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Martha Karua: The Iron lady in Kenya’s politics

Martha Karua: Seasoned politician with incredible second liberation credentials

May 16, 2022, will go down as one of Kenya’s historic moments. 

 This is the date Martha Wangari Karua was unveiled as the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Presidential running mate.

This was a turning point given that, for the first time since Kenya attained independence, a woman had been named a second-in-command by one of the frontrunners in a Presidential race.

While making this announcement from the footsteps of Kenyatta International Convention Centre, the party’s flag bearer Raila Odinga described the Narc Kenya party leader as a seasoned politician with incredible credentials in the country’s second liberation struggle.

And as a demonstration of confidence in the former Gichugu lawmaker’s leadership, Odinga told the nation Karua would, on top of being deputy president, serve as the country’s Justice and Constitutional Affairs Cabinet Secretary, if their ticket wins the August 9, 2022 polls.

In her acceptance speech, Karua, roundly dubbed the Iron Lady of Kenya’s politics, left no doubt that she was ready to occupy the country’s second most powerful position. 

She termed her nomination “a new dawn” in the struggle for women’s inclusion at the nation’s decision-making table.

Early life

Martha Karua was born on 22 September 1957 in Kirinyaga District (now Kirinyaga County) in Kenya’s former Central Province.

She is the daughter of Jackson Karua and Josephine Wanjiru, the second child in a family of eight, four girls and four boys.

For her primary education, she attended Mugumo primary school, then Kabare Girls Boarding School, and St Michael’s boarding school Keruguoya. 

She then proceeded Kiburia Girls Secondary School, Ngiriambu Girl’s secondary school, and Karoti Girl’s secondary schools for her O-Levels and excelled in her East African School Certificate examinations at Karoti Girls High School in Kirinyaga County.

She then attended Nairobi Girl’s secondary school for A levels before enrolling at the University of Nairobi where she studied law 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 roll of advocates and licensing to practice law in Kenya.

Legal career

Karua is a renowned advocate of social justice and she is privileged to have served as a Magistrate in various court stations in the 1980s until 1987 when she ventured into private practice.

Karua played a key role in the expansion of Kenya’s democratic space and fight for gender parity during the clamour for multi-partism in the early 1990s. She was among anti-establishment lawyers dubbed ‘Young Turks’ who stood up against the regime of the late former President Daniel arap Moi and successfully pushed for the reintroduction of multi-party politics.

As a lawyer, she represented human rights and political activists who fell foul of the Moi regime. Some of the sensitive cases she took up include the treason trial against Koigi wa Wamwere and the late Mirugi Kariuki in the 1990s.

Political career

She was first elected as MP for Gichugu in 1992 and served until 2013 when she unsuccessfully contested the Presidency and finished in the sixth position with 43,881 votes. Karua served in the cabinet as a Minister of Water and later on Justice Minister until her abrupt resignation after she fell out with late former President Mwai Kibaki in 2008.

She was once known as the ‘Iron Lady’ of Kibaki’s second regime because of her reputation for being tough and her role in defending his government.

In the 2017 general election, she contested the Kirinyaga governor’s seat but lost to Anne Waiguru. She petitioned the High Court to nullify the outcome citing irregularities but lost again in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court.

She took the matter to the East African Court of Justice in Arusha, where she sued the government of Kenya for denying her right to a fair trial and was awarded Ksh 2.7 million in damages for infringement of her right to a fair trial.

Karua has consistently fought for the protection of women’s rights and improvements to the democratic process and has also been at the forefront in advocating for the war against corruption.

In a joint media appearance with her principal Raila Odinga on the 28th of June, she defended the additional roles assigned to her by the former Prime Minister if their coalition was to form the next government. She indicated the post appeals to her and will hit the ground running almost immediately after being sworn in to promote her quest for social justice.


In her campaigns, she has asked and urged Kenyans to trust Raila Odinga to preside over a corrupt-free government if elected the next occupants of Statehouse Nairobi.

While acknowledging that runaway corruption is the biggest problem facing the country, Karua said the Azimio-led government will be watching over Kenya’s resources relentlessly, while ensuring that what is meant to benefit all the citizens doesn’t end up in the pockets of a few.

Karua has repeatedly promised an all-out war against graft in an effort to make Kenya great again.

 “You know our track records; both Raila and I. Give us a chance to work for you, to make Kenya a great country that will be an envy of many outside our borders. Please vote for us,” Karua said Monday

Speaking during a joint interview with journalists from Kikuyu vernacular radio stations in June, Karua reiterated the need to finally slay the graft dragon terming it the biggest hindrance to Kenya’s development.


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