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Will Martha Karua become Kenya's first female Deputy President?

Virginia Muthoni talks about her relationship with Azimio One Kenya presidential running mate Martha Karua. Virginia  hails from  Kimunye village in Kirinyaga where Martha was born in 1957.[Kibata Kihu/Standard]

Residents of Kimunye village in Kirinyaga are crossing their fingers that one of their own will make history and become Kenya's first female Deputy President. 

Friends and relatives say Martha Karua's nomination as Raila Odinga's running mate proves that God’s will has already been done.

Between Mugumo Primary School and Kathande village in Kimunye, Kabare ward in Kirinyaga County where a circuit of tarmac roads crisis cross minor streams, any resident can direct you to Martha's home where her parents, retired primary teacher Jackson Karua, 90, and Josephine Wanjiru, 85, live. 

Their home is a white-walled mansion set in the midst of a tea plantation. It is surrounded by a masonry wall, well protected by a steel gate and has a paved driveway to the tarmac road that circuits the village.

Very few neighbours in the area have a steel gate. You can easily access any home and after a chat, you will be offered a steaming cup of coffee. As it was in the old set up in Kikuyu land, neighbours of the couple are mostly from their own Agaciku clan and Ms Jane Wakathare, 65, told us the Karuas and her family are of the Machoki family lineage.

“In 1992 when we first elected her as Gichugu MP she was just 35,” said Ms Wakathare. 

“I give her 100 per cent rating for her performance in Parliament and the water projects serving this locality were all her brainchild. I am looking forward to getting the Sh6,000 they have promised us,” said Wakathare, who is disabled.

Mama Narc

Next to the Karuas gate where a lone administration policeman with a raincoat to keep off the biting cold stands, is the compound of Mrs Virginia Muthoni Karua, 70. She is Ms Karua’s aunt and a close political aide for many years.

“I was sort of her bodyguard for many years and the name they used to call me was Mama Narc. I could queue behind to vote after every election,” recalled Muthoni whose late husband was a stepbrother to Martha's father. “We have always prayed for this dream since she vied for the presidency and we are glad she will finally land there."

Ms Muthoni’s 39-year-old daughter Caroline Kareithi manages the Karua’s tea farm. “We are a closely knit extended family. If I had an emergency right now, that is where I would get assistance,” said Ms Kareithi.

They are all looking forward to good times when Martha becomes Deputy President if Azimio's Presidential wins. 

Ruto votes

Voters in the area voted at Mugumo primary school, Gichugu Constituency. The school set on the downside of Kimunye market has a block of stone-walled classes with a blue corrugated iron sheet roof. The local CDF pumped some money into infrastructure improvement over the years and a steel tube framed gate allows you a peak into the compound.

After voting was done, results from Form 34A generated at Mugumo primary school polling station showed Odinga got 311 votes compared to DP William Ruto's 911 votes. 

 Wakathari says Martha was elected Gichugu MP at 35 years old. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Some 1,639 voters including Karua were registered in three stations at Mugumo primary school. Martha was number 159 on Polling Station 3 roll that was posted on the gate as per the law.

Martha started school at Mugumo primary school but only stayed there for lower primary school before she transfered to Kabare Girls boarding primary school where Central Kenya's lower middle class took their children in the 1970s to early 1990s before boarding primary schools became routine across the region. As a daughter of a school teacher, Martha's family was squarely in middle-class category and neighbours say she was a mummy’s girl as she grew up.

After sitting her primary school exam at St Michael boarding primary she proceeded to Kiburia, Ngiriambu Girls, Karoti Girls and finally Nairobi Girls where she completed her A level education. Martha attended many primary and secondary schools, a fact her brother Jephitha Nyaga Karua confirms. “In some instances, she would propel her own transfers,” says Nyaga.

All hopes on Martha

At Kimunye market, everyone is looking forward to her becoming Kenya's number two.

In an earlier interviews, Karua’s parents said she had a vision of ending up at State House. They said their daughter attempted to actualise the vision in 2013 when she unsuccessfully vied for the presidency. They add that her nomination as Raila's running mate has put her a step away from State House. 

Her mother describes Karua as decisive, firm but obedient and respectful. “From childhood, Wangari has always been hardworking and extremely intelligent. We saw leadership qualities in her while she was young,” she said.

She adds that Karua used to be selected to lead from her days at Mugumo primary school and at Kiburia and Karoti girls secondary schools. “She was always picked to lead prayers and even singing, while at times she could be given a chance to address crowds,” says Wanjiru. 

Karua's father who was a head teacher from 1951 to 1980 believes her leadership skills are genetic. “I mobilised this village and brought people together to apply for electricity and this saw me have endless trips to Nairobi,” he said. His wife (Karua's mother) has been a leader in women's groups and in church and this has been the case with their eight children.

“We have been brought up with discipline and virtues of humility and good decision making,” says Karua's brother, Jephitha. 

Although the parents took pride in Ms Karua’s bravery and firm political stand, they one time warned her against radicalism after she walked out of a function attended by former President Daniel Moi at Keruguoya Stadium on June 16, 2001.

“I warned her that the government had all the resources to hunt her down, she had left Moi’s meetings twice and I felt she had gone too far,” he added. Former Mwea MP Alfred Nderitu was among the three MPs who walked out of Moi’s rally that day. The other one was former Ndia MP the late James Kibicho.

“It was only natural that we walked out of that meeting once we realised the programme was coming to an end and we would not get a chance to address the gathering even though we were the local representatives,” Nderitu recalled in an interview.

Nderitu recalls how Ms Karua helped prop his debut run in 1997 including campaigning for him alongside other Democratic Party (DP) luminaries. Soon Nderitu as MP would run into perennial conflict with the Moi government when he started a crusade to reform the rice marketing mess that, he believes, had created a serfdom in Mwea.

“I was arrested 24 times during the sometimes ugly confrontations with the National Irrigation Board (NIB) and every time Ms Karua would arrive with Kibicho (who was a lawyer), James Orengo, Betty Murungi, Njoki Ndung’u and Enock Magara to bail me out.

She would be the first person my wife called when I was arrested and will be forever grateful that for all that she never sent me a fee note,” said Nderitu. That she had wanted reforms in the sector meant that she had to side with him.