Martha Wangari Karua (/wænˈɡɑːri kəˈr/; born 22 September 1957) is a Kenyan politician. She is a former long-standing member of parliament for Gichugu Constituency and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. She was Minister for Justice until resigning from that position in April 2009. She has consistently fought for the protection of women's rights and improvements to the democratic process.[2]

Martha Karua
Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs
In office
7 December 2005 – 6 April 2009
PresidentMwai Kibaki
Preceded byMwai Kibaki
Succeeded byMutula Kilonzo
Minister for Water Resources Management and Development
In office
3 January 2003 – 24 November 2005
PresidentMwai Kibaki
Succeeded byMutua Katuku
Member of Parliament for Gichugu Constituency
In office
26 January 1993 – 28 March 2013
Preceded byGeoffrey Karekia Kariithi
Succeeded byEjidius Njogu Barua
ConstituencyGichugu Constituency
Personal details
Martha Wangari Karua

(1957-09-22) 22 September 1957 (age 66)
Kirinyaga District, Kenya
Political party
Other political
Azimio la Umoja (2022–present)
Alma mater
PositionsPartner, Martha Karua & Co. (1987–2002)

Karua ran for presidency in 2013 under the Narc-Kenya ticket making her the third woman to run for the highest office, after Charity Ngilu and Wangari Maathai in the 1997 elections. She emerged sixth in the race. She was picked to run for deputy president after being nominated as the running mate of presidential candidate Raila Odinga in the 2022 Kenyan general election.[3]

Early life and education edit

The daughter of Jackson Karua and his wife Josephine Wanjiru, Martha Karua was born on 22 September 1957 in Kirinyaga District in the Central Province of Kenya. Brought up in the village of Kimunye in Gichugu Constituency,[4] she is the second child in a family of eight, four girls and four boys.[5][6]

She attended Mugumo primary school, Kabare Girls Boarding School, St Michael's boarding school Keroguya. She later attended Kiburia Girls Secondary School, Ngiriambu Girl's secondary school, and Karoti Girl's secondary schools where she passed her East African School Certificate at Karoti Girls High School in Kirinyaga County. She then attended Nairobi Girl's secondary school for A levels.[7] She studied law at the University of Nairobi from 1977 to 1980. Between 1980 and 1981 she was enrolled at the Kenya School of Law for the statutory postgraduate law course that is a prerequisite to admission to the Kenyan roll of advocates and licensing to practice law in Kenya.[6]

Legal career edit

1981–2002 edit

After graduating, from 1981 to 1987 Karua worked as a magistrate in various courts including those at Makadara, Nakuru and Kibera, receiving credit for careful discernment.[5] In 1987, she left to start her own law firm, Martha Karua & Co. Advocates, which she ran until 2002. Cases included the treason trial of Koigi Wamwere and that of the Kenyan member of parliament Mirugi Kariuki.[6][8] At the risk of being blacklisted by the Moi government, she defended several human rights activists.[5] Her work contributed to family law, especially in regard to matrimonial property.[5]

Political career edit

1990–2002 edit

Karua was a member of the opposition political movements that successfully agitated for the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in Kenya in the early 1990s. Kenya was at the time under the authoritarian rule of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), the only legally recognised political party in Kenya and which was led by the late president Daniel arap Moi.[9]

Karua joined Kenneth Matiba's Ford-Asili party. In September 1992, she walked out of the party nomination elections which she regarded as compromised leaving her sole opponent Geoffrey Karekia Kariithi to be declared winner. She joined the Democratic Party (DP) where she won the party ticket in November 1992, proceeded to win the election as Gichugu Constituency member of Parliament in December 1992 against the incumbent Kareithi, freeing Gichugu constituents from the Kareithi–Nahashon Njuno rivalry. Karua became the MP for Gichugu constituency and the first woman lawyer to be popularly elected to Parliament. She was elected as the Democratic party's legal affairs secretary in 1993.[10]

In 1998, Karua declined the position of Shadow Minister for Culture and Social Services which conflicted with her position of National Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (an elected office) that made her the official spokesperson on legal matters of the party. She opted to resign her position as the National Secretary for legal and constitutional Affairs.[11]

In 2001, when the Constitutional Review Bill was laid before the House, the entire Opposition with the exception of Karua walked out of Parliament. The Bill had been rejected by the Opposition as well as Civil Society but Karua was of the view that as elected representatives, instead of walking out, it would be more prudent to remain in Parliament and put the objections on record. She therefore chose to remain in the Parliament and her objections to the Bill were duly recorded in the Hansard.[11]

Later she was among those who formed the political coalition NARC that won the 2002 general election in Kenya ending KANU's nearly four decades of leadership in Kenya's politics, having actively participated in agitation for expanded democratic space and respect for human rights as a member and later a leader in the Law Society of Kenya.[2]

