On Martha Karua

I’m in Nairobi for a bit and the hottest news at the moment is Karua’s resignation.

I have no doubt (and I have it on good authority) that she was indeed being frustrated in her role as Minister of Justice – apparently Gicheru has way more sway than she did with the ‘baks, however, lets be clear that this is also about positioning for the next election or any possible fallout of the coalition government. And its not about her being scared of the censure vote, she was going to win that one hands down with ODM’s support. In any event, I have to give her props for at least not complaining about the govt while drawing a fat salary and doing deals. That’s one reason why Kibaki can’t take Raila’s hissy fits seriously, he’s like “dude, can we revisit the maize and your son’s scandals first?”

I had the opportunity to chat with Karua one on one when I was in Geneva last week (I actually had a post on that pending oh well). I have to say that I was impressed with her despite myself and my preconceptions of her. She is brilliant, articulate, on point, ambitious and a straight shooter. Unlike most politicians I’ve met who thrive in trivialities when I tried to talk to them, she was engaging and seemed to enjoy the fact that I wasn’t brown-nosing her. Do I disagree with a lot of things she has said and done? Hell yes (and I’m not like totally gaga about her). But shock on me, I kinda liked her.

[An aside, has she ever been linked to a corruption scandal?]

One of the things we discussed was the issue of old fogies dominating Kenyan politics. I argued that this was one of the biggest problems with Kenyan politics. Karua shot back that this Parliament was the youngest we have ever had in Kenya, but the most corrupt by far with some of the young MPs leading the way (in her words the biggest auction house in Africa). In her view, the current Parliament was even worse then when she entered into a 1992 Parliament full of octogenarians and Moi hands. She also felt that everybody (including civil society) should drop their partisan issues, come together and push for reforms and then guys can go their merry way to fight it out for the next elections. We then discussed her website (which had been hacked a while back), mzalendo, facebook and her online strategy in general – she admitted she was clueless when it came to using the internet to campaign but that she was very aware that it was a powerful medium and that she needed to be on point.

I wish her well in her run for office, like her or not, she has the potential to be a gamechanger.

25 comments to On Martha Karua

  • Out of the lot Martha Karua is emerging as the unlikely candidate to bring real reform to Kenya, not least due to her brash brand of politics. This approach might well endear her to a fatigued electorate.

  • Elijah

    One of the pathologies of the press here in the United States is the substitution of policy critique with unthinking gut-feelings over whether or not a politician is someone they’d “love to have beer with.”

    (link:http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink/2008/03/26/mccain_bank.html)

    No doubt a bit of access to power is flattering, particularly for many of us who feel rather powerless and/or frustrated in effecting change. But “liking” someone tells us nothing about good or poor policy; and actually is just another version of sycophancy and the cult of personality that cripples Kenyan politics.

    The cultivation of systematic amnesia, alas, is an all too pervasive phenomenon in Kenya. So it may help to remind you that Martha Karua played a critical role in rigging and/or justifying the rigging of the 2007 elections. Even worse: she justified the mass murder of Kenyan citizens by the security state to keep Kibaki in power. That she’s now outraged that she’s no longer a participant in oppressing others bespeaks neither “brilliance” nor “straight shooting” but a rather useful idiot.

  • But “liking” someone tells us nothing about good or poor policy; and actually is just another version of sycophancy and the cult of personality that cripples Kenyan politics.

    Ory’s stated reasons for liking Karua include her desire to engage, her straight talk and her ability to take robust criticism: all attributes which tend to good policy-making.

    So it may help to remind you that Martha Karua played a critical role in rigging and/or justifying the rigging of the 2007 elections. Even worse: she justified the mass murder of Kenyan citizens by the security state to keep Kibaki in power.

    Odd claims to make; that you’re spreading your fire indicates a lack of confidence in each of them.

    The evidence doesn’t really support the rigging claim: when tempers grew heated at KICC, she suggested a full vote recount; she also spent a night re-examining the results with Orengo and they appear to have agreed on most, if not quite all, of the constituency results. Hardly the behaviour of the rational election-fiddler.

