“On Sunday the 30th July, 2017 a missing person report was made at Embakassi Police Station at 08:00 hours by one Eva Buyu under OB No 15 of 30th July 2017 that her husband Christopher Musando, who was the Deputy Director of ICT at IEBC, had not returned home since Friday, 28th July, 2017. Today 31st July 2017, following police investigations the body of the late Christopher Musando was identified at City Mortuary by the family, having been found on the 29th July 2017 within Kerwa location in Kiambu County by the police and brought to the mortuary as an unidentified person,” says the Inspector General’s office in a press statement on Chris Musando’s death just days to the 2017 general election.
What do we know so far? Musando was last seen at his office at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi on Friday, 28th July. His family failed to reach him on phone from 3 am on Saturday. They had communicated with him 30 minutes earlier. He sent his last SMS to one of his colleagues at 3 am on Saturday, which meant he was missing for eight hours, until 11.20 am when his body was taken to City Mortuary. He died a painful death, with his body having several cuts all over, including his hands and his head, and oozing blood from the ears and nose. He was tortured, and died fighting his murderers.
Before his body was found, renowned purveyor of hate speech, Moses Kuria, had chanced upon Musando’s car, allegedly parked in Roysambu, and accused him of being an “idiot enjoying sweet time with a woman.” This was quickly deleted when his body was identified. All over the internet there were reactions of shock and fear. Mostly fear, with people purporting to either go upcountry to be “safe among their people” or stay in the house and not vote on the 8th August 2017.
At the time I found out about Musando’s death, I was 32 kilometres from my home in the neighbouring county of Kiambu to apply for an ID replacement. For three weeks, I have been unable to get one in Nairobi at the four Huduma Centres I have visited, for varied reasons. To begin with, the queue is so long, that you have to be in it by 8 am to have any hope of making the application by the end of the day. Arrive any later and they will let you know that they are fully booked for the day and advise you to either try another centre or come back on another day. On the day that I managed to clear my morning and make it by 8 am, I was informed the systems were down, and asked to come back on yet another day. Frustrated, I sought help on Twitter, and was promptly advised to drive out to Kiambu and apply at a DO’s office, which I did. I was in and out in less than an hour, and guaranteed of an ID in three days.
These occurrences are linked in my mind, and they show us that we have entered the era of voter suppression in Kenya. Chris Musando’s death, whatever the cause, strikes fear in the hearts of Kenyans. Rightfully so, few people if any want to die because they insisted on voting. It is much safer to run upcountry and be among your tribespeople who won’t harm you if things don’t go their way on 8th August, this thinking goes. This is the same thinking, I suspect, that informs my inability to replace an ID in Nairobi, and informs the ease with which I get it from my home county of Kiambu. I am perceived to be from there – one of them – and as such, I must be aided as fast as possible because if I am one of them, surely I must vote for one of them as well. Everybody else be damned.
What happens to those who are unable to replace their IDs before 8th August? They won’t vote. How about those who leave the places where they are registered to seek safety upcountry? They also won’t vote, as they won’t be at their registered polling stations. How about those who, out of fear, remain in the house? They also won’t vote. This is intentional. This is what they want, because it gives those in power the result they are seeking – which is more power.
We have seen the Republicans in the USA use similar tactics to suppress voters in minority communities, especially African Americans, and swing elections in their favour. What tactics are at work here? Denial of IDs is the most common and effective one, because without an ID (or passport), one can’t vote. Some have also found themselves either missing from the voters register, or registered to vote in a polling station they have limited/no access to. Long queues can also be discouraging especially if you have to go back to work. Election Day may be a public holiday here, but for matatu crews, grocers, hawkers and others, it is just another day at work. There is also early closing of polling stations, which must not happen as everyone on the line before 5 pm is entitled to vote.
The most successful tactic, however, is fear and its counterpart apathy. One could either be too afraid to stick around and vote, or apathetic about the candidates on offer and sit the election out. Both of these ensure low turnout. Voter suppression works – it is the reason Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. The worst thing about voter suppression is that it is not illegal, and it is nearly impossible to know just how much it will affect the end result on 8th August. It goes against your right to vote in the most covert ways, and denies you the right to participate in one of the few democratic processes that we take seriously. Which is why it is so important that even in the face of fear and apathy, that we stand up against the powers that be and exercise this right. Our vote is our protest, now more than ever.
Each and every vote counts. In these times of murder and voter suppression, get out the vote.