from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – THE nomination of veteran politician and rights advocate, Martha Karua, for the position of vice president is testament of Kenya’s efforts to encourage women’s participation in politics, business and policy.
Karua (64) is the running mate of longtime presidential aspirant, Raila Odinga, in the watershed general election set for August.
However, it is not the first time a woman has challenged for the presidency.
Charity Ngulu was the first when she contested the 1997 election, eventually won by then-incumbent, Daniel Arap Moi (now late).
Karua contested the 2013 presidential election, under the National Rainbow Coalition–Kenya party ticket.
Uhuru Kenyatta won the poll for his first term.
What is significant in Karua’s recent nomination as Odinga’s running mate is that it makes her the first woman in Kenyan history to run for a political ticket of a major political party.
A win for the Odinga-led Azimio La Umoja coalition would make her the first Kenyan woman Deputy President and the highest ranking woman in the history of the East African country.
The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) drew parallels between this and the “bending of the arc of history” when Barack Obama was elected the first African-American president of the United States in 2008.
KEPSA noted local strides in the boardroom, where gender diversity stood at 36 percent.
This is in comparison to the global average of women holding board positions which was at 23,3 percent.
This is according to the Board Diversity and Inclusion report 2021 by KEPSA, together with the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM), Nairobi Securities (NSE) and New Faces New Voices (NFNV).
Women professionals in business recently held an opportunity to engage with Karua through a breakfast forum hosted by KEPSA Foundation.
The foundation was launched in 2015 to champion the socio-economic transformation of Kenya through a multi-stakeholder sustainable approach.
Gloria Ndekei, the vice-chair of KEPSA Foundation, said the candidature of Karua marked historic importance also attracting global interest.
“I welcome the maturity of the country in recognizing women in leadership positions not only on the political front but in both government and private sector,” Ndekei said.
Carole Kariuki, the KEPSA Chief Executive Officer, concurred.
“The track record of your (Karua’s) life is a clear demonstration and encouragement of all women that hard work pays and that there is a season for everything, and such a period as this, is time to bring back integrity, good governance, servant leadership, humility and conviction,” Kariuki said.
Kariuki noted the KEPSA Foundation always celebrated Kenyan women in leadership, nominated or appointed, in different positions in the country or outside.
“We are at a time in Kenya when we are witnessing great strides towards gender inclusivity both in the private sector and public sector even though we still have so much to do,” Kariuki said.
In her remarks, Karua observed that continuous dialogue in politics was critical to ensure the right leaders were picked.
“It is critical to do it right this time at all levels of governance to ensure we finish the reform business to reap the benefits of the constitution of Kenya inaugurated in the year 2010,” she said.
Karua pledged that if elected, the new administration would uphold the rule of law.
She urged Kenyans to avoid the narrative that fighting corruption was linked to witch-hunting.
“Similarly, it is prudent for the responsible arms of law to apply alternative dispute resolutions to speed the finalisation of cases,” Karua said.
“This will also largely signify a zero-tolerance corrupt environment,” she added.
Also known as the Iron Lady, Karua is a former long-standing Member of Parliament for the central Gichugu constituency and an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.
She was Minister for Justice National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs from 2015 to 2019.
Another fierce electoral contest is anticipated in Kenya, where fourth president, Kenyatta is standing down after two terms of office.
Kenyatta’s deputy, William Ruto (55), is another favourite in what is forecast to be a two-horse race with ex-Prime Minister, Odinga (77).
Ruto heads the Kenya Kwanza coalition. His running mate is Rigathi Gachagua, the current MP for the central Mathira constituency.
Kenyatta has thrown his weight behind longtime rival, Odinga. The outgoing president is the patron of the Azimio La Umoja, of which the ruling Jubilee Party is a member.
– CAJ News