Raila Odinga and Martha Karua
Caption for the landscape image:

Ignored or indifferent? Martha Karua’s dilemma in Azimio’s Raila Odinga succession

Scroll down to read the article

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga with his 2022 running mate Martha Karua.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua added excitement and energy to Mr Raila Odinga’s presidential campaign when she was named his running mate in May 2022.

Her political fortunes drastically changed, thrusting her into the core of then-President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession.

Ms Karua was literally a heartbeat away from being the country’s first female deputy president, with a potential of ascending to the top seat after Mr Odinga.

Her supporters said she made an emotional connection with women voters while creating an ideological following among others due to her stance on integrity and fight on corruption.

Critics, however, say she failed to deliver votes in her Mt Kenya backyard, including the polling station in her village.

Barely one and a half years after the elections, Ms Karua appears to have been pushed to the back burner in the Azimio 2027 game plan.

Martha Karua

Azimio la Umoja co-principal and Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

Some of the key Azimio la Umoja One Kenya affiliate parties have been coy about considering her to succeed Mr Odinga in the coalition should he become the African Union Commission chairman.

A possible Wiper party leader Kalonzo Muysoka and his Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) colleague Eugene Wamalwa ticket has lifted the lid on how the coalition could go to 2027 without her in the matrix.

“Kalonzo enjoys national clout. I don’t want to say that Karua is not strong, but the fact is that her party did not win a seat in the National Assembly and Senate,” Kitui Senator Enock Wambua told the Sunday Nation.

“She did not deliver even her ward to Azimio. You don’t give people positions for the sake of it.”

He added that the opposition would not repeat the “mistakes” it made in the last election.

“We considered other things and not numbers. We want to win the presidency, not create excitement through gender or any other card,” he said.

“We should not have that mentality in the next election. Our focus will be to win the presidency and achieve the two-thirds gender principle when we in government.”

He also faults Ms Karua for rejecting the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) report, saying she is being extreme in negotiations that require dropping such a stance.

In an earlier interview, ODM Deputy Party Leader Wycliffe Oparanya also ruled out Ms Karua being the Official Leader of the Opposition should the position be created before 2027.

The former Kakamega county boss said the slot would be taken by the opposition party with the highest number of lawmakers, referring to ODM.

“The decision on who takes that position should our party leader get the AU seat will be based on numbers in Parliament. You cannot lead a team if your party has no members in the Senate and National Assembly,” Mr Oparanya said.

He added that Ms Karua has not shown interest in leading the opposition coalition should Mr Odinga clinch the AU job.

“A position is not just given. You must show interest in it,” he said.

Some Analysts say Ms Karua may have shot herself in the foot by publicly rejecting the NADCO report.

The report has proposed the creation of the Official Leader of Opposition position with two deputies.

In the absence of Mr Odinga, it was largely expected that Ms Karua would be the automatic pick.

ODM and Wiper say she cannot have the seat since Narc-K has no elected MP or senator.

Ms Karua rejected the report “for prioritising positions for the political elite while ignoring demands to bring down the cost of living, which was the main agenda of the opposition”.

“The NADCO report has done nothing to alleviate the suffering of citizens but offers goodies to leaders. It is a fraud, which Kenyans should frown upon and reject,” the Narc-K leader said in December.

“It is a distracting national smokescreen. The findings of the report confirm that the committee was formed by the unwilling, composed of the incompetent to do the unnecessary.”

Governance experts Javas Bigambo says Ms Karua pushed herself away from Mr Odinga’s succession by rejecting the report.

He adds that some Azimio co-principals have been going around the country strengthening their parties in a bid to win support.

Apart from the loose Kamwene group focused on Mt Kenya and talk of holding the Limuru III conference, Ms Karua’s political activities and appearance in Azimio meetings have been limited.

“Her hypocrisy would be self-evident should she seek the fruits of NADCO,” he said.

Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua

Raila Odinga (centre) and the top leadership of Azimio la Umoja including Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left) and Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua (right) address the media in Nairobi on September 15, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

David Monda, a professor of Political Science at the City University of New York, says Ms Karua is being shoved aside in Azimio for failing to deliver votes in the presidential contest.

“In the end, politics is about results,” the don said.

She failed to bring the numbers (in the 2022 elections) and is fast being relegated,” said Prof Monda.

He added, “What is happening to Karua is a reality of the times. Azimio is seeking a viable candidate to replace Raila if he decides not to run. Martha doesn’t seem to fit the bill.”

Ms Karua did not respond to our calls and text message inquiring about his position in the ongoing jostling for succession within the opposition coalition.

But Jubilee Party Secretary General Jeremiah Kioni, who is closely working with Ms Karua under Kamwene – a political forum bringing together opposition politicians from Mt Kenya – said their focus currently is to consolidate the region’s support bases.

Ms Karua and Mr Kioni are currently planning a meeting dubbed Limuru III to discuss the ‘oppression’ of Mt Kenya people by the Kenya Kwanza administration.

“We are busy bringing together Mt Kenya region jointly with her (Karua) and other leaders in the region. Every region has to first deal with their internal issues before getting to the national stage,” said Mr Kioni.

Ms Karua recently defended the decision to convene the meeting that is designed to discuss the political direction the region should take.

“We feel as a community that we need to come together to deliberate on issues affecting us,” she said at Kutus town in Kirinyaga county on March 1 during the launch of a drive meant to reconstitute all the Narc Kenya branches across the country.

“We shall continue pressing this regime where we feel we are being oppressed on issues pertaining to culture, taxation and politics, among others. All those names that are committed to our alternative dispensation away from this government are involved,” Ms Karua said.