What you need to know:
- Endorsement now thrusts her into a front-row seat in the Kenyatta succession battle.
- Narc-Kenya leader has been out of an elective position since 2013.
Mt Kenya unity talks in the run-up to next year’s elections have handed Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua an influential position that steps up her role in President Kenyatta’s succession.
A bold politician used to taking no prisoners, Ms Karua, who spent three years fighting in courts for the Kirinyaga gubernatorial seat that she lost in 2017, seems set for an influential role in the ensuing horse-trading at the national stage as the race for President Kenyatta’s successor heats up.
By being tasked to champion regional interests, Ms Karua, who has been out of an elective position since 2013, is expected to assume a higher political profile, particularly in a region that is without a clear leader as President Kenyatta retires next year.
Yesterday, politicians from Central Kenya, who attended a meeting in Naivasha, endorsed her as the official spokesperson for the Mt Kenya Unity Forum, a gathering conceived to chart the political course for a region considered up for grabs by presidential hopefuls, including Deputy President William Ruto, who has gained traction there.
Her choice as the leader of the group that largely brings together politicians viewed as rebelling against Ruto’s apparent stranglehold on the region seemed symbolic — Ms Karua is among the DP’s fiercest critics.
Earlier during an inaugural meeting with perceived allies of the DP, who lately appear to be rebelling against him, Ms Karua made it clear that she should not be viewed as a Ruto supporter.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and former Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, who have, in the past, backed a Ruto presidency, but appear to be uneasy with the demand that they abandon their parties to join the United Democratic Alliance that is associated with the DP, had joined Ms Karua at the first meeting in Nairobi.
“For the avoidance of doubt, we have unanimously chosen Ms Karua as our official convener and spokesperson of the Mt Kenya Unity Forum on an interim basis,” Mr Kuria said yesterday following their meeting in Naivasha.
Others present at the meeting were former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and Mr Kiunjuri, who is The Service Party leader.
In regional political posturing, Ms Karua’s nomination as the group’s spokesperson is a shot in the arm. It not only demonstrates she enjoys the confidence of the leaders, but now also thrusts her into a front-row seat in the Kenyatta succession battle.
Recently, Ms Karua joined Makueni governor Kivutha Kibwana and former UN boss Mukhisa Kituyi for public engagements where the trio projected themselves as the third political force.
A Justice Minister in President Mwai Kibaki’s government, Ms Karua unapologetically defended his controversial re-election in 2007, but subsequently reportedly fell out with the President’s insiders following the appointment of Mr Kenyatta as the Deputy Prime Minister, a position she reportedly believed she deserved.
She would quit government and in 2013 made her debut presidential campaign on a Narc-Kenya ticket, campaigning against Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto.
Observers say by prominently featuring in the region’s discussions on politics, Ms Karua could be in pole position to inherit the Mt Kenya vote from President Kenyatta.
In the last six months, Ms Karua has carved the image of a woman with drive and wherewithal, galvanising support for the Mt Kenya region.
So, does the former Justice Minister, who is packaging herself as a national leader and a reformist, have a game plan?
When it comes to political fights, Ms Karua pulls no punches — and the heavier the opponent, the better for her.
“The Mt Kenya Unity Forum has intentions of calling as many leaders as possible. I will not be afraid to acknowledge that even though I’m a national leader, I come from the mountain region and therefore look after the needs of the mountain, which have a bearing on the nation,” she said in an interview.
Having been an MP from 1992 to 2013, Ms Karua is popular for her tough talk and passionately holds onto her political ideologies.
At home in Kirinyaga, her rise is bound to cause ripples.
She has declared intention to run again for the Kirinyaga governor’s seat against the incumbent Anne Waiguru, Woman Representative Purity Ngirici and former county boss Joseph Ndathi.