Raila settles on Karua for Deputy President’s perch
Raila Odinga, the Azimio La Umoja–One Kenya Coalition party presidential hopeful yesterday made history when he named Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running-mate for the August 9 General Election.
Karua, a former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, now stands on the verge of becoming Kenya’s first female Deputy President.
But for that to happen, Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya must beat the Kenya Kwanza Alliance at the elections. Kenya Kwanza presidential hopeful William Ruto on Sunday picked Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua as his running mate.
Karua was picked among 10 candidates interviewed by the Dr Noah Wekesa-led selection panel.
Although she vied for the presidency in 2013, Karua’s nomination is the first for a woman of her calibre to be picked to such high office by a leading presidential contender.
Recent opinion polls had reduced the August 9 presidential contest to a two-horse race pitting Raila Odinga and his political ally-turned-nemesis Deputy President Ruto.
Karua described her nomination as “a moment for women of Kenya.”
While unveiling her, Raila described her as a comrade in the struggle with a reformed identity that would add value to the ticket.
“Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Lady. I have the great honour to announce that I have picked as my Deputy President and Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Martha Wangari Karua,” said Raila at KICC, Nairobi.
Raila said he had a Joshua by his side, one who would not become a turncoat in the middle of a battle or abandon post for other exploits, but a team player with fidelity to ‘Project Kenya’.
“After a long search accompanied by much reflection, and consultation, we have finally arrived at a person fit to occupy the office of Joshua in our Republic,” he told the crowd of supporters who had gathered for the unveiling that was warmly greeted in various towns.
Raila said under the Constitution, the Office of the Deputy President is meant, “to be the President’s workshop, the Principal Assistant’s office, meaning that all the heavy lifting is expected to occur here.”
“Like Joshua in the Bible, the Principal Assistant is meant to be a problem solver to the president; and not a problem to the president. This office is meant to lighten the burden of the president and ease the yoke he carries. It is also the president’s last line of defence administratively,” he said.
Youngest woman MP in Central
While enumerating Karua’s credentials, Raila said at the age of 24, she was appointed a magistrate and a few years later, became the youngest woman to be elected Member of Parliament (MP) in central Kenya.
“The woman we offer as the proposed Deputy President is also known to have incredible credentials in the fight for our second liberation,” Raila said.
“In 1990, for instance, I was arrested and placed in detention without trial. At that time, very few lawyers were prepared to represent me. But this woman, then a young lawyer, led a team of 27 lawyers to defend my illegal detention”.
Besides Karua, Raila also said that if elected, he would appoint Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka as Chief Cabinet Secretary. In addition, he would appoint Ali Hassan Joho as Lands CS, Peter Munya as Agriculture CS and Chairman of the Kenya Productive Sector while Wycliffe Oparanya will become Treasury CS.
All four had expressed interest in the running mate position. Others who were interviewed for the seat were former MP Peter Kenneth, MP Sabina Chege and Governor Charity Ngilu. Others who were interviewed were National Liberal Party leader Steven Tarus and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui.
In total, 11 hopefuls were considered for the seat by a panel led by former Cabinet minister Noah Wekesa. Should Raila win in August, Azimio-allied senators will also vote for Kenneth Marende as Speaker of the Senate.
Besides being Deputy President in the event of an Azimio win, Karua will also be charged with the responsibility of reviewing the Constitution in line with the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which was stalled by a court process.
“I will task her with the assignment of completing what we started. And I am persuaded that she has the right pair of hands to accomplish this task,” Raila said.
Pledged to work
Karua pledged to undertake the work within the constitutional framework. She said she was “ready and willing” to walk with Raila as she accepted her nomination as his running mate.
“Three decades ago we began the journey to liberate this country from the yokes of underdevelopment, negative ethnicity and endemic corruption,” she said amid cheers.
“Ten years later, we had not succeeded but learning from past mistakes in 2002, we came together to remarkable success. For decades in the trenches with my brother Raila and many others we found ourselves on the right side of history, clasping the hope of an entire nation under the umbrella of the Narc under the stewardship of the late President Mwai Kibaki,” she said.
Raila described her as a fighter and not a quitter. “This woman has a safe pair of hands, seasoned by the struggle for our second liberation and service to the country in many capacities. This woman has a beautiful soul as exhibited by her love and compassion for her children and grandchildren.
This woman will be a great co-creator and will make a remarkable first Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya.”
However, as they were making the announcement, Kalonzo was at the Kalonzo Musyoka Command Centre unveiling his presidential bid. He also nominated Andrew Sunkuli as his running mate. The move is set to rattle the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Alliance as it had been counting on Kalonzo’s support in the lower Easter region, which has about 1.6 million votes.
A meeting held earlier in the day at State House failed to convince Kalonzo to remain in the alliance after it became apparent that he would not be Raila’s running mate. Kalonzo’s omission sparked low-key protests in his backyard.
As expected, One Kenya Alliance leaders also criticised Karua’s nomination. Yesterday was the last day set by the electoral commission for presidential hopefuls to name their running mates.
One fringe candidate, George Wajackoyah of Roots Party has also picked a woman, Justina Wamae.