Why Martha Karua is Kenya’s ‘Iron Lady’

Azimio la Umoja presidential running mate Martha Karua.

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party’s presidential running mate Martha Karua.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Martha Karua is, undeniably, a formidable politician. Her unprecedented standing in the Kenyan community was clear when she was named the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party’s presidential running mate.

Celebrations erupted across the country. For the first time, Kenyans have the opportunity to elect an authoritative leader who is also a woman. But there are those intimidated by that.

The Narc-Kenya party leader is anything but the ‘little lady’. Social media attacks on her personality as rude, lacking in respect or a quitter shows she is unassailable on the political front. Her political career over the past three presidents’ terms. In each one, she stood out and shone brightly.

The senior counsel’s political career started on high when she stood against then-President Daniel arap Moi over his declaration to disband Law Society of Kenya (LSK), ostensibly for being vocal for multi-party democracy.

Ms Karua would later walk out of Kenneth Matiba’s Ford-Asili party over what she identified as an unethical nominations.

But June 16, 2001 was her most illustrious and tangible display of unwavering commitment to her strong moral principles. As the only opposition MP at a Moi function in her Kirinyaga backyard, she recognised that a sitting president deserved his respect.

Then a local Kanu chairman publicly disregarded the opposition. She asked for a chance to respond and defend opposition leader Mwai Kibaki, the Democratic Party of Kenya (DP) chief. When it was denied by Kanu bigwigs J. J. Kamotho and Henry Kosgei, she gave the DP salute as she walked out. This was when grown men cowered around Moi.

That year, Kibaki led an opposition Parliament walk-out after the Constitutional Review Bill was tabled. She remained, to ensure the Oppositions’ objections were recorded in the Hansard.

In 2007, she was the one-woman army against accusations that PNU had rigged elections against ODM. When that was recently brought up by her opponents to counter her corruption accusations against them, she tweet that she has “no apologies for being Kibaki’s agent at KICC”.

In 2009, she resigned as Justice minister, citing a campaign to undermine the reform process her ministry was driving.

On November 29, 2016, at Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential campaign rally in Kirinyaga, the crowd shouted that she dissolve Narc-Kenya and join Jubilee. But she waved her party’s three-finger salute to show loyalty to it.

More than most politicians, she has shown women to walk out of spaces where respect is no longer served, and men that it may take a woman to get things done.

Ms Karua is not worthy of our collective reverence just because she is a woman. She, more than most politicians, has proven her ability to be an audacious leader. She takes earnest political responsibility. She is our ‘Iron Lady’.

Shiko Ngure, Nairobi


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