Who is Martha Karua?

Narc-Kenya party leader and Azimio running mate Martha Karua during a townhall meeting in Nyeri, May 10, 2022. [Mose Sammy, Standard]

Martha Wangari Karua was born on September 22, 1957, in Kirinyaga County.

She is a former long-standing Member of Parliament for Gichugu Constituency and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.

She was Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs before the Constitution of Kenya 2010 was implemented. Karua held the position until she resigned in April 2009.

The ‘iron lady’, as she is popularly known, is the second born child of Mr and Mrs Jackson Karua from Kimunye village, Gichugu constituency.

She attended Kabare Girls Boarding School before joining Kiburia Girl’s Secondary School. She then moved to Ngiriambu Girls before settling at Karoti Girls where she sat for her East African School Certificate.

The youthful Karua then proceeded to Nairobi Girls (now State House) High School where after passing her EACE, she embarked on her A levels.

Upon successful completion of her A levels, Karua joined the University of Nairobi where she enrolled for a law degree and upon completion, was appointed a magistrate in Nairobi.

Karua is a holder of a Master’s degree from the United States International University (USIU). She graduated in 2011 at a ceremony held in Santiego, USA.

She served at Kibera and Makadara Law courts for some time during which; she had not come into the public limelight.

When Koigi wa Wamwere was arrested and charged with treason at the High Court in 1991, 10 lawyers volunteered to provide free legal services to Wamwere but Karua seized the opportunity to offer free presentation to Wamwere.

This was in 1991, a time when multiparty democracy agitation was at its peak, with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Masinde Muliro, Kenneth Matiba and Charles Rubia and other luminaries, including Raila Odinga, leading the onslaught against Kanu.

From here, there was no turning back for the tough-talking lady from Kimunye village, a rural setup well-endowed with small scale tea farming and close to the Mt Kenya forest.

Soon after the re-introduction of a multi-party political system, Karua who was then known as Martha Njoka, joined Ford-Asili, headed by Matiba. She proceeded to the nominations with her opponent and immediate neighbour the late Geoffrey Kareithi.

Kareithi was, however, accused of having rigged her out and she quickly moved to Mwai Kibaki’s Democratic Party (DP) of Kenya.

Being in DP, one was assured of a straight ticket to Parliament, and Karua was elected with a landslide victory. Kareithi decided to resign from active politics until his death in early 2012.

Since her first victory in 1992, she was re-elected for four consecutive terms until 2012, when she opted to run for the presidency.

She was the only woman in the race then (March 4, 2013 Election). However, Karua lost her bid to succeed President Mwai Kibaki to the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In 2017, she vied for Kirinyaga governorship on a NARC-Kenya party ticket. She lost to then-former Devolution CS Anne Waiguru, who vied on a Jubilee Party ticket.

Her journey, however, has not been a bed of roses.

At one time she walked out on President Moi at the Kerugoya Stadium after being denied an opportunity to address the gathering despite being an MP. 

She also made history in 2009, when she resigned from the Coalition government.