Inside Politics

Raila, Karua take hunt for votes to Central Kenya

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022 09:30 | By
Raila Odinga
Azimio-One Kenya presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga with his running-mate Martha Karua at a past event. PHOTO/Emmanuel Wanson

Azimio-One Kenya presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his running-mate Martha Karua yesterday took their search for the Mt Kenya vote to Nyeri, the home of their rival William Ruto’s running-mate, Rigathi Gachagua.

It was the first time Raila and Karua were jointly touring the region perceived  as leaning towards Ruto and Gachagua.

 They made their foray ahead of a visit to the region by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has backed Raila to succeed him in next month’s election.

During the various rallies they addressed, Raila came across as keen to explain himself to the voters and calm anxieties of a region that has been elusive for him in past elections.

In 2013 and 2017, the region voted overwhelmingly for Jubilee, just as it voted for Mwai Kibaki in 2007. In all three elections, Raila was on the ballot, but fell short of capturing the presidency.

With his eyes once again on the prize this year, Raila received a warm reception, signaling changing fortunes for the man whose candidacy received a boost after he picked Karua as running-mate. Karua hails from the neighbouring Kirinyaga county.

The Azimio leader’s choice was interpreted as a move calculated to excite the populous Mt Kenya region, which controls over 5.8 million votes.  It was also aimed at energising the women base. Yesterday, Raila attributed some of the gains he has made in the region to Karua and local politicians allied to Azimio, who have been steadfast in supporting his candidature despite a strong onslaught by Ruto and his allies.

President Uhuru’s Jubilee party is one of the key affiliate of Azimio that has been campaign hard to turn the ground in Raila’s favour.“It was not rosy for me when I began my political tours in this region early this year,” Raila said. 

“I used to address small crowds and get heckled here and there but I am now a happy person that this is no longer the case.”

Raila said the decision to pick Karua was informed by many parameters among them her no-nonsense stand in the fight against corruption, her strong will to defend human rights and her role in the struggle for democracy and constitutionalism in the county. “I do not think that there is anything we can be compared with those we are competing against, more so after Martha Karua became my deputy captain,” Raila said at one of the stops.

Mt Kenya has been a hard nut to crack for Raila, with opinion polls showing it is set to provide the much-sought after deciding vote in next month’s presidential election.

Right message

Karua said there were attempts in their initial campaign days to scare her and Raila away from Mount Kenya, noting that this has not succeeded after they shared the right message with the people.

Karua took a swipe at Ruto, describing him as angry, disrespectful and incapable of fighting corruption. Her targeted criticism came just days after Ruto and Gachagua toured the region at the weekend and criticised Karua’s record. 

They accused her of walking out on President Kibaki when she was a minister in his government and also pushing for Uhuru to be tried at The Hague ahead of the 2013 election. Both Kibaki and Uhuru hail from the region. “Our competitors are angry and their track records are questionable,” said Karua at a rally in Chaka, where one of her supporters gave her a pair of shoes with which to “climb the mountain”.

Karua was particular that leaders who exhibit disrespect to their seniors should be denied a chance to participate in any level of leadership. She made the remark in the context of the ongoing public spats between President Uhuru and his deputy.

“We should choose leaders who portray maturity in leadership but not individuals who are driven by emotions, hatred and anger,” Karua said. “If one claims that he can slap his boss, what can he do to you as common mwananchi if elected?”

She told voters that they will have made the right choice by electing Raila, and promised that she will play the role of reminding him of development promises he has made for the region so that they can fulfilled if they win.

Karua, also the Narc Kenya leader, reminded the region that Raila had made Kibaki’s presidential dream possible through his endorsement in 2002. He has also worked with President Uhuru since 2018 when they had the Handshake.

“It is the same Raila who has nominated me as running mate and is seeking your vote,” Karua noted, as he credited Raila for construction of roads in the area when he was Roads minister during Kibaki’s administration.

The two leaders also used the opportunity to outline their manifesto, telling the people that they had a basketful of goodies that will be shared with the region if elected. “I know your problems and I promise to fulfill them once you elect us. I will also continue delivering on the development slate that will be left behind by President Uhuru Kenyatta,” Raila said.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho, Suna East MP Junet Mohammed, Nyeri senatorial candidate Kabando wa Kabando, Othaya MP Gichuki Mugambi and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth also drummed up support for the two leaders.

Since the naming of Karua as running mate, the two had not campaigned together in Nyeri though Karua has been to the county twice where she held several whistle stop rallies and a consultative forum with local leaders early last month.

Separately, Gachagua, who was in Othaya, also in Nyeri, asked President Uhuru to steer clear of his succession politics.

Gachagua was attending the burial of the mother-in-law of former Laikipia governor Joshua Irungu in Mahiga, Othaya.

He also defended Ruto from criticism over his alleged attempt to slap President Uhuru in 2017. 

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