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Raila picks Martha Karua for deputy, calls her fighter with safe pair of hands

By Judah Ben-Hur | May 17th 2022 | 5 min read
Azimio la Umoja Coalition flag bearer Raila Odinga unveils Martha Karua as his running mate at KICC in Nairobi on May 16, 2022. [Standard]

Azimio la Umoja coalition leader Raila Odinga made history yesterday after naming Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate. Raila said Karua will also be Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Constitutional Affairs should they win the August 9 elections.

A win from the two would make Karua Kenya’s the first woman Deputy President. The Narc-Kenya leader’s nomination to the running mate position is seen as a milestone in the drive for gender equality in representation. Women make up just 21 per cent of members of the National Assembly and 30 per cent in the Senate.

What was expected to be Raila’s short announcement at KICC, Nairobi, ended up being a political fiesta punctuated with music and jubilation from Azimio supporters.

Supporters in blue attires printed “Baba tosha” had thronged the venue, eagerly waiting to see the solidification of the Azimio presidential ticket.

Following deliberations with the running mate selection committee, the former Prime Minister said that the coalition decided to settle on a woman and someone who would be a co-worker and co-creator to the president. “History is calling us to close the gender gap in our country. History is calling on us to reciprocate the struggles and fidelity of our women. History is calling on us to produce our first woman Deputy President,” said Raila

Complimentary role

With a frosty President-DP relationship seen in the Jubilee administration, Raila outlined the characteristics he said a DP is expected to possess to have the two offices complement each other.

“The DP’s office is the president’s last line of defence administratively. If the office of the DP is a workshop, the person who holds this office must bear some characteristics. This person cannot be a competitor to the president. They have to complement the president,” said Raila.

Karua carries with her a respectable insignia of her achievement as a magistrate in the and an astute politician known for speaking her mind and taking a stand regardless of the consequences. She is also recognised for her long service as a minister between 2003 and 2009.

In 2009, the former Gichugu MP resigned from Cabinet citing frustrations from the Mwai Kibaki-led administration. In her resignation, the Narc-Kenya leader claimed the Office of the President overran her docket and that she was sidelined before new judges were picked and sworn-in at State House, Nairobi while she was on a foreign trip.

“This woman is a fighter and not a quitter. This woman has a safe pair of hands seasoned by the struggle for our second liberation and service in our country in many capacities,” added Raila. Even though Raila has expressed confidence in having Karua as his number two, the two have previously not always seen eye to eye. During the contentious 2007 election that precipitated post-election violence, Karua was staunchly against rigging allegations, which came from Raila’s camp.

Recently, Karua was also one of the central critics of the Raila-Uhuru led Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that she termed a “fraud”.

Despite their differences, the two have a long history going back to the early 90s when they were part of the multiparty liberation movements which pushed for the repeal of Section 2A of the laws which made Kenya a one party state.

Arrested and tried

“In 1990, I was arrested and placed in detention without trial. At that time, very few lawyer were prepared to represent me but this woman, then a young lawyer, led a team of 27 lawyers to defend my illegal detention,” said Raila.

With a confident smile, slitting through her face, Karua confidently rose to the podium following her nomination, stating that she is ready for the duties awaiting her.

“Baba has allocated me duties in advance and I want to confirm that I am ready, able and willing. I will not let you down. I will be steadfast, diligent in pursuit of our shared dreams and pursuits,” she said.

Even though Karua has seen major wins in her time, she came in sixth in the 2013 presidential race and lost the Kirinyaga governorship race to Anne Waiguru in 2017. Despite the setback, Karua has remained active in the political space by challenging Waiguru’s win in court and later working to bring together an activist group called Linda Katiba that fought to avert a referendum through the BBI.

Personal journey

“This nomination is truly a collective honour that cannot be left for me alone to savour. It is a personal journey but also a national journey. It is a culmination of a journey walked with many… It is a story of those who have had the courage to try, have failed sometimes and have continued even against odds. It is a journey of diligence and persistence,” said Karua.

One of the first assignments if they win the election will be Karua’s overseeing of what Raila calls “further work” on the Constitution.

“I want her to finalise the unfinished business of making our Constitution and I want this done because when Kibaki and I pushed for the 2010 Constitution, we admitted it is a work in progress,” said Raila.

Warm reception

Karua’s selection has received support across the country, with cheers from KICC pointing to the warm reception to Raila’s decision.

Politicians present praised Karua’s nomination, some terming it as the Kamala Harris moment - likening it to US president Joe Biden choice of his Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate.

“This is not Martha Karua’s win but the win for all women of Kenya,” said Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege.

The Azimio leader also disclosed the formation of a core team that he says would help him form the Azimio government.

In the team Kalonzo Musyoka would be Chief Cabinet Secretary tasked to coordinate and supervise government functions, Kenneth Marende to be Senate speaker, Wycliffe Oparanya (CS Treasury), Peter Munya (CS Agriculture and Chair of the Kenya Productive Sector) and Mombasa Governor, Ali Hassan Joho as Lands CS.

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