Kenyans mull first female vice president as results awaited

  • Former justice minister Karua is aiming for the post of vice president
  • Country often sees violent attacks on female contestants
  • Karua says the priority will be rooting out corruption

MOMBASA, Kenya, August 9 (Reuters) – As Kenyans await the outcome of Tuesday’s election, they are wondering if Martha Karua could be their first female vice president and become the highest-ranking woman in the history of a country where female Candidates are often physically attacked.

Huge billboards adorn the capital, Nairobi, showing the 64-year-old former justice minister accompanied by presidential candidate and veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, a former political prisoner.

The two lead the Azimio La Umoja (One Kenya Alliance) coalition and ran in the August 9 presidential, parliamentary and local elections against Deputy President William Ruto and MP Rigathi Gachagua, both men. Continue reading

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Preliminary results trickle in on Tuesday night, but an official result will take days.

The elections are seen as a key test of stability in East Africa’s largest economy after two of the last three elections were marred by disputes over alleged manipulations of force.

Karua said Azimio’s priority would be to root out corruption, which is estimated to cost the government a third of its budget each year, about 800 billion shillings ($6.8 billion). She said Azimio also wanted more scrutiny of the private wealth of public sector workers and political leaders.

The money raised would fund her coalition’s plan to directly benefit 2 million of Kenya’s poorest people every month.

“Corruption chokes or suffocates the nation,” she said.

Angeline Koome, an elementary school teacher in the southeastern port city of Mombasa, said she decided not to vote but