    The claim about justifying mass murder is unserious. I’ve seen nothing even close to that; the disciplined forces are not under her command; she was not (that I know of) asked to comment publicly on the their role in the mayhem until much later, and when she was, she was the first government official to demand that all perpetrators of unlawful violence face appropriate legal action.

    The amnesia may be even more selective than it first appears.

  • simbaMtu

    Ory – no offence but you need to get a grip here.

    It may be very nice to sip tea with the former Ministr of Justice, and to write words like the following … “She is brilliant, articulate, on point, ambitious and a straight shooter”. But do you understand that the same things could be written about many third world dictators and puppets who created mayhem in their countries, or simply turned a blind eye while enormous abuses were going on?

    To the point … have you already forgotten about the shooting of Oscar Kingara and John Oulu in broad daylight in Nairobi? I’m not saying these men were angels, but for crying out loud – Mr Kingara was a lawyer. Where is your sense of outrage!?

    Ms. Karua IS the Minister for Justice. The person at the top is responsible. I have bad news for you, Ory. She is directly in line for complicity and responsibility for what happened to Kingara and Oulu. Either she authorized this killing – or alternatively she should have launched a major investigation to find out who did, and how to put a stop to this travesty of human rights abuses that are welling up in Kenya.

    Sorry. In my opinion Ms. Karua should have taken her responsibilities seriously, or she should step aside from politics altogether.

    simbaMtu

  • Elijah

    “…[H]er straight talk and her ability to take robust criticism [are] all attributes which tend to good policy-making.”

    First, my point is that we need careful analysis and critique of the actually existing policies, which are not reducible to nor can be weaseled out of by the use of impressionistic evaluations of personal characteristics that “tend” toward the policies themselves. Second, the belief that personal characteristics “tend to lead to good policy-making” runs blissfully athwart the social science research that points to how policy-making is mediated by and constituted by institutions and structures. Third, the personal characteristics mentioned by Ory and by you are what are known as instrumental virtues — they can be used for a variety of ends, as much ill as good.

    The full-throated apologia for Karua confirms my suspicion that this is a case of sycophancy. Even as Kenya was ablaze in murder and mayhem, most independent observers noted that Karua and Michuki, on one side, and Ruto, on the other side, were the greatest hardliners against any peaceful settlement. As a number of reports indicated, including Cohen’s in the NYRB, Karua often directed thuggish insults at Koffi Annan.

    In any case, the Youtube link you directed us to as evidence ought to be evaluated in a context wherein Karua insisted that those who were disputing the election results should “go to court” (the very same courts that she is now insisting are packed with unqualified judges). Karua’s insistence on a full vote recount provoked the laughter that it did because by that time the ECK itself had been pretty much discredited.

    The idea that Karua was not responsible for the mass killing because the “disciplined forces” (wow, did you actually utter that oxymoron with no sense of irony?) weren’t under her command is risible. If that were the standard for declaring responsibility, I suppose only Michuki is guilty of anything. I would regard this as a case of sheer naivety, but your use of weasel words such as “unlawful violence” (a neat slight of hand which definitionally legitimates state terrorism) clues me to the fact that this is an old-fashioned Orwellian act of doublethink.

    But to return to the current events: it would help if we asked why she is resigning now. She did not resign because of the extra-judicial killings. She resigned because she had been outmaneuvered by her erstwhile mafiosi in the picking of unqualified judges. In other words, the very same squalid power-plays that has ruined Kenyan politics . That you have chosen to conceive of Karua as messianic is, alas, what enables this politics.

  • ke

    Simbamtu:

    Oh Dear God, spare us:

    The idea that Karua was somehow complicit in the murders of those two activists is just rubbish.

    Kenya is not a country of laws (as Karua has been trying to point out to us). It is a country that respects brute force and violence. In this atmosphere, how is Karua, an unarmed minister supposed to “tackle” violent murderers who assassinate two people in broad daylight then drive off?

