The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Martha Karua - I Am Going to Be the Next President

The detractors' script reads Martha Karua is a intransigent, tough, hard, mean lady and we saw this in the lead up to the coalition government and she has tried to soften her stand by wearing African prints, by going into studios to perform with rap musicians, by speaking in Kiswahili all the time.  Once she is in power she is going to be mean and dictatorial in her own right.

You rightly said that's the detractors' script. African prints are part of us, these are things I have worn ever since I entered the campaign trail in 1992. Maybe not all the time but those who remember me know that I always have campaigned in African prints and that in 2003 when we entered government, it was my main attire. I have come back to it, I am seeking the top position of this country. I want my identity as an African woman, as an African leading an African nation. And about going to studios, dance is part of our culture; my campaign is always song and dance, so the public may not have seen me dancing because the scenes that are taken to them by the media will be parliament, taking tough stand...

A different side of you therefore?

Yes a different side of me.

Are you softening your image because the image makers have convinced you to be nice?

My image has not been softened, it is just that the public has been able to see another side of me. Every one of us has different faces. I am sure when you are angry, real angry, you do not look the way you look today. When you are happy, completely happy, it's visible. I am a human being just like the rest.

I will go now to the idea of those who say the only real way to see your campaign is just in a pioneering row, in an educational row but in reality you do not really have a chance because you are a woman. And Kenyan society is a misogynistic society. You have a wonderful detail, you probably got wonderful security, you have been a government minister for years and years but we remember a woman politician and the story of her on the campaign trail being beaten to a pulp, forced to smear herself with her own excrement as a symbol of the way the electorate felt about her, so with all these poor ratings in the polls who do you presume will be your electorate?

May I first begin by saying that those are the exact words the detractors told me in 1992 when as a youth I decided to vie for the Gichugu seat. It's just so surprising that the script of detractors doesn't change it is the same...it is same script 20 years later. Just like I said in 1992 to the detractors, let that be your worry I will keep to my campaign, I will keep to the issues am speaking to. The electorate is not made entirely by detractors, it's made of people who listen, who make value judgment based on what they see on their interaction. My duty is to interact with as many Kenyans as possible and I have done that by traversing all the counties of Kenya not once, not twice.

And I am saying all very honourable that come the big day there is this idea of the two-horse race.

I am going to shock you, I am going to shock all the detractors by emerging victorious.

You once said, "I am running for president of Kenya to defend the constitution as a frame work of that hope that guarantees all Kenyans a life, of dignity and equality to restore faith in our public service and institutions, and to inspire each one of us to play our role in the pursuit of the promise of a greater Kenya". Wonderful inspiring Martin Luther King maybe Barack Obama but the constitution is a bit of paper which we are already beginning to savage even before you become president.

That is why the country needs a different grid of leadership. I will not treat the covenant with the people as a piece of paper. It is the leaders and the people who must breathe life into that document by living it, by implementing it to the letter, and that is my promise to the people of Kenya. That is the document that we bind ourselves with so that we can respect each other's right so that we can give each other space to thrive. That is a document we must honour if we are to realise a greater Kenya.

Miss Karua if I were a Christian I would say that the Bible is the document by which we ought to live by, if I were a Hindu I would say the Gita, if I were a Muslim I would say the Quran and we see many of you politicians, on weekly basis on the ritual of going to pray and seek supplication from the higher authority. Yet in all these years Christianity has not bound, Islam has not bound, Hinduism has not bound the conduct of Kenyans. So therefore again I am going to say all very well and good the constitution, why should the constitution guide Kenyans to a much greater degree than the Bible? We have presidents who have gone to mars and presidents who have gone to church every single Sunday and still managed to pin the economy.

I think John, you are dwelling on the failings of human beings, the fact that we are gullible does not mean that we cease trying, otherwise we would have stopped exsisting. Why we exist is that we have hope of a better tomorrow and we do our best. Even in membership clubs you are thrown out when you don't obey the rules, their has to be something regulating our relationship within the society. Our relationship is with those we have asked to govern the society, and the constitution is that regulatory framework.

We must obey it and there are sanctions for not obeying it and all that is required is to the best of our ability and when you fall short you are sanctioned by the same documents. So I do not think that even in religion a Christian will say that because I am human, I am gullible, I better not believe in anything. I do not think that is the way to go. In a country will be calling of anarchy and we have seen the sort of thing that is happening in this country today-deterioration of security, public services, because they are affected by corruption and impunity and am urging people of this country, the voters, to identify like I have, corruption and impunity as the greatest threat to the nation of Kenya and its citizens. And I pledge to deal with this decisively using our constitution, so that we can be able to enjoy a civil society, a country where we can thrive.

