Waiguru, Karua keep an eye on running mate slot, but hurdles stand in their way

Anne Waiguru and Martha Karua

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru (left) and Narc- Kenya party leader Martha Karua.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Ms Karua unsuccessfully fought to overturn Ms Waiguru’s election all the way to the Supreme Court.
  • If both are picked as running mates, Kenya would be on course to have the first woman deputy president.

Ms Anne Waiguru and Ms Martha Karua, who bitterly competed for the Kirinyaga governor seat in 2017, an election the former controversially won, have been thrust into the national spotlight.

Ms Karua unsuccessfully fought to overturn Ms Waiguru’s election all the way to the Supreme Court, and turned to the East African Court of Justice, where she secured a $25, 000 award after judges ruled Kenya’s top court didn’t accord her a fair hearing.

The two are set to face-off again, but only if they don’t succeed in their quest for a higher prize - selection as running mates to the leading presidential contenders.

And if Ms Waiguru and Ms Karua succeed to have presidential hopefuls William Ruto and Raila Odinga pick them as their running mates, respectively, then Kenya would be on course to have the first woman deputy president after the August General Election.

Yesterday, women leaders in the 26 parties making up the Mr Odinga-led Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition fronted Ms Karua, a 2013 presidential candidate, for the running mate’s slot. 

With just nine days to the April 28 deadline the electoral agency has set for presidential candidates to name their running mates, Ms Karua joins Ms Waiguru, who has expressed interest to be Dr Ruto’s running mate, with key women in the DP’s camp saying she fits the bill.

Should either Mr Odinga or Dr Ruto pick a woman for the post, analysts say, the pressure on the other to make a female pick will be high, especially if the choices are only narrowed down to Mt Kenya.

Yesterday, Azimio women leaders led by Governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Anne Kananu (Nairobi), Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu (Nyeri), and Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege, said Mr Odinga had the best running mate in Ms Karua.

“We are saying that it is possible for Azimio leadership to consider a woman to be a running mate of our presidential candidate. We are going to demand for the slot and will not be apologetic about it,” said Ms Ngilu.

She added: “Already, there are two men at the top and so the third must be a woman as per the two-thirds gender rule. We have a woman Chief Justice, Auditor General, Controller of Budget, and we need to occupy the DP post.”

Ms Karua said theirs was not an ultimatum, even as she rallied the women to work towards delivering a Mr Odinga presidency.

“We are in Azimio because we believe it will secure Kenya and the gains of women. His concern for women is deep rooted in him. In whose hands are women’s rights safe? The person to do so is Baba [Mr Odinga] as we will be preaching to the converted,” said Ms Karua.

Gender Chief Administrative Secretary Rachel Shebesh said the lobbying for Ms Karua being named as Mr Odinga’s running mate will continue in earnest.

“All 26 Azimio parties’ women leagues are fronting Martha as our deputy President candidate. She is a national figure, a former minister, has vied for presidency and her track record speaks for itself,” said Ms Shebesh.

Ms Kananu said: “We want to tell women that this is our time. We now declare that we want a woman deputy President.”

Calls for Ms Karua to be named running mate came on the same week Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who was Mr Odinga’s running mate in the 2013 and 2017 elections, demanded the slot, saying, he had proven himself as the best person for it. Mr Musyoka insisted that choosing a running mate based on their ethnic origin was open discrimination and tribalism.

But the introduction of the gender card—amid a push by women for the achievement of the constitutional rule that no elected or appointed position has more than two thirds of one gender—to the equation means that Mr Musyoka might be even more disadvantaged. In an opinion poll last month, Trends and Insights for Africa (Tifa) found that 78 per cent of those interviewed believe the country will have a female Deputy President within the next two election cycles.

In the poll, Ms Karua, Ms Waiguru, and Ms Ngilu were listed as the three most preferred candidates, with 44 per cent of young people preferring that Dr Ruto has a woman in his presidential ticket while 29 per cent of them think Mr Odinga should have a female running mate from the Mt Kenya region.

In a recent interview, Ms Waiguru said whereas she already handed in her nomination papers to the UDA party to defend her Kirinyaga gubernatorial seat, she would graciously accept nomination as Dr Ruto’s running mate.

“A running mate is a sober decision determined by the ultimate cumulative value an individual adds to the Presidential ticket. It would, therefore, be a great honour for me if our presidential candidate considers [me for the position],” Ms Waiguru told the Nation in an earlier interview.

