Martha Karua is paying dearly for picking a fight with William Ruto.
It’s December 2007, Mwai Kibaki is facing the fight of his life to overturn a one-million vote deficit against a resurgent Raila Odinga already polishing his victory speech. An emergency conference is called at State House, Nairobi, and all PNU leaders are asked to drop everything they are doing to come protect their incumbency. The gloomy situation report is read, and everyone is weakening at the knees as the reality of power slipping away gets real.
Someone in the room advises that they let Raila Odinga win that thing “for the sake of the country”, there’s a nod here, and a nod there. The room is asked what’s supposed to happen next, Martha Karua puts her hand up and says enough with the cowardice, she’s going down the KICC and they better be ready to watch her swing back the pendulum to their side.
It’s shock all over the place, they can’t see how she’s going to turn this around. But she has no time to waste and before they know it they’re watching her on television taking on the ODM campers inside Samuel Kivuitu’s national tallying center. The show you’ve all been waiting for has officially began.
If there is a politician in this country you want to take with you to war, that politician is Martha Karua. She’s fiery and fearless, steadfast and brutal. In war, there are generals who only need to be facilitated and then let to go do their thing, Martha Karua is one of those. She does not need your affirmation, you will never hear Martha Karua asking the crowd to agree to her “ama namna gani” rhetoric. She does not live in a political echo-chamber. Martha Karua does what Martha Karua wants. Martha Karua charts her own path, and walks through it, whether you want to join, or not.
There are two fundamental problems with the Martha Karua kind of politics. One; you’re a lone-ranger among your peers; and two; you have to work for every vote you need at the roots. There are many politicians who have joy-ridden their way to positions in government latching on other people’s backs. Mwai Kibaki is one of them, Uhuru Kenyatta is another.
Martha Karua and William Ruto are not. And therein lies the problem.
After Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga silenced the guns with a handshake that February 2008 afternoon, there are two people in either camps who were not happy with what their respective “presidents” had done. The fight between Martha Karua and William Ruto, which started at the KICC tallying hall, was taken to the floor of parliament and to the cabinet. Martha Karua was the first PNU minister to call out William Ruto, by name, for the Kiambaa Church fire that targeted members of the Kikuyu community living in the Rift – she fell short of calling it a genocide.
The snowball coming at Ruto kept rolling down the slope gathering pace and weight, and reached it’s nadir when Martha Karua was accused by William Ruto of being among the PNU gang who conspired to take him to the Hague, for crimes against humanity.
If William Ruto was a boxer, he would be one you would keep pummeling with punches hoping that he’ll tire and drop on the canvas only for him to take you to the penultimate round and drop an anvil on your jaw. He’s the marathoner you keep thinking is running out of gas, only for him to unleash his kick and show you a clean pair of heels at the homestretch. If you were asked to pick a fight with any of the politicians in this country, never, ever, pick a fight with William Ruto if you don’t have the gas, and the resources, to go the full mile.
William Ruto is a very vindictive character. He does not settle for less. He is right all the time. He hates anyone stepping up to challenge him for a duel, and he will take you down and win, whatever it takes, how longer it takes. Whoever picks a fight, of whatever kind, with William Ruto must make sure they meet at least one of the two criteria. One, you belong to royalty and two; you have more money than him.
William Ruto only listens to people who are superior to him, in influence and in resources. For you to be president of this country, you must do one of the two things; be a child of privilege or buy your way in – and since royalty is an exclusive club which rotates power among its members, William Ruto has no other option but to amass insane wealth, in a short period of time, and try buy himself into the topmost job in this country. And you don’t do that when your political enemies are still threatening to breathe back to life.
Take for example the Kirinyaga gubernatorial contest.
Here were two contestants, Anna Waiguru and Martha Karua, both whom William Ruto had picked a fight with before; Waiguru for smoking out William Ruto’s surrogates in the NYS scandal, and Martha Karua for her withering attack of William Ruto’s role in the 2007 post-poll chaos. William Ruto had responded by telling Anna Waiguru to stop cat-walking around and carry her own corruption cross, while the fight with Martha Karua was long-drawn cold war that body language experts might turn into a best-selling box office movie.
Martha and Anna were the two front-runners, both openly supporting Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, and, by default, William Ruto’s return to his DP post. Uhuru Kenyatta goes to Kirinyaga and says he will let the voters decide. But William Ruto cannot afford that luxury, he has 2022 to look forward to, and he needs incumbents who are easily malleable to champion his monumental quest.
But he has beef with both candidates, and he needs to bury the hatchet with one of them and start forming alliances real quick.
It does not come as a surprise that he chose to make peace with Anna Waiguru over Martha Karua. It was a real statement of intent to Martha; that you might have won the battle when you were the powerful Justice Minister and a Kibaki iron-lady, but I am bringing back the war to your doorstep and you better be ready for the annihilation.
The mistake Martha Karua makes again, is to align herself with Uhuru Kenyatta (hoping that would pacify Kirinyaga voters and win her the seat) and forgetting to reach out to William Ruto for a truce (hoping Ruto will be ostracized by the Kikuyu power-brokers once Uhuru wins his second term). The Kirinyaga 2017 gubernatorial contest had 2022 written all over it; with William Ruto’s presidential ambitions firmly in the thick of things. But Martha Karua still thought she was racing with Anna Waiguru.
And she has herself to blame.