Running mate choice must meet need for diversity

Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu with Martha Karua and other women league leaders during Azimio Women Movement caucus meeting at Jacaranda Hotel in Westlands. [Paul Mutua, Standard]

The choice of who becomes the running mate to top presidential hopefuls has proved to be a delicate matter.

For the candidates, it’s a major quandary and has to be handled with utmost wisdom so as not to play into the hands of the competition. Even in vibrant liberal democracies, manifesto, vision and choice of the running mate is a make or break affair because it envisions what the coalition ticket will stand for. For example, the choice of Kamala Harris helped win the presidency for Joe Biden because apart from the race, she added the gender factor to cement the authority of Democrats as the party for inclusivity, equality and unity.

From a quick look, the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya camp seems focused on replicating Ronald Regan’s style that earned him accolades for being ‘a diversity and inclusion president’.  Regan realised the profound implications of diversity on the US economy. The choice of leaders who last week accompanied Azimio leader Raila Odinga on a mission abroad tells it all. Martha Karua, Wycliff Oparanya, Sabina Chege, Sally Kosgey, James Ongwae and Moses Kajwang.

In the running mate arithmetic, Karua who is commonly known as ‘The Iron Lady’ seemed to be ticking all the boxes apart from, as observers say, fears over the number of votes she could mobilise from her home ground. The former Justice Minister has generated interest as the epitome of Azimio spirit during Raila’s US trip and the jury is out if she can churn the women votes for Azimio. This is because she triangulates the three key factors that encapsulate the Azimio spirit, that’s diversity, inclusion and a firm anti-graft stand.

Kenya Kwanza having ‘leaked the exams’ to Azimio that they have reserved the running mate position for a man or woman from Central Kenya  which ironically is also the extraction Karua comes from – it is understandable that if she falls short for running mate, she could land Chief Minister role. 

I foresee women empowerment taking centre stage in this coming election. And the diaspora community will only but reinforce it. Those seeking office should ignore the diaspora vote at their peril. Their influence on Kenyans back home through remittances and as opinion shapers, with the values of equality, women empowerment and shared prosperity, the diaspora can trigger a tsunami.

Diaspora Kenyans, due to their experience in the free world, are big proponents of women empowerment, gender parity and equal opportunity for all.

The writer is a gender activist and Secretary General, Azimio One Kenya-UK