It seems to me that your resolution has to do with the top-down mechanism, the leaders will tell us what to do. Now I seem to think that it was meant to be grassroots bottom-up that made societies better. Again to go to the American sort of thing we have two sort of polarised people. You have dyed-in- the-wool capitalists, and you have dyed- in-the-wool socialists. They sort of yo-yo between socialist policies Republican versus Democrats, Labour versus the Conservatives. Is there a parallel to that kind of equilibrium in the Kenyan society under you by definition of capitalists or socialists...

To begin with, you cannot say that it is a top-down approach. The constitution is not the document of leaders, it is a document negotiated, voted for by Kenyans. The Kenyan individual and the Kenyan citizens can be able to give direction to their leader through that negotiated document, so that's a bottom-up approach where the people are supreme and that's what our constitution says. I am more towards the socialists.

But that would be an insult anywhere else in the world. If you dared say socialist you wouldn't be elected in the US for example...

It doesn't matter, everywhere even the diehard capitalists are now speaking socialist. I went to a convention in Europe, they are talking of social market economy. Before they have been talking of market economy now they have made it social why? Even the capitalists are realising that you cannot have a system that does not reach out to the vulnerable.

Miss Karua, I am still on this tangent. We are going back to this idea of our history and I remember the reference to Sessional Paper Number 10 charted a path that Kenya was trying to lead and has led us to our present condition. Under your leadership, under your government are you going to undo the rapid acquisition of wealth that has dominated the first 50 years of our existence?

I don't think so, we are not undoing any acquisition of wealth. It is just making people respect public property.

Those who have wealth will see you as an enemy and they will direct their money as they did for the Republican candidates in the election if you followed.

And they failed and they will fail even here. What I am saying is this that even for those who have wealth need an orderly system, need a system where their wealth can even thrive further. So having an orderly society is for everybody. You don't want to have your business robbed.

At what point are you going to streamline the world greatest millionaire ... to say cut down on your profits because... or tax them to a point where you build roads, they are going to say my profit margin is a...

Aren't we doing it right here? How do we get taxes? We are trying to make it as though there is a new system that is being brought. It's order and proper management that's what good governance is all about. Management, how do we manage our common wealth, our public resources? I won't care how you manage your resources but I will care about how we manage our common wealth, are we using it to the benefit of all Kenyans? I want to see better health services and that's why I am talking about universal health care, enough public facilities. The wealthy can continue going to the private hospitals but that person who has no other alternative needs access to health. We are talking of universal education from primary to secondary level, so that my child just like the child of any other Kenyan irrespective of their financial situation, is able to access quality education. We are talking of quality university education, we are not talking of free university education but a system closer to what was there when I went to Nairobi University. When I could get accommodation,tuition and meals. That equalises the child of the poor and the child of the rich. We are talking about having better security, having support to our medium and small enterprises to create jobs.

When you say things like having better security, it seems to me like the reason we have the security situation as it is that basically we don't secure our borders.

It is, in this day and age we cannot be policing our borders...

Miss Karua if I were Somalia and wanted to end up in Somalia now I don't see why that should be a big problem if I looked like everybody else on the other side of the border. Unless you are going have in your government a great sort of immigration thing like Israel or a wall...

What I am trying to say is that you cannot be policing our borders without technology in this day and age.

It all speaks to money, you are trying to suggest that there is money in government...

Precisely, which goes away with the corrupt, we are losing 1/3 by Treasury's own admission, 1/3 of the budget goes to corruption and other bills.

So how will you deal with the corrupt? And will the policemen under your government all of a sudden cease taking bribes because it's president Karua who is in and we love her so much so we won't take a bribe? I am telling you to be someone realistic... what are you going to do?

If the world was full of pessimists who hold the view you are marketing today, then there would be no world. The fact that so many people are doing wrong things doesn't mean we stop trying. Once we hold everyone to account, that policeman who lets a person come through the border with contraband, we punish them they lose their job or get any other penalty under the law. What is killing Kenya is impunity.

Tell us how we should recreate economy.

We can see our economy thriving but we need to fight corruption and impunity to enjoy this potential that is being unleashed. And it is your responsibility, my responsibility as voters to usher in a government that can decisively fight corruption and impunity and put the interest of Kenyans first and that team leader is me.

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