Martha Karua
Caption for the landscape image:

Martha Karua: I'm best suited to succeed Raila in Azimio

NARC-Kenya leader Martha Karua during an interview at his offices in Nairobi on April 9,2024.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Azimio la Umoja One Kenya’s 2022 presidential running mate Martha Karua says she is ready to succeed Raila Odinga as the coalition’s leader when he exits. In an exclusive interview with the Nation, the firebrand Narc Kenya party leader insists she has the mettle to take over the coalition’s leadership and dismisses Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka as lacking the authority to step into Mr Odinga’s shoes.

In this wide-ranging interview, the Narc Kenya party leader delves into the 2022 presidential election, insisting that Mr Odinga was denied victory.

She accuses the then Wafula Chebukati-led electoral commission of vote rigging, and faults the Supreme Court judges for upholding President William Ruto’s election, terming it an “absurdity”. The opposition leader also censures the government for its failure to address the health workers strike due to claims of lack of funds, questioning the source of money used by senior government officials in foreign trips and insisting that “globe-trotting is not living within means”.

“It is unconscionable for the regime to continue splashing tax payers’ money on non-essential luxury items to enhance a pampered life for a few, while neglecting to listen to the cries of doctors, citizens and indeed all health workers who serve the bulk of the population,” she says.

Ms Karua also criticises Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki for threatening the striking health workers. “They should not use courts of law to curtail the right of the health workers to picket, and courts must not allow themselves to be used.”

Q: What, in your opinion, is the state of the Kenyan nation?

A: We are in a dark hole, worse than the worst (former President Daniel) Moi time. Corruption is not only official, it’s on the name tag of almost everybody in government. We are in a very sad state. You look at the doctors’ strike. You look at the lavish spending of public funds and then we tell doctors that we should not live above our means. What I hear Ruto saying is nobody else should live above our means except him and his Cabinet.

Q: What’s the state of the Azimio coalition?

A: It is healthy. If you remember the last conference where we were all together, that’s before His Excellency Raila put out his bid for AUC (African Union Commission), we all agreed, go build your party; the strength of the party is the strength of Azimio. He’s done very well building ODM and I’m following in his footsteps building Narc Kenya. That is my main task now.

Q: There have been public outbursts between you and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka over who should take over the leadership of Azimio should Mr Odinga exit to the AUC, what’s your take on this?

A: If I’m the deputy, is that a question? Even in a small organisation like a school, when the headmaster goes to a meeting in Nairobi, who acts? It is the deputy. If we are unable to follow simple basic rules, then something is very wrong with us.

Q: Tell us about the Kamwene movement that you are part of.

A: Kamwene is building Mount Kenya and that's where I come from and I’m building it as well. If you want to hear about its activities, ask in the grassroots. If it was dead, you would not be asking about it. Kamwene is alive and kicking. Watch that space, my friend.

Q: Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has dismissed Kamwene as a grouping that risks dividing Azimio along tribal lines, what’s your take on this?

A: If he could first agree that having a party that is basically just in one place ... if he could apply that ... But I think we finished that. His views notwithstanding, let him do his thing and we do ours. I really asked him: Is there something in Kamwene perhaps that frightens you? What is it, my brother? So, in the meantime, we continue. A luta continua!

Q: Mr Musyoka and DAP-K leader Eugene Wamalwa seem to have forged a working arrangement for 2027, does this alarm you?

A: No, that’s a very good thing. Everybody must start preparing themselves for the future. We’ll also seek alliances and we are seeking them. I do not have to copy what my brother has done. I’m in my place very comfortable, moving at the pace that is good for me, and there is no panic. He remains my brother even after that.

Q: You were optimistic that Azimio would win the 2022 presidential elections, what really happened?

A: Azimio won, and you know that. Azimio, even on the website of Parliament, unless if they have changed, Azimio is the majority party. It got 182 members of Parliament to slightly over 160.

Azimio got majority of governors, and if they had not been fiddling with one or two, Azimio would have had 27 governors while the other people 18. Okay? If you look and analyse critically as a journalist, you will see that it is an impossibility for Kenya Kwanza to have actually won the elections. If you go that way, you see that it’s actually an impossibility for Kenya Kwanza to have to have won the presidency. And then you check their body language when we call for an audit. It tells it all.

