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Martha Karua: Only Raila can name his running mate

ODM leader Raila Odinga in a chat with Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua. [File, Standard]

A pair of rollerblades lie beside a children’s scooter and tiny pairs of shoes outside Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua’s front door.

Inside, the pitter and patter of small feet up the steps and voice of the former Gichugu MP can be heard expressing concern over an item left where it is not supposed to be. Later, Karua, who also served as Justice minister until her resignation in 2009 and has also run for president, will say that one of the things that give her joy is her grandchildren.

Politics is not all that goes on in Karua’s life. There are her grandchildren whom she completely dotes over. She also worries over little things such as the light fixture in her bathroom that is not working or an electric wire left in a precarious way.

But politics is increasingly taking centre stage. A few days before agreeing to talk to The Sunday Standard, Karua stood amid Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Kanu’s Gideon Moi and Cyrus Jirongo in a new Corona era greeting style... outstretched elbows in a show of solidarity after signing a pact to work with the One Kenya Alliance (OKA). 

Karua’s profile in the country and Mt Kenya region has risen prominently since she vied for presidency in 2013 and contested Kirinyaga governor seat in 2017.

The Narc-Kenya leader is now the spokesperson of Mt Kenya Unity Forum (MKUF), an alliance that includes Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri, essentially playing a part in shaping Mt Kenya politics and the succession of President Uhuru Kenyatta as he prepares to leave office.

While Karua, in aligning with OKA, has essentially aligned herself with President Kenyatta, she was one of those who opposed the attempt to amend the 2010 Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

She was at the centre of the Linda Katiba Campaign and appeared in court as one of the lawyers who successfully put an end to the process.

The motivation to join OKA, she said, was the need to bring the country together.

She is noncommittal about whether another presidential run is in the offing for her but as the conversation progresses, without stating it, it becomes apparent that Karua’s heart never left the people of Kirinyaga.

You can tell in the manner she dissects issues facing the county, especially in healthcare. The county is languishing in poor service delivery, she says. Without mincing words, Karua says the leadership in Kirinyaga has failed. “I believe that universal health coverage is possible in the county,” she says.

Karua is relentless in the pursuit of what she believes is right and a fighter to the end. It is only recently that a court in Nairobi denied her a bid to privately prosecute Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru’s chief campaigner Muriithi Kangara and three electoral officials over alleged electoral malpractices during the 2017 elections.

Her case against Waiguru went on for nearly three years and up to the Supreme Court. She stated in a matter of fact way that invites no argument that she won that election. To her, she says, it was never about the salary but about offering leadership to the county. In a political landscape that is famously corrupt, her integrity remains unimpeachable in a political career spanning three decades.

But does she worry that it will all come tumbling down? Karua says she is spurred on by her conviction.

The courage of her conviction, she explains has given her the strength to do what she feels is right, even when the pressure is on her to do something different.

That is why she ran for president in 2013 and is also the reason she has fought so valiantly for social justice.

There is a buzz around Karua and the political move she will make next. Will she be ODM leader Raila Odinga’s running mate? “Only Raila can tell you that,” she says.

She has not exactly declared whether she will vie in August and what position she will go for and she is happy to leave it open. Her focus right now, she says, is to work together with Narc-Kenya, OKA and MKUF. The MKUF has been adamant that the region should unite and encourage multiparty politics.

“In 2017, other parties dissolved to form Jubilee and that has been a failure. Hell has broken loose within Jubilee Party. Now we are telling people that we might support the same person for president but we are going to remain with our parties,” says Karua.

Some of the issues Karua is now championing as part of Mt Kenya Unity Forum are the security of the person and of property, equitable development as well as equitable representation. She says at independence, parts of the country were almost at par in development but as the years went by so have other regions of the country progressed and left others behind. “That is the reason we need equitable development,” she says.

If there is one thing Karua wishes Kenyans knew is that it does not matter who you elect as president if you do not have good county leadership.

“When the people of Makueni were chanting Nasa hao, in Kirinyaga we were chanting Tano Tena but residents in Makueni can access services in hospitals but in Kirinyaga you cannot. Kenyans should not feel that they have done enough just by electing the president they want, the MCA and governors are actually the most important,” she says.

She says devolution, rather than serving the people, was breeding a class of millionaires and billionaires. The line between politics and business has blurred. “Politicians are now the contractors,” she adds.