    The ministry of justice was a public policy ministry (as Karua pointed out). It was not charged with fighting day to day crime. It was supposed to advise the president on public policy reforms that the country needed to change it’s judiciary. When Karua tried to do this, i.e. provide ideas on how to change the legal system, she was blocked from all sides and that’s why she decided to resign.

    You people need to understand the real consequences that the violence in the rift valley created. You cannot route half a million people from their homes in two days, without prior planning. The consequences of such an effective campaign of ethnic violence are the reasons that Kibaki cannot give up power anymore.

    kenyanentrepreneur.com

  • simbaMtu

    ke

    I have bad news for you. Although Kenyans seem to act as though “responsibility” is a nonexistent concept in their country … it is not. Ms. Karua is (or was) the Minister of Justice. She was the person at the top of the justice system. Therefore, she was completely responsible for stopping abuses of power, extra-judicial killings and the like. She had the power to investigate. She had the power to uncover and expose the truth. She had the power to prosecute. Yet all these abuses went on … and she did nothing.

    Sorry. Her conduct is reprehensible.

    simbaMtu

  • Elijah

    ke’s first comment is symptomatic of why it has not been possible to hold perpetrators accountable for atrocities in Kenya. But it also shows the complicity of certain sections of the Kenyan populace in this atrocities. Note the locution “you people,” which indicates ke’s easy movement from discussing a particular issue to a wholesale collective scapegoating.

    But even as ke is quick to offer sweeping condemnation of an unnamed “people,” note the astonishing denial that neither Karua nor Kibaki have agency. This line was particularly striking: “The consequences of such an effective campaign of ethnic violence are the reasons that Kibaki cannot give up power anymore.” Thus Kibaki, despot who rigged himself into power and stayed there through mass murder, seems to have it all: in equal parts victim and messiah.

  • ke

    Elijah:
    How did Kibaki stay through mass murder? It is not he who committed those violent acts in the rift valley.

    The question is, even if you believe the election was stolen, was the violence permissible?

    My answer is no and given a choice between a thief and a murderer, I will pick a thief.

    ODM needs to stop living under the illusion that they are a party of innocent angels.

    They are no honorable men in this game and the sooner you realize this the easier it will be for you to come to terms with what is really happening.

    SimbaMtu:
    Karua is not a judge in a criminal court.
    Investigate how? Compel the police to testify? how? by asking the corrupt courts to issue a summons? by storming their offices?

    Power in Kenya is not derived from legal suppositions. It comes from the gun and through the use of brute force. Without these instruments, you have no power.

    kenyanentrepreneur.com

  • First, my point is that we need careful analysis and critique of the actually existing policies, which are not reducible to nor can be weaseled out of by the use of impressionistic evaluations of personal characteristics that “tend” toward the policies themselves. Second, the belief that personal characteristics “tend to lead to good policy-making” runs blissfully athwart the social science research that points to how policy-making is mediated by and constituted by institutions and structures. Third, the personal characteristics mentioned by Ory and by you are what are known as instrumental virtues — they can be used for a variety of ends, as much ill as good.

    (1) Your first claim was that liking someone told us nothing whatever about good policy or not. The sentence «we need careful analysis and critique of the actually existing policies» is a decidedly non-standard way of expressing that claim. The obvious response to your original complaint is that the characteristics which motivated Ory’s approval do, in fact, conduce to good policy, and therefore carry useful information about its likelihood.

    (2) The institutionalism claim is a boring diversion. That policy-making is mediated and (perhaps even) constituted by institutions and structures is irrelevant to the question whether the characteristics of persons identified by Ory are apt for good policy-making. And presumably, if your claim were sound, two institutions identical but for the personalities of policy-makers would have equally good policy. This is absurd: policy-makers who welcome civil criticism and disagreement are likely to get better information — and therefore likely to make better policy — than those who don’t. Personnel is policy.

    (I’m familiar with at least some of the relevant research, and have expressed my scepticism elsewhere.)

