Women leaders intensify calls for Raila-Karua ticket

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya presidential flag-bearer Raila Odinga with Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua at Serena Hotel, Nairobi, on March 23, 2022. 


Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • CAS Shebesh says the move would be good for Azimio flag-bearer Raila Odinga as it would give women hope that they can be leaders at any level.
  • A section of women leaders set the ball rolling after they threw their weight behind Karua, describing her as the best choice given her experience in government and public service.

Leaders have stepped up calls to have former Cabinet minister Martha Karua picked as running mate of the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya presidential flag-bearer.

On Monday, a group of women leaders in Azimio coalition declared their support for the Narc Kenya leader. They described Karua, who served as Cabinet minister in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s administration, as a seasoned leader whose impact as the second-in-command would benefit the entire country.

“We don’t understand why anyone would not see the value of Martha. Her record speaks for itself. Karua is one of the formidable female politicians with the ability to sway crowds towards a particular direction,” said Ms Rachel Shebesh, the Chief Administrative Secretary for Public Service, Gender and Special Programmes.

Ms Shebesh revealed that they were negotiating on Ms Karua’s behalf, describing her as a committed woman known for her integrity and astuteness. She said the move would be good for Azimio flag-bearer Raila Odinga as it would give women hope that they can be leaders at any level.

Also in attendance were Orange Democratic Movement’s Women League leader Beth Syengo, Nairobi Governor Ann Kananu, and Karua herself.

Experience

The calls started last month in Thika during the 70th anniversary celebrations for Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation (Mywo) in the Central Kenya region. A section of women leaders, led by Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu, set the ball rolling after they threw their weight behind Karua, describing her as the best choice given her experience in government and public service.

“We believe that Mr Odinga is a HeForShe champion and will give the running mate position to women of this republic and they will forever be grateful for the gesture,” said Ms Karugu.

Kiambu Deputy Governor Joyce Ngugi also supported Karua for the position, saying she has requisite qualifications.

The event brought together 1,500 Mywo leaders, government officials and politicians from Kiambu, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Nyandarua and Murang'a counties.

Support transcends political divide

Not just the women in the Azimio corner support Karua for the position. In an interview on Citizen TV’s Jeff Koinange Live on March 23, Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Boss Shollei, a key supporter of DP William Ruto, said, being a woman, she would be “pleased” if Mr Odinga settled on Karua as his running mate.

“If Azimio La Umoja picks a woman running mate, then I’d be pleased, especially if that person is as strong as Martha Karua. I highly respect her,” Shollei said.

The lawmaker said Mr Odinga’s decision to settle on Karua would set a much-needed precedent in Kenya’s political arena.

Ms Karua, for her part, asked about the running mate issue in a past media interview, said only Mr Odinga knows if she is the needed match for his presidential bid.

Ms Karua moved to the Azimio camp last month in a move that was construed as part of the coalition’s quest to win over voters from the Mount Kenya region.

Last week, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission director of legal affairs Chrispine Owiye said presidential contenders have until April 28 to present their names and their running mates for clearance.

Poll findings

Ms Karua featured favourably in a poll conducted by Trends & Insights for Africa (Tifa) in February in which Kenyans asked whom they thought stood a chance of being a running mate of either of the leading presidential candidates.

For Mr Odinga, the Tifa poll suggested that 13 per cent preferred Karua, while eight per cent preferred Kitui Governor and Narc party leader Charity Ngilu.

For Dr Ruto, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru was preferred with 15 per cent.

In 2013, Ms Karua unsuccessfully ran for the presidency, only garnering 43,881 votes. The former Gichugu MP in 2017 lost to Ms Waiguru in the Kirinyaga governor contest.

Karua was last year named the spokesperson of the Mt Kenya Unity group that brought together a section of politicians from the region.


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