An electoral system with a spotty record, claims of hacking, the mysterious killing of an election official, and the threat of post-election violence makes this week’s presidential election in Kenya one of the most closely watched in Africa. Adding to the intrigue: The head of the country’s election commission acknowledged Thursday there had been an unsuccessful attempt to hack its database. That acknowledgment came a day after Raila Odinga, a leading presidential candidate, claimed the elections were fixed in favor of the incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta. “Hacking was attempted but did not succeed,” said Wafula Chebukati, chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). His remarks have the potential to raise tensions in a country that already has seen five people killed in post-election violence. Although the results are not final, Kenyatta holds a strong lead over Odinga with most of the votes counted at polling stations.
Calm also appears to have returned Thursday following the tensions sparked by Odinga’s claim, which prompted fears Kenya would descend into the kind of post-election violence that saw more than 1,000 people killed and tens of thousands made homeless a decade ago. That election was widely condemned as flawed. Odinga, 72, was the losing candidate on that occasion, too. (The situation was resolved through a power-sharing agreement.)
… The trouble with the latest election began when the initial results showed that Kenyatta was comfortably ahead of Odinga despite pre-election opinion polls suggesting a close race. Odinga claimed fraud, saying the IEBC’s database was hacked. What lent his claim a more than conspiratorial edge was the murder of Chris Msando, the acting head of technology at the IEBC. Just days before his body was discovered late last month in a forest outside Nairobi—officials said he was “tortured and murdered”—Msando appeared on national TV to tell Kenyans that election system was secure. Odinga claimed Tuesday that hackers gained entry into Kenya’s election database using Msando’s identity. He declined to reveal the source of his claim, but that didn’t prevent the eruption of violence in which five people were killed.