    (3) You’re just confused about instrumental virtues. The argument appears to be that since a particular virtue can be used for a variety of ends, it can’t be good in itself. This is a mistake: from the fact that A is useful for B, it doesn’t follow that A isn’t itself valuable. Sympathy and kindness are good of themselves, even if they can also be used to unwise or bad ends.

    In any case, the Youtube link you directed us to as evidence ought to be evaluated in a context wherein Karua insisted that those who were disputing the election results should “go to court” (the very same courts that she is now insisting are packed with unqualified judges). Karua’s insistence on a full vote recount provoked the laughter that it did because by that time the ECK itself had been pretty much discredited.

    Attend to what’s said in the video. There’s an argument about the recount. ODM representatives demanded a recount of a subset of constituencies, whereupon Martha asked for a total recount. That both parties were asking for a recount quite strongly suggests that the ECK was credible at that point.

    The idea that Karua was not responsible for the mass killing because the “disciplined forces” (wow, did you actually utter that oxymoron with no sense of irony?) weren’t under her command is risible. If that were the standard for declaring responsibility, I suppose only Michuki is guilty of anything. I would regard this as a case of sheer naivety, but your use of weasel words such as “unlawful violence” (a neat slight of hand which definitionally legitimates state terrorism) clues me to the fact that this is an old-fashioned Orwellian act of doublethink.

    Yes. I also say things like the United Nations, the Orange Democratic Movement, and the Party of National Unity. It’s a strange old world.

    You don’t bother to identify a standard for assigning responsibility for the relevant state violence. Usual standard is something like de jure or de facto control, by which standard your claim about Karua looks wild. If you have another standard in mind, let’s hear it.

    Glad for the compliment you pay my definition, but it depends on the false premiss that the state can’t act unlawfully.

  • Ory Okolloh

    Simbamtu, the person to order investigations is Wako, not the Minister of Justice / Karua. Direct in line for complicity is Commissioner Ali – the only person who can get rid of him is Kibaki and he has failed to do so (and in fact defended him). I’m all for criticism and Karua is no saint but please lets at least get our facts / logic right first.

  • Ory Okolloh

    Messianic? Just said that she had the potential to be a game-changer. I did not present my post as a critique or defense of her policies. Power-plays are part and parcel of politics anywhere, not just Kenya – the sooner we recognize this and figure out how to incentivise politicians to align their self-interest with ours the better.

  • ke

    Elijah Said:

    “First, my point is that we need careful analysis and critique of the actually existing policies, which are not reducible to nor can be weaseled out of by the use of impressionistic evaluations of personal characteristics that “tend” toward the policies themselves”…..

    Your writing style is a bit too academic for me, but let me move on to my response.

    The personal characteristics of a person define their moral compass and to suggest that public policy recommendations should be separated from an individuals personal moral compass is naive.

    In fact, I will argue that this is one of the main problems with politicians in Kenya today — none of them seem have a good, moral or personal characteristics and their leadership style reflects this lack of a moral compass.

    Government or public service is about helping people and you go into it precisely because you want to make a POSITIVE difference in people’s lives. In order to bring about these positive changes you must have the personal characteristics that allow you to empathize with people’s suffering on a very personal level.

    I think Karua’s last straw was when Ruto stole the maize (in a country where 10 million people are starving) and then the PNU ministers turned around and defended him.

    I don’t think Karua can stomach this kind of grand corruption in the midst of such great human suffering.

    A nominated woman MP told me that she too was glad not to be returning to parliament because she could not take this extreme lack of compassion that many of the male MP’s in Kenya seem to exhibit. They are ruling with no sense of humanity for the suffering that surrounds them.

    And they are all to blame for this. Raila is no better than Kibaki.

  • I for one understand Martha Karua and what she stands for . To be honest Martha Karua stands for reforms(minimum reforms).I doubt that Karua is for the kind of reforms ODM wants, simple because she wants to shake things up not tip the cart .