2003–2009 edit

Until 6 April 2009 she was the Minister of Justice, National Cohesion & Constitutional Affairs. She also previously served as the Minister of Water Resources Management & Development, and was behind the implementation of the Water Act 2002, which has since then accelerated the pace of water reforms and service provision in Kenya.[2][5]

Karua remained Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister in the Cabinet appointed by Kibaki on 8 January 2008, following the controversial December 2007 election.[12] In an interview with BBC's HARDtalk in January 2008, Karua said, regarding the violent crisis that had developed over the election results, that while the government had anticipated that the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) of Raila Odinga might be "planning mayhem if they lost", it was surprised by "the magnitude" of it, calling the violence "ethnic cleansing". Asked to clarify, Karua said that she was stating "categorically" that the ODM planned ethnic cleansing. Odinga subsequently called Karua's accusation "outrageous".[13] Karua headed the government's team in negotiations with the opposition regarding the political dispute that resulted from the election.[14] The political crisis eventually led to the signing of a power-sharing agreement between Kibaki and Odinga. In the grand coalition Cabinet that was announced on 13 April 2008, Karua remained in her post as Minister of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs.[15]

She was endorsed as the national chairperson of the NARC-Kenya political party on 15 November 2008. There was virtually no competitive election during the party's national delegates' convention at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi as all the officials including Ms Karua were being endorsed. After her endorsement she immediately declared she would be gunning for the highest political seat that being President in the Kenya's 2012 elections.[16]

Karua resigned as Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs on 6 April 2009, citing frustrations in discharging her duties. A clear example of her frustrations was when President Mwai Kibaki appointed Judges without her knowledge a few days before her resignation.[17] She was the first Minister to resign voluntarily since 2003.

2013–present edit

Karua contested the 2013 Kenyan presidential election, under the NARC Kenya party ticket. New Kenyan law barred presidential contenders from simultaneously seeking a parliamentary seat, so she had to give up her interest in her somewhat safe Gichugu seat, with potential risk of being cast out of politics altogether (if she lost her presidential bid). She came in sixth with 43,881 votes in a contested election outcome.[18]

Martha Karua would make a come-back in Kenya's political scene in the 2017 general election seeking for a gubernatorial seat in Kirinyaga County. She lost to Anne Waiguru in a heavily contested election after garnering 122,091 votes against Waiguru's 161,373 votes. Karua contested the election citing election irregularities and filed a petition at the High Court seeking to have Waiguru's election nullified, losing the petition at the High court through Court of Appeal and ultimately at the Supreme Court. Karua proceeded to file a petition in the East African Court of Justice, suing Kenyan government for failure of its Judicial arm to dispense justice in the petition.[19][20] She was among the opposition leaders who President Obama met when he was hosted by Uhuru Kenyatta in 2015 in Obama's only presidential visit to Kenya.[21] Politically, she seems to have inclined toward CORD, the main opposition political outfit led by Raila Odinga.[22] Karua later abandoned her political relationship with Raila and supported Jubilee Party ahead of the 2017 Kenyan general election.[23]

In December 2015 Karua admitted to receiving a Ksh 2 million donation to her presidential campaign costs from British American Tobacco. Karua said that she thought that the contribution by Paul Hopkins, a BAT employee, was a personal donation. The money was paid via Mary M'Mukindia who was running Karua's campaign. Karua has the reputation of being untainted by corruption save for this report of donation of alleged tainted money. No culpability has been proven and the British investigations concluded without any charges against Paul Hopkins. Karua has maintained that she cannot be corrupted and invited Kenyan authorities to investigate any alleged wrong doing.

On 20 September 2021, Karua was unanimously elected as the Interim Mount Kenya Unity Forum Spokesperson by a section of leaders from Central Kenya.

We have chosen Martha Karua to be our official convener and our spokesperson

2022 general election edit

On 3 June 2022, presidential candidate Raila Odinga named Karua as his running mate making her the first woman in Kenyan history to run for a political ticket of a major political party. This meant that a win for Odinga's Azimio la Umoja–One Kenya Coalition Party in August 2022 would have made her the first Kenyan woman Deputy President, and the highest ranking Kenyan woman in history.[25]

Reputation edit

At one time in her Kirinyaga District when KANU was still in power, Karua walked out on President Moi who was then addressing a crowd at the district's stadium. This was an unusual display of open defiance against Moi, who was then feared and ruled the country as an authoritarian.[26][27]

She has been an activist for the widening of democratic space and gender issues in Kenya. She has been involved in championing women's rights through public interest litigation, lobbying and advocacy for laws that enhance and protect women's rights through her work with various women's organizations, particularly the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya) and the League of Kenya Women Voters.[2][28][29]

