Raila Odinga selects Martha Karua as running mate

Martha Carua, who ran for president in 2013, was dubbed the “Iron Lady”

One of the frontrunners in Kenya’s presidential election has chosen a veteran female politician and one-time rival as his running mate.

Raila Odinga named Martha Karua to the post on Monday, making her the first woman to run for president of a major party.

Ms Karua is a former justice minister for the central region, which is seen as a key battleground in the August 9 election.

In 2013, she ran for president herself.

“I still have unfinished business [the] President, so God would that one day I would serve in that capacity,” Ms Karua said last year.

Some media dubbed the veteran politician the “Iron Lady”. She has been outspoken on corruption in the past, condemning Kenyan politics as a “rich boys’ club” and backing calls for the International Criminal Court to investigate the violence that erupted after the last election.

Back in 2007, when she was attorney general, she accused Mr Odinga’s opposition Orange Movement for Democracy (ODM) of “ethnic cleansing” following nationwide clashes following that year’s contentious elections. Mr Odinga called the allegation “heinous”.

To quell the violent aftermath of those polls, a power-sharing deal made Mr Odinga prime minister, which some saw as a snub to Ms Karua.

Ms Karua hails from Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest community, and their support was vital to Kenya’s racially charged elections.

For the first time in Kenya’s history, no prominent Kikuyu candidate is running for the top job, making the choice of running mate potentially decisive.

On Sunday, another Kikuyu politician, Rigathi Gachagua, was announced as the running mate of Vice President William Ruto, another leading contender.

With Uhuru Kenyatta stepping down, Kenyans will receive assurances from a new president in August.

He fell out with his deputy, Mr Ruto, and backed former chief rival Mr Odinga, who is in his fifth attempt to win the presidency.

Kenya has one of the lowest percentages of women parliamentarians in East Africa – just 23%.

Ms Karua, 64, a lawyer by training, won accolades for her work advising human rights activists and advocating for wider access to clean water before becoming a parliamentarian.

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