    William Ruto has a point even though most people refuse to accept and their lies the ideological differences we Kenyans fail to address. Everyone in Kenya wants change , it is the kind of change that we disagree on . Where as Karua would want systematic changes ,I doubt she is on the same page with Odm.

    For now Raila and Karua will appear to have put aside differences in order to advance their individual agendas but in the end the differences between them will remain.

  • Elijah

    Daniel Waweru says:
    “And presumably, if your claim were sound, two institutions identical but for the personalities of policy-makers would have equally good policy. This is absurd: policy-makers who welcome civil criticism and disagreement are likely to get better information — and therefore likely to make better policy — than those who don’t. Personnel is policy.”

    First, there is a reason why I pointed out that institutions mediate policy making. My argument points to the articulation of institutions and personnel. Yours is the hoary Great Man Theory. It is reductionist and it is precisely the kind of thing that has given us the personality cults of Kenyattaism and Moisms.

    Waweru: “two institutions identical but for the personalities of policy-makers would have equally good policy.”

    A straw-man. Mine is not a deterministic claim. It is about articulation. I encourage you to read Pierre Bourdieu’s “An Outline of a Theory of Practice” to get a grip on what articulation means.

  • Elijah

    This hagiographies of Karua not only whitewash her involvement in the atrocities she had a hand in engineering (admittedly a far worse issue), but also as a selective forgetting of her complicity in the Anglo Leasing corruption.

    Note, for example, her vilification of Githongo for laying bare the rot of the Kibaki regime:

    http://kenya.rcbowen.com/talk/viewtopic.php?id=109306

  • ke

    Elijah:

    Were you a philosophy major in college?

    Most of the philosophy majors I’ve known tend to have the same writing style that you have displayed here: Long winded sentences with long winded words (e.g. “hagiographies”, “deterministic claims”, reading esoteric books by people like Pierre Bourdieu and Franz Fanon and, and, and……)

    People don’t write like that anymore. Beautiful writing is supposed to be simple and clear.

    I once told a philosophy professor that it was a good thing he had tenure because nobody in the real world was going to pay to “philosophize”.

    He kicked me out of his office.

    Oh well.

  • Ishara

    Ory,

    Karua’s amibitions have in large part been frustrated by Karua herself, blaming Kibaki serves those ambitions at this time but assumes that all Kenyans suffer from ADD or have short memories. Case in point, Karua’s attempts to raise her profile and that of her former ministerial home by strigently campaigning for the privatization of water. (a knee slapper, to be sure!)

    Investing in water makes alot of sense with wananchi paying what the market can bear (the market can bear plenty for water) what say you we get into this Water business soonest? (we’ll make out like bandits, bandits I tell you! show up those Kamlesh/Somaia amateurs) and what of sewage treatment? Look at all the roads and bridges without tolls? If we’re raising money it doesn’t pay to leave anything out(pun intended).

    Uza yote! Uzilia Mbali!

    Kicheko kimenizidi but with gems like these I anticipate with glee the unveiling of the Karua platform…and what’s priceless is Karua now claims fellow MP’s are on the take, my response to that is “You don’t say! When have our MP’s ever not been?” (Yes, that would include you Ms. Karua).

  • Jizee

    I too think Karua might just be the person to “start” this shift towards change. She will come nowhere close to seeing it through but she will cause a scuttling of the roaches; that is a “start”. Keep in mind that the stench of the rot that are our politicians and our political “system” has danced around our noses going 50 years now.

  • 3N

    From my own observations I also find Ms. Karua articulate, very smart and a straight shooter – as Ory found. Those qualities bode well for any leader but what that leader does when they acquire power is anybody’s guess.

    Ms. Karua’s ambitions and history do not suggest an iconic reformist, she was in a government implicated with all sorts of corruption charges and continues to serve in a parliament (all 210 MP’s are as guilty) that undermine the privilege accorded to it by ordinary Kenyans.

    I will not defend any Kenyan politician for their good or ill, but when one separates themselves from the lot as Karua did with her resignation, I am inclined to pay a bit more attention.

