Thursday, October 9, 2008



The Standard
Nairobi, Kenya
October 9, 2008

Okech Kendo

Some people are overlooking history to ‘demonise’ Martha Karua.
Those accusing the presidential wannabe from Gichugu of conspiring to divide the Kikuyu vote forget the Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs is walking down a well-trodden path.

Presidential leadership is not about consolidating community vote: It is about the national and provincial spread of the candidate’s appeal. Any attempt to exclude Martha on these grounds is anti-women and antiquated.

Only voters can stop Ambitious Martha at a time women politicians are flooring established men in the Rift Valley.

The recent ‘massacre’ of men in by-elections in the South Rift is a pointed lesson. A General Election ago, it would least be expected that a widow, even of Beatrice Kones’ clout, would so thoroughly thrash Nick Salat, a former MP and son of a former MP, a patriarch of sorts, with the one-time ruling party and its machinery driving the campaign.

Even fewer would have expected Dr Joyce Cherono Laboso, seeking to replace her late sister Lorna Laboso, would vote-wreck Antony Kimetto, he of the shiny and sticky hairdo, from the political landscape. She even trounced a former aide-de-camp of a former president, a former Provincial Commissioner, and a dozen other men. Chepulungu MP Isaac Ruto, who stood in her way, is yet to find his bearing and a voice after the thorough thrashing.

With these women, and others, the political strength of the woman has been abundantly illustrated. Any attempt to gag Martha of Gichugu under the guise of uniting the Kikuyu vote is sexist balderdash. Karua, she who has been described as "the last man standing in the central Kenya" or the "matador of Mount Kenya politics" must prove malice won’t silence her raving and raging ambition for presidential power. She has been too close to ignore the aroma of raw power.


Many men cower when they hear the rage and roar of the woman who believes, and declares, she brings "something fresh to central Kenya politics". No more anointments, please!

Even though Martha has no memorable name in her ancestry, she could be the Wangu wa Makeri of this generation. If she reconstructs her image and expands her constituency beyond Central Province, she could just be what empowered women ordered. When a man politician divides regional vote it is okay. But when an ambitious woman does, aspersions are cast on her intentions. This is macho cheek.

In 1992, Mwai Kibaki and Kenneth Matiba divided the Kikuyu vote. Matiba, then running as Ford-Asili presidential candidate, got 630,194 (60 per cent) votes in Central Province. Kibaki got 373,147, making 35 per cent of the provincial vote. Nationally, Kibaki and Matiba’s combined vote was about 900,000 more than then President Moi’s.

Then, there was no outrage about Kibaki dividing the Kikuyu vote. Because Matiba and Kibaki were men, their divisive campaign was not an issue.

In 1997, Kibaki was still a hot loser, but another Central Province presidential candidate Prof Wangari Maathai was not accused of dividing the Kikuyu vote. She was treated as a "presidential nuisance" then irritating the MP for Othaya.

Beyond Maathai and Kibaki, there were other assorted presidential candidates from central Kenya. The acerbic Koigi Wamwere, from the Kikuyu Diaspora, was among them. Also joining the fray were Kimani wa Nyoike, Dr Munyua Waiyaki, Godfrey Kaibiria M’Mwereria, David Waweru Ngethe. But since they were men, there was no outcry.

In the 2002 General Election Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta competed for the presidential prize. Kibaki was an alliance candidate to undercut Uhuru, he who was then referred to as a ‘Cerelac’ baby. Uhuru, then associated with the status quo, had the Kanu machinery behind him. Then, unlike now, there was no furore about dividing the Kikuyu vote.The two shared the Central vote almost equally. But Kibaki won because Kenyans outside Central Province supported him.

If this has been the trend then why accuse Martha of splitting the Kikuyu vote? In whose favour is Martha splitting the vote? Or, who is she taking the vote away from? With a roaring Martha there is going to be no more false sense of entitlement. Whoever thinks they can, must compete.

The gender conspiracy against the political Amazon of Mt Kenya is being challenged. Some schemers may have located Uhuru over Martha. So they want to cut Martha to fit their machismo size. There lies the problem, and Martha has seen in. Like the biblical Hannah, no one will comfort Martha who has sensed the odour of power.