Kenya: Martha Karua, a step away from becoming first female deputy president?

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Tuesday, 17 May 2022 13:11, updated on Monday, 20 June 2022 11:42

Kenya's Opposition leader Raila Odinga names his running mate, in Nairobi
Kenya's Opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga chats with Martha Karua, his newly declared running mate, during the 'Azimio la Umoja' (Declaration of Unity) rally, at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) Nairobi, Kenya May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

Veteran politician and former Justice Minister Martha Karua could be the first female deputy president in Kenya’s history… That’s if her coalition, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya, wins the August polls.

Karua, who in 2013 vied for the presidency and finished sixth, was on Monday 16 May named as the preferred running mate for former Prime Minister Raila Odinga,– one of the two frontrunners for this year’s election.

“I want to say this is a moment for the women of Kenya,” said Karua – who is also referred to as the ‘Iron Lady’ because of her staunch record as a human rights defender – in her acceptance speech.

“We are going to do more in the area of social-economic rights,” said Karua, vowing to use her position to promote people’s rights should they win at the August polls.

Karua comes from the voter-rich region of Mount Kenya.

Festive reaction

On Tuesday morning, Karua made the front page of two major Kenyan newspapers, the Daily Nation and The Standard, with the headlines ‘Strength of a Woman’ and ‘Rise of the Iron Lady’ , respectively.

Her nomination unleashed a celebratory mood across major cities in Kenya, as female leaders praised Raila for the decision to select a woman and vowed to throw their weight behind the candidature of the Azimio duo.

Rahab Muiu, chairperson of Maendeleo ya Wanawake , a national membership NGO that seeks to unify, nurture and empower women in Kenya, describes the move as historic for women in Kenya. “I’m very happy for Martha , she deserves it,” she says.

After 60 years of independence, we cannot excuse the male domination of the executive…

Furthermore, Muiu is confident that, if Martha succeeds, she will promote a women’s agenda in the new government. “We have unique problems as a nation which we are confident will [be] addressed […] with a feminine touch,” she tells The Africa Report.

“Finally, women will have a say in government if [Raila] Odinga wins,” Christine Ayuma, a Nairobi resident who will be voting for the second time, tells The Africa Report. “He [Raila Odinga] made me so happy, I feel so proud as a woman.”

On Monday, while unveiling Azimio’s choice for running mate, Raila said: “After 60 years of independence, we cannot excuse the male domination of the executive. For the first time in the history of our republic and on the seventh multi-party election, 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.”

Karua’s selection might bring in more female votes, says political analyst Nafula Kisiangani. “Many women who were undecided will now vote for [Raila] Odinga because of Karua,” she tells The Africa Report.

Kisiangani however says that when the official campaigns kick off at the end of May, Karua will be faced with the difficult task of ensuring Raila gets enough votes in Mt. Kenya: an area believed to be Ruto’s stronghold.

Meanwhile, not everyone is convinced that Karua’s selection will have much impact. Patience Agiso, also a Nairobi resident, says she is shocked that Karua was selected as she doesn’t think this will help Raila get votes. “Though I’m a woman, I don’t think she will be of help,” Agiso says.

Her history in brief

64-year-old Karua is a lawyer by profession who graduated from the University of Nairobi in 1980 and the Kenya School of Law in 1981.

She worked as a magistrate before joining politics in 1992, when she was elected a member of parliament.

Between 2003 and 2009, under the leadership of former President Mwai Kibaki – now deceased – she served as minister for water and later as the justice minister. She resigned from the latter position on 6 April 2009 citing frustrations in discharging her duties.

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