Martha Karua, the MP for Gichugu, has a fan in Makau Mutua, Dean and SUNY Distinguished Professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School and Chair of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (although he really could do with a shorter title). Writing in The Nation recently he declared that ‘There is something deeply attractive about her as a person and politician’. What’s more, according to Makau Mutua, Karua ‘is one of the top three presidential candidates’ (the others being PM Odinga and VP Kalonzo Musoka).
As far as The Forum team is aware, none of our network is linked to Martha Karua in any way. So objectively, what is that she’s got? And, might she be on to something as well? Is her possible run at the presidency in 2012 as fanciful as it might seem?
Karua certainly develops pretty good public relations under the circumstances. Hardly a day goes by when she’s not pictured dancing with supporters, making a speech, or visiting some project or another.
She is also quite sure footed as a politician, combined with an undoubted ruthless streak.
When Kibaki ditched KANU in December 1991, Karua sided with him rather than with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and Kenneth Matiba (a more obvious move at the time). When Kibaki faced pressure after the last disputed election she stuck with him again, virtually ensuring that he stayed in power. Since then she had ditched him (although he did pass her over in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta who was given the Deputy PM slot).
Recent opinion polls have put Karua on about 5% of voter support. Not impressive by any means but registering nonetheless. And a poll in The Young Kenyan Leader (www.youngkenyanleader.com) had her fifth out of 230 nominated ‘Inspirational Leaders’ voted for by 3,400 young Kenyans. Karua was only one place behind Jomo Kenyatta and one ahead of Mother Teresa of Calcutta!
So not a bad base from which to launch a bid for the presidency. What’s against her?
Well Karua is a woman of course, and this may be the new Kenya developing under a new constitution but a female candidate is still up against considerable ‘voter resistance’ to the idea of a woman running State House.
She’s also a Kikuyu, as is Kibaki and given the ‘our turn’ attitude of many voters (e.g., the Luyhas, a much underestimated voting bloc) it can’t be a Kikuyu this time round that will take the top job.
Even as a representative of one of the most powerful voting blocs, GEMA, Karua is by no means assured of much support from that quarter. Many Kikuyu’s for example, see her as a traitor for opposing their (at present) chosen leader, Kenyatta, or at the very least as a trouble maker.
Makau Mutua finished his article by posing an interesting proposition. What if Karua ran as Odinga’s running mate? Now that would be interesting. A Luo/Kikuyu (GEMA) alliance with the prospect of Kenya getting used to the idea of a woman in high political office.
Surely not though?
The Standard referred to Martha Karua the other day as the ‘Iron Lady’. Now where have we heard that before?
Between 1979 and 1990 Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of the UK. She too was dubbed the ‘Iron Lady’. In 1974, when Minister for Education she stated that she thought “there wouldn’t be a woman Prime Minister in my lifetime”.
Two years later Margaret Thatcher became leader of the British Conservative Party (voted in, it should be noted, by Conservative Party MPs who were virtually all men). The rest, as they say, is history…