Karua anger could ruin her presidential dreams

The resignation of Justice Minister Martha Karua from the Grand Coalition has sparked off a frenzy of realignments that will rock the political scene for weeks, if not months, to come and will likely impact the Kibaki succession.

Martha Wangari Karua

Martha Wangari Karua

It has been obvious for some time that Karua is not happy with her erstwhile political ally, President Kibaki. The two were together for most of the 1990s with Karua a legislator in Kibaki’s Democratic Party. Karua’s disillusion with Kibaki stems from his less-than-enthusiastic reception to her presidential bid.

Karua has stuck with Kibaki through thick and thin even back when he had been written off as a potential successor to former President Daniel arap Moi. Karua moved with Kibaki to the National Alliance for Change (NAC) back in 2001, which later evolved into the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC).

After the disputed 2007 elections, Karua made a mark for herself by engaging in wholehearted defence for President Mwai Kibaki. At one time, the United States and European envoys branded her, “an obstacle to peace” and threatened to blacklist her from ever visiting their countries. Such was her hardline stance in Kibaki’s defence that she worn many enemies across the country. Kibaki went on to keep the Presidency but had to share power with electoral rival, Raila Odinga.

It was from this experience that Karua began believing that she was cut out for bigger things. In her characteristic arrogant style, she dismissed Kibaki’s handlers as “cowards” for not coming out in his defence during the bitter post election talks that led to the formation of the Grand Coalition.

Karua abrasively announced that she was the only “man” around Kibaki. These statements did not endear her to the old, rich men around Kibaki and who collectively represent Kenya’s ruling elite.

Her announcement that she was contesting the next General Elections did not rouse the excitement she expected, especially from President Kibaki. By then, the President was beginning to look at Professor George Saitoti and Uhuru Kenyatta as potential successors. This led Karua to wonder aloud whether Kenyan politics had become the preserve of a few families, what is referred to as dynastic politics.

With time, Kibaki has settled on his godson, Uhuru, for grooming into the Presidency. Saitoti, in his usual style, has decided to lie low like an antelope but Karua explicitly stated how she felt about Kibaki’s choice.

Amidst criticism of premature campaigns, Karua boisterously announced that it was her democratic right to traverse the country soliciting votes. Even international chief mediator, Koffi Annan, criticized Karua for beginning presidential campaigns five years too early.

Last week’s appointment of judges without her knowledge despite being Justice Minister convinced Karua that she was no longer the favorite girl of the Kibaki club. She has chosen to quit and play her game openly without the shackles of collective cabinet responsibility. Whether this will help her presidential bid or sink her ambitions remains to be seen.

It is worth noting that former cabinet Minister in the Moi government, Simeon Nyachae, aroused great excitement when he resigned to fulfill his presidential ambitions. Three years later, in the 2002 elections, Nyachae could only garner less than 500,000 votes nationally.

Karua must be praying hard that a similar fate does not befall her.


Karua ally, Danson Mungatana, resigns from government.


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Many within the African National Congress (ANC) believed that Thabo Mbeki was an inveterate plotter, and they had the scars to prove it. Now he has been made to pay the price.

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While serving as deputy president under Nelson Mandela, it was Mr Mbeki who chaired the key committee that negotiated the controversial $5bn (£2.7bn) deal to modernize the country’s defence force.

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