By Chris Maina
Perhaps, the turning point in the 2017 electoral politics has happened already. In my view, it is the re-entry of Martha Karua in the home of political agitators.
When Martha personally graced the launch of signature collection at Ufungamano house yesterday, signifying the start of a battle that’s set to be both long and politically dirty, there was no doubt unease and relief:Â uneaseÂ because her entry, if it is for the long haul, is definitely going to create a seismic political wave in the already ‘established order’ in the mainstream political opposition, and,Â reliefÂ because Martha is the voice currently needed to reboot an opposition outfit that has been coalescing loosely and haphazardly around chief opposition figure and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
An old player in the politics of reform and counter-reform, Martha Karua, I imagine, already understands the task ahead, which simply is, to remove this monstrous, wasteful, arbitrary, corrupt, tribal, ‘petty’ Â jubilee regime from power, and, if possible, replace it with another regime determined to safeguard the progress on democracy that Kenya has made in the last decade.
Can Karua hold on to 2017 with Raila Odinga as the flag-bearer?
I’m livid. However, in a country of no known permanent political enemies, Karua will. Truth is, removing Jubilee Alliance from power will require the craziest of political alliances; the strangest of bedfellows and the collaboration of sworn political protagonists. The retrogrades are extremely tenacious, so, it will need the wittiest grouping of reformists to bundle them out of power.
The question can be put the other way. In which political grouping is Martha Karua’s reform history and legacy best rests? In the final analysis, how will Martha Karua wish to be understood, and, remembered, by future generations?
Despite her political failings as seen by the ‘left’ in Kenya, and, one which peaked in the 2007 disputed re-election of former president Mwai Kibaki, Karua has an illustrious political history.
A top voice in women advancement in Kenya’s testosterone driven politics, Karua remains relevant for the unfinished democratization process in Kenya as she was a decade ago when she served as Raila Odinga’s lawyer in the political kangaroo courts that KANU had created for opposition leaders.
Who, if anyone, can judge Karua more harshly than Raila Odinga himself? She betrayed a comrade! In fact, the political bitterness that Odinga felt with Karua’s ‘betrayal of the reform agenda’ prompted him to ask her about it during the presidential debates leading up to the last election why, for all their history of struggle, Â she had ‘backed Kibaki’s unilateral appointments of ECK’ which ended up bungling the 2007 elections.
That, as at yesterday, is behind us. The future is back to where the past was – reformists are regrouping – and their unity has proven lethal in the past. You can conclude that a union bringing together Raila Odinga and Martha Karua is the worst bad news – forgive my repetition – that the KANU in power currently can bear.
In this new grouping, Karua comes alongside Peter Kenneth, another illustrious politician who first cut his teeth in Raila Odinga’s Liberal Democratic Party. Kenneth’s return, like Karua, brings with it the constituency which rejected both Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta in the last elections.
If their messages were true, and their supporters were honest, it goes without much ado that the two’s core constituencies are in the referendum push, and will stay for the long race ahead.
How will Karua change the power dynamics in the mainstream opposition? In my view, she will rebrand the discourse around what the issues are, and, what the players bring on board.
Fundamentally, Karua’s independence of mind will help Raila Odinga – the fulcrum of this new agitation – sift through the issues minus the usual ‘praises’ by opportunists and hangers-on around him. Raila Odinga needs Karua’s candidness just as much as he needs Otieno Kajwang’ or James Orengo’s loyalty.
Let my insistence on Raila Odinga not be seen to overshadow the other leaders in CORD, especially the contribution thus far that Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, the other two key pillars in CORD, has brought to the opposition.
Unlike the two, who are establishment ‘ninjas’ waiting for Odinga endorsements, Karua may not be keen on that currently. How i’ve come to this conclusion is subject to disagreements, but facts are stubborn, she brings something to CORD that both Kalonzo and Wetangula lacks, or, cannot cummulatively accrue.
Chris Maina is a law student at Georgetown University, Washington DC.