses the election, and if one side or the other becomes convinced that the election was stolen, that could trigger new violence. The Star (Kenya) and Deutsche Welle and Human Rights Watch and Standard Media (Kenya)

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Kenya, Rift Valley, Chris Msando, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kikuyus, Raila Odinga, Luos, Kalenjins, Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System, KIEMS, Kuki Gallman, Mau-Mau rebellion
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