Nairobi woman rep hopeful Millicent Omanga said time was ripe for Ms Waiguru to be Dr Ruto’s Number Two.

“We’re breaking the glass ceiling in this election. The first female deputy president loading!” Ms Omanga said.

For political analyst Mutahi Ngunyi, who was among the first people to front a Raila-Karua ticket, the 2013 presidential hopeful was Mr Odinga’s best bet.

“Why does the thought of Martha Karua as Baba’s running mate make me calm as a Kikuyu?” Mr Ngunyi tweeted last week. This, even as Mr Odinga’s campaign spokesperson Prof Makau Mutua said the team, while it had many choices to pick from, had no problem picking a woman in the ticket.

“We are focusing on all regions and, since women and girls also constitute the largest percentage of [the population], obviously we will be considering female candidates as well,” Prof Mutua told the Nation recently.

But, as Ms Karua and Ms Waiguru angle for the top job, both their paths are littered with numerous challenges.

For Ms Karua, her candidature, seen as a Johnny-come-lately, has been said to be an explosive one as she’s been known to be a strong-willed person who walked out of President Kibaki’s government, who could rock the boat from within.

But both Ms Karua and Mr Odinga have celebrated their previous roles as pro-reformers, constitutional change drivers, as well as key anti-corruption crusaders throughout their careers.

Ms Karua also faces the roadblock of 2013 presidential candidate Peter Kenneth, said to have earned favour with key backers in the Azimio camp, who see him as a sober, calm balance as Mr Odinga’s DP. For Ms Waiguru, her battles are even more pronounced.

With the entry of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to the DP’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance, her profile, if narrowed down to Mt Kenya, might not match the Democratic Party (DP) leader who currently ranks third after the President and the DP.

In Mt Kenya, Ms Waiguru also has to face Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, another frontrunner in the DP’s running mate race, and who yesterday said the DP post must go to the mountain.

During the UDA National Delegates Conference (NDC) at Kasarani Gymnasium, where the party named Dr Ruto as its presidential aspirant, Mr Gachagua’s sitting position sent political undertones. The Mathira MP sat to the DP’s right and he spoke after all Kenya Kwanza bigwigs.

There is also the equation of the Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi, a former vice President, minister, and deputy prime minister, who has both the national outlook and whose team has demanded should be Dr Ruto’s Number Two.

For Dr Ruto, therein lies his biggest test yet, especially with the team’s decision to front his candidature as one of UDA, and not Kenya Kwanza. ANC says the alliance should take the route of the Mr Odinga-led National Super Alliance (Nasa) in the 2017 election where it went in as a coalition with Mr Odinga as the presidential candidate and Mr Musyoka, the Wiper party leader, his running mate.

This has triggered debate on what that means for the party affiliation of the running mate, with key UDA leaders, especially from Mt Kenya, saying the Number Two slot should go to the region.

But lawyer Bobby Mkangi, who sat in the committee of experts that drafted the 2010 Constitution, argues that there is no legal requirement that bars Kenya Kwanza from having a presidential candidate and running mate from different parties of the coalition.

“If Ruto is vying on a UDA ticket, his running mate does not necessarily have to come from the same party. It is possible for the presidential candidate to be from UDA and the running mate to be from a different party,” Mr Mkangi said. Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala said Mr Mudavadi’s experience cannot be matched by that of any other leader in their alliance.

“Before we came on board, there was agreement that running mate was to come from Mt Kenya but, as many people join the train, formation changes,” said Mr Malala recently.

ANC national chairman Kelvin Lunani said there is nothing stopping the KKA to operate like Nasa where a flagbearer and running mate came from two different parties.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said the position of the running mate is reserved for Mt Kenya region and both Mr Mudavadi and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula are aware of the arrangement.

The justification is that should the DP choose a running mate outside Mt Kenya, his main opponent, Mr Odinga, might overrun him in the region. 

Mt Kenya’s 10 counties have nearly a third, or 5.8 million, of the country’s total votes. Western region’s four counties have over 2.2 million votes.

Besides Ms Waiguru, Mr Muturi, and Mr Gachagua, others touted for the seat are MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Alice Wahome (Kandara) and Tharaka Nithi Senator Kindiki Kithure.