  • KenyanMan

    Its no wonder why we will continue having bad leadership in this country.
    Somebody does not become an angel by resigning. Lets retrace Karua’s steps and see what she has stood for. During the Moi time, she was an activist who succeeded to push some reforms forward like the IPPG.Came Kibaki era and she was named a minister.Karua positioned herself as a hardline politician and an arrogant leader at that.I say this because of this reason, during the 2005 referendum on a campaign tour of North Easter province,Martha Karua was caught on camera saying,”… hata refugees wanasema NO”.This was in reference to the hostile reception they had been accorded by the people upon landing.
    During the election crisis,Karua took a hardline stand about the election results.She categorically denied having been any election malpractice on he part of the PNU presidential candidate. It is common knowledge that this is just a fuss.The ECK has since been disbanded for the way the 2007 elections were handled.The ECK could not have done that to Raila’s favour,we all know this as Kenyan’s.
    Came Koffi Annan. During the Serena talks, at one point Annan said in public that one member of the party representatives was a stumbling block for progress to be achieved. It was later to be revealed that Karua and Annan had a heated exchange.
    During the Anglo leasing scandal days,she went out of her way and rubbished the Githongo dossier alongside his then cabinet colleague Hon.Tuju. I dont need to say more on this, get the facts here :( http://kenya.rcbowen.com/talk/viewtopic.php?id=109306).
    To some people Karua is a heroin and should be the next commander in chief, to others she deserves no place near power. As long as we continue voting for our tribesmen and women because we speak the same language,we are not going to move forward.
    It is clear that Karua resigned because it was becoming vividly obvious to her that Kibaki and his old cronies will throw their financial and otherwise weight to Uhuru son of Kenyatta come 2012. It is not about wanting reforms or her docket having been undermined.These are just excuses so that she can appear a heroin.She is nowhere near that.

  • I believe in Martha Karua…I have had a chance to attend a lot of meetings and conferences around her. As regards PEV, i would have done whatever it is she did. Protect the constitution. The constitution is very clear on how an election loser should go about complaining. The chaos we are seeing now, are the product of a certain section of leaders who think that the constitution is a piece of paper; until they change it, that is what they are stuck with.

  • Simba

    The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer… Yes, Nairobi is finally developing a middle class, but this is developing far to slowly. All the politicians who run for government and ‘apparently’ represent us as Kenyan’s are selfish and corrupt. The rich-poor divide is huge, with Kenya’s politicians being paid more than most European/Western politicians!!!!
    Kibera is the largest slum in Africa; yet a stonesthrow away is the beautifully tended Nairobi Polo Club. This is not fair. The small amount of opportunity for the poor to escape poverty is provided by NGO’s and not the Government. The government do not care about the poor; they do not intend to improve Kenyan’s human rights…. I hereby call upon my fellow Kenyan’s…. We are the Revolution… The Revolution is now!… Do not let our various tribal backgrounds make barriers between us… As under-class and working-class Kenyan’s we must unite and begin a Prolatarian Revolution. We must make our own goverment run by the peoples people… We must not suffer in silence; but suffer together in the fight for our freedom, so that our children and our childrens children do not have to live with these constrictions… So that we can abolish the rich/poor divide and create a world built on equality and opportunity for all!!!

  • I would like to thnkx for the efforts you have put in writing this blog. I am hoping the same high-grade site post from you in the upcoming as well. Actually your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own web site now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings rapidly. Your write up is a good example of it.

  • I think it helps to get plenty of sleep. The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. I don’t know why exactly, but lately I have been very tired. I know what I need to do but it seems like I am just to lazy to do it! This is not a good thing when it comes to how I make living because I earn my money working online, so I don’t make any money unless I actually do something. Fortunately, I recently found a software that makes everything so easy, I can make money even when I have no energy whatsoever. All I have to do is enter a URL in this software, push the play button and let it go to work, and it only cost me a dollar! In case you might also be looking for something like this, here is where you can get the goods. http://tinyurl.com/6tkkzt7

Leave a Reply

  

  

  

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>