Kenya: Karua, the Iron-Lady Deputising Odinga for President Under Azimio

Nairobi — Described by many as the ‘iron lady’ for her tenacity and strong character, Martha Karua is poised to become Kenya’s first female deputy president if Kenyans endorse the ticket of Azimio Presidential candidate Raila Odinga at the ballot next month.

Odinga is seeking the presidency with the backing of more than 20 political parties, including President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee party.

In her acceptance speech, Karua said she was “deeply honoured” to accept the nomination and described it as “a moment for the women of Kenya”.

“Together, we can finally bring to life the dreams deferred,” she said.

President Kenyatta, who is serving his second and final term in office, and is due for retirement after the August polls has since endorsed the Odinga-Karua ticket.

The Head of State has been on overdrive gear in recent days rallying Kenyans to back the pair whom he has described as a “safe pair of hands”.

The Head of State on July 13 while drumming up support for the pair noted that Karua will end the vice of corruption in the country.

“Karua is not like me who decided to forgive some of them. She cannot forgive them. These are the people who will ensure continuity of this work and we ensure that we have a country that will be led in justice and truth,” he stated.

Recent opinion polls conducted by various pollsters have placed the Odinga-Karua as the most popular with an average of 43 per cent, compared to William Ruto-Rigath Rigathi Gachagua’s 38.

In the latest poll conducted by TIFA, Odinga has an approval rating of 42 percent against his main competitor William Ruto of Kenya Kwanza Alliance who had 39 percent.

-Karua’s political profile-

64 years ago in 1957, Karua – an ethnic Kikuyu – was born in a rural area of Central Kenya in the village of Kimunye.

In 1990, during the fight for multi-democracy in the country, Karua’s political journey started.

Her political star shone brighter in 1992 when she occupied a seat in the political arena after winning the Gichugu parliamentary seat under the Democratic Party of Kenya setting the stage for her to rise through the male-dominated ranks of Kenyan politics.

During her tenure in office as a lawmaker, Karua served under former President the late Mwai Kibaki’s administration as Cabinet Minister for Water and Irrigation (January 2003 – December 2005) and as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs between December 2005 – April 2008.

A staunch supporter of President Kibaki’s regime, Karua is best remembered for enthusiastically defending his disputed 2007 election victory which Odinga claimed was stolen from him.

In the disputed election, Karua and Odinga were worlds apart with the former in 2008 accusing the latter of the violence that rocked the country.

Karua blamed Odinga for the violence, saying his ODM party had planned “mayhem” if they lost. She further accused Odinga of “ethnic cleansing”.

The ODM brigade dismissed the accusation and termed it “outrageous”.

Karua was at the center of talks that brokered peace and birthed the grand coalition government that saw Odinga given the Prime Minister position.

In 2009, Karua who was referred to as “the only man in Kibaki’s government” pulled the plug and resigned from government citing interference.

Being out in the cold for five years, or as she famously nowadays puts it “at the trenches”, Karua made a comeback and contested for Presidency in the 2013 elections.

In the election that was won by President Kenyatta, Karua finished in sixth position after garnering 43,881 votes.

In 2017, Karua tried her luck to resuscitate her political career and vied for the Kirinyaga County Governor’s seat but lost to the incumbent Governor Anne Waiguru.

She unsuccessfully lodged a petition at the High court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court challenging the outcome of the results.

Will she be lucky this time? Time will tell.

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