Even when the Nadco (National Dialogue Committee) report, which I don’t believe in, says audit, someone rushes to court. Who would suffer if an audit was done? What is the fear of the audit? Let that discussion lie there.

There are reports Azimio did not have agents, how true is this?

A: I was not in charge of agents, but we did receive reports that some in places we did not have while in other places we got people who were hostile as agents. So, something did go wrong.

But the fact that you sleep with the door of your house open does not give the thief a right to come in. You can never excuse a corrupt IEBC (Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) from doing its duty by saying that we did not have agents.

Agents are not a mandatory thing. Yeah, and number two, for a court of law, the Supreme Court, to make a ruling that suggests that in a collegial body of seven, three makes a majority, it’s an absurdity. I don't want to go beyond that. Sleep with that.

Q: Do you think there was internal sabotage in your camp?

A: I want us to concentrate on wrongdoing. Anything wrong or right with Azimio is a case study for our next run. What you need to tell me is whether the institutions paid by public taxes are doing their job.

How does a court of law make a decision? I’m criticising it because I’m entitled, and I’m asking with respect. Isn’t it an absurdity to make a ruling that suggests that three is a majority? In a court itself having seven, where they know very well that four is a majority. Even on that only, that election ought to have been nullified.

Q: Someone may ask, you people had the support of former President Uhuru Kenyatta, how would your opponent beat all the State authorities to steal your votes?

A: You are now doing what is called ad-hominem attack. You are leaving the discussion and veering. I’ll not engage in that. You see, being supported by a president, that should have been their argument during the case.

So, the fact that we are being supported by a president, does it entitle them to steal? Is that what you are trying to say? Let us also be honest to ourselves, even when conducting an interview like this. As a journalist, you educate, you inform. It’s your country just like it is mine.

Q: Why have you opposed the Nadco report but still call for an audit of the 2022 election results, which is one of the document’s recommendations?

A: The Nadco report is just a fraud. We went to the streets so that we could help ease the burden of cost of living. Issue number two was audit of the 2022 election. We never went to the streets because we wanted to regularise Musalia’s (Mudavadi) position or to create an office for the official opposition. That is the legislative agenda of UDA, of Kenya Kwanza. Why would we agree to be hijacked? So, for me and Narc Kenya, Nadco is a no.

Q: Your coalition leader Mr Odinga said that it's a good beginning, what do you make of that?

A: That’s a difference of opinion. I hold there’s nothing good in it. In democracy, there is room for divergent views. Even when you are in Cabinet, even when you are in a family, you differ on some issues. What matters is how you take it, and there must be room to have divergent views.

Q: Are you certain that the Nadco recommendation to audit the 2022 election won’t work?

A: It won’t. No amount of legal reforms will ever end or slay the ghosts of elections malpractice. Unless if we audit the entire system so that we can see the places.

This means ousting those responsible because when you say IEBC, it’s like an elephant. If you are at the tail, you cannot see the nose. But when you open that server, which stands for records, we will know who did what in Kirinyaga, who did what in Nairobi, and who did what in other places.

When people know that, we will obey the constitution and verify, because an audit is a verification, then people will take individual responsibility and we shall all preserve the integrity of the ballot.

Q: What’s is the state of the country’s economy?

A: I actually feel that on the economic front, we are being led by a gang akin to the Haiti gang.

Q: What is your parting shot?

A: We are in a very sad state. You look at the doctors’ strike and what they are asking for and compare with the lavish spending of public funds...

Right now, there is a very sad case that is not coming out publicly. The President himself, or rather William Ruto himself, is embroiled in a controversy over 1,000 acres in Ndabibi, grabbed from Ndabibi company in Naivasha. And when you have sworn to protect and defend the constitution as the top leader, it is a very sad case when you get involved in land cases. Which sort of reminds us of the Muteshi saga. You know? And this is not even an individual, it's a group.

Let us follow the law.

Read also: