Martha Karua:misplaced priorities, wasted energy and missed opportunities?

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Has Martha Karua danced herself lame before the real dance?

In a famous Biblical story, Jesus visited Martha and her sister Mary. And, while Martha kept herself busy in the kitchen worrying how to please her Lord, her sister sat at Jesus’ feet drinking from his fount of grace and wisdom.

Then Martha, the Bible recounts, came to him and asked: “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

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Jesus answered: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Martha’s conduct was a commentary on misplaced priorities, wasted energy and missed opportunities.

Would one ask the same of Martha Wangari Karua, the Narc-Kenya presidential aspirant?

The first to declare her presidential candidature more than two years ago, the gallant lawyer and former Justice minister has traversed the length and breadth of the country.

Ms Karua has visited virtually every hamlet hunting for votes. Indeed, her Narc-Kenya party was the first to meet the strict requirements for registration under the Political Parties Act 2011 after opening offices in more than 24 counties countrywide.

Integrity in leadership

The Narc-Kenya leader has waged probably the most progressive and issue-based presidential campaign – marketing her strong positions against corruption, tribalism, impunity – as she crusades for integrity in leadership.

She has also made a strong pitch for women’s participation in elective politics and has rejected tribal alliances.

While her competitors have been flying across the country, Mr Karua has hit the road with a biting message.

Yet opinion polls have placed her a distant sixth in the race to State House, often with less than 3 per cent of national support. In the December Synovate poll, Ms Karua, who has always dismissed such surveys, scored less than 2 per cent.

The Jubilee Alliance, fronted by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto, has attracted a near fanatical following in Ms Karua’s Central Kenya backyard, effectively pushing her to the periphery.

And, with the election shaping up as a two-horse race between the Jubilee and the Cord coalition of Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, the rest of the candidates are starting to appear as non-competitors.

But the “Iron Lady of Gichugu”, who has packaged herself as a national leader and a reformist, has vowed to soldier on despite the odds.

Youth Agenda chief executive Susan Kariuki reckons that despite the Narc-Kenya leader’s strong message, it is yet to cut through the usual, tribalised political din.

“She is the more progressive and credible candidate but, unfortunately, the majority of citizens don’t seem to believe in her,” said Ms Kariuki, a crusader for the election of women.

“They say that he who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk. Martha appears as if she is taking a walk,” Ms Kariuki added.

She blames Ms Karua’s predicament on a lack of consciousness of political leadership by the common man and a reluctant middle class.

Integrity of candidates

Ms Karua’s is a lonely journey over a political terrain in which voters pay little attention to issues, values, a party’s development programmes or the integrity of candidates during elections.

After independence, political mobilisation in Kenya has revolved around tribes, clans and their leaders who attract fanatical, ready but largely blind following.

“We have not matured as citizens,” Ms Kariuki told the Sunday Nation. “We should be electing leaders the way companies choose their chief executives. Unfortunately ours is a tribal game of hide-and-seek.”

Ms Karua has been harsh on the Jubilee ticket of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, who are charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.

Last week, she asked the two to shelve their presidential ambitions.

I ask you to grant them (Uhuru-Ruto) leave to allow them offload the baggage they carry. Kenya is not going anywhere; it will still be here if they are cleared and (they) will be free to vie,” she said.

At a meeting last month, she asked Kenyans “whether they can employ suspects in their offices” and warned that electing the duo would mean frequent disruption of government operations whenever they are required to attend court sessions in The Netherlands.

Mr Karua has also dismissed coalitions saying they were meant to hoodwink voters.

“They are hypocrites who cannot be trusted to lead the country.”

The MP, who was one of President Kibaki’s staunch supporters, resigned from government more than two years ago to launch her presidential campaign, a move that is said to have angered the moneyed elite around the President who hold her in little regard.

Displaced families

Besides creation of jobs, Ms Karua has promised to settle families displaced by the 2007/8 violence which the ICC accuses Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto of organising.

But some of Ms Karua’s critics challenge her reform record, saying she blocked reforms that would have ensured a smooth election through the appointment of a more acceptable electoral commission.

Senior Counsel Paul Muite said it was clear after the 2005 constitution referendum that some reforms were essential to make the 2007 elections free and fair in reality and in perception.

He accuses Ms Karua, then the Justice minister, of “fiercely” blocking participation of the opposition in appointment of the electoral commission like in 1992 to ensure credible management of the 2007 elections.

“Blocking of that reform package is, in my view, where to start in analysing the journey to The Hague,” Mr Muite said.

Source: Daily Nation

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