Personal life edit

Karua gained attention after she and a Catholic priest, Fr. Dominic Wamugunda, were carjacked and robbed on 6 December 2003 late at night while en route to her house in Wamugunda's car.[30] She said in Parliament upon being questioned by MPs that she was under no obligation to provide any explanation for why she was in Wamugunda's car or what she was doing at the time of the carjacking. Her security guards were not present when the crime occurred; Karua said that when she did not feel she needed the guards, she did not use them.[31]

Awards and recognition edit

In 1991, Karua was recognized by Human Rights Watch as a human rights monitor.[32][33]

In December 1995, she was awarded by the Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers (FIDA) for advancing the cause of women.[34] In 1999 the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists awarded her the 1999 Kenya Jurist of the Year and in the same year same month, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) awarded her the Legal Practitioners Due Diligence Award.[6]

References edit

  1. ^ "Martha Karua: I'm Not Married But That's A Non-Issue". 11 February 2013. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Brownsell, James. "Profile: Martha Karua". Aljazeera. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Kenya elections 2022: Raila Odinga picks Martha Karua as running mate". BBC News. 16 May 2022. Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  4. ^ Gichugu Constituency
  5. ^ a b c d e "Martha Karua Biography, Family, Husband and Children". SoftKenya. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d Karua, Martha. "Profile". Wikifoundry. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  7. ^ Kamau, Munene (14 January 2013). "Martha Karua profile". Standard. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  8. ^ Press, Robert M. (12 August 2002). "Interview conducted and recorded by Robert M. Press" (PDF). Library of Congress. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  9. ^ Nyström, Christina (2000). "Kenya:The party system from 1963-2000". International Comparative Political Parties Project. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  10. ^ Gakuu Mathenge It’s not for love of Ruto that Kiraitu cornered Karua[permanent dead link], The East African Standard, 22 February 2009
  11. ^ a b Archived 23 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Kibaki Names Cabinet"[permanent dead link], The Standard, 8 January 2008.
  13. ^ "Odinga denies 'ethnic cleansing'", BBC News, 16 January 2008.
  14. ^ "Kenya government anger with Annan", BBC News, 13 February 2008.
  15. ^ Anthony Kariuki, "Kibaki names Raila PM in new Cabinet"[permanent dead link],, 13 April 2008.
  16. ^ MUCHEMI WACHIRA, "Karua endorsed as Narc Kenya boss ", Daily Nation, 15 November 2008.
  17. ^ ANTHONY KARIUKI, Kenya Justice minister Karua resigns, Daily Nation, 6 April 2009.
  18. ^ Kiplang'at, Jeremiah (9 March 2013). "Karua concedes defeat, ready to work with Uhuru". Daily Nation. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  19. ^ Ndonga, Simon (6 August 2019). "Karua loses Supreme Court petition against Waiguru's election". Capital News.
  20. ^ Kabugi, James (11 February 2017). "To Murgor and Aukot: Save face, leave before it's too late". The Star. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  21. ^ "This is what Obama told Martha Karua - She has had sleepless nights for two weeks". Daily Post. 4 August 2015. Archived from the original on 20 February 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  22. ^ "Martha Karua Speaks about her Relationship with Raila Odinga". Busualeo. 10 June 2016. Archived from the original on 20 February 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  23. ^ Lang'at, Patrick (11 November 2016). "Martha Karua meets Raila Odinga after ditching him". Daily Nation. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  24. ^ "Martha Karua elected interim spokesperson by section of Mt Kenya leaders".
  25. ^ "Kenya elections 2022: Raila Odinga names Martha Karua as running mate". The Economic Times. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  26. ^ Bosire, Julius (18 June 2001). "Kenya: Karua: Why I Walked Out on Moi". Daily Nation. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  27. ^ Kabeira, Judie (16 April 2009). "The other side of Martha Karua". CapitalNews. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  28. ^ Nzomo, Maria. "Impacts of Women in Political Leadership in Kenya: Struggle for Participation in Governance through Affirmative Action" (PDF). University of Nairobi. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  29. ^ Bernard Namunane and David Mugonyi, Chaos in cabinet as Karua and Ruto clash, Daily Nation, 17 February 2009.
  30. ^ "Kenya minister in carjack terror". BBC News. 7 December 2003. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  31. ^ Mark Agutu, ""Martha: I owe no-one an explanation"". Archived from the original on 16 December 2003. Retrieved 27 January 2008., Daily Nation, 12 December 2003.
  32. ^ "Priest recalls night of terror". Daily Nation. Retrieved 28 May 2020.[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ "ICJ Kenya to Award 2019 Jurist of the Year". Archived from the original on 1 August 2020. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  34. ^ Kasami, Dickens (6 July 2016). "Martha Karua is fit to be next chief justice - MP". TUKO. Retrieved 19 February 2017.

External links edit