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How Martha Karua will complicate Azimio running mate equation

Azimio La Umoja Presidential candate Raila Odinga with NARC Kenya leader Martha Karua at Nairobi Serena Hotel on March 23, 2022 [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Four hours of intense negotiations saw Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua join President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja coalition, ending days of speculation over which side of the political divide she would join.

Just days after she said she was weighing her options, Ms Karua formally joined Azimio and endorsed Mr Odinga’s presidential candidature, sparking speculation on whether she was being considered as a possible running mate for the August 9 contest.

Should Mr Odinga choose her as his running mate, this will complicate the political arithmetic for his main rival, Dr William Ruto, who is expected to pick a running mate from the Mt Kenya region. It will also complicate the chances of other potential contenders within Azimio, like Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Peter Kenneth and Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi among others.

Yesterday, Ms Karua said: “I am here to confirm that from today onwards, Narc Kenya and I are supporting the presidential bid of Raila without any equivocation”.

Before endorsing Mr Odinga, Ms Karua had sent mixed signals and had found herself “politically lonely” after her counterparts from One Kenya Alliance (OKA) joined Azimio a day after they signed a coalition document of their own.

In OKA, Ms Karua, Mr Musyoka, Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi, Mr Cyrus Jirongo (United Democratic Party), Mr Irungu Nyakera of Farmers Party and Ugenya MP David Ochieng (MDG party) had insisted that they would only agree to a pact on a coalition-to-coalition arrangement.

Her move sealed the fate of OKA after Mr Nyakera joined Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA).

Earlier, Gatundu MP Moses Kuria had invited Ms Karua to be Dr Ruto’s running mate.

This is what he said in a tweet: “To my good friend and soul mate Hon Martha Karua. We cannot make ourselves ideal humans from clay. We can only live with the ones God gave us, with all their imperfections and frailties. Pick a side and put it on your Jersey. I look forward to an imminent Ruto-Karua ticket to save this country from eternal dynastic domination and give hope to millions of children who went to school barefooted. If you decide otherwise you will still remain my sister, my senior, and my friend”.

Yesterday, Mr Kuria said he respected Ms Karua’s decision to join Azimio just like she respected his to join Kenya Kwanza.

“Ultimately, Kenya is the winner and democracy will prevail. May the best team win,” said Mr Kuria on Twitter.

Her entry into Azimio now raises speculation on whether she Mr Odinga and his coalition partner, President Uhuru Kenyatta, could be considering her for a possible running mate position. It will also likely complicate matters for Kenya Kwanza, which could be left with no choice but to look for an equivalent, possibly a woman, from Mt Kenya, as Dr Ruto’s running mate. The DP has indicated that he will consider Central Kenya when he picks his running mate. Among the potential candidates are Karua’s political rival and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki and former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri.

Yesterday, while accepting to work with the ODM leader, Ms Karua said she settled for Azimio after consultations with the two camps. She said the ideals of Azimio are in sync with those of Narc Kenya, the party she leads.

She said the ideological convergence with Azimio, Mr Odinga’s legacy, his political struggles and democratic credentials attracted her to join the movement.

Further, she said she had to settle on an individual who has a track record of being selfless and one who puts the interest of the nation above his own.

“I have been looking keenly and without any struggle, I have identified a critical mass of good people within the Azimio coalition and that is all that is needed,” she said.

“I have been in the trenches with Raila; we’ve come a long way in the fight for the second liberation, the fight for the Constitution, and when we have had disagreements, we’ve been able to overcome them in the interest of the people.”

Ms Karua was in the then President Mwai Kibaki’s side when the outcome of the 2007 presidential elections were disputed, culminating in violence. She was in the core team that negotiated with Mr Odinga’s team to find a political solution to the crisis.

After the talks, Mr Odinga became Prime Minister but Ms Karua was bypassed when President Kibaki appointed Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as Deputy Prime Minister. The other Deputy PM, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, was appointed on the recommendation of Mr Odinga.

Yesterday, Ms Karua said Narc Kenya will hit the ground running and campaign for Mr Odinga to win the August 9 polls.

“From now on I am committed to popularise the Azimio presidential flagbearer and his ten-point agenda that is part of the social justice ideal that Narc Kenya stands for,” she said.

While receiving Karua, Raila said the two know what the fight for liberation is and as a team, they will work towards delivering what Kenyans desire.

“I feel very proud to receive Martha here. Particularly this side I don’t think she had any other choice, because the difference between this side and the other is like day and night; black or white,” he said.

Narc Kenya Secretary-General Michael Orwa announced the end of the party’s partnership with OKA. “Narc-Kenya is grateful for our journey with our brothers and sisters in OKA, but most importantly that journey has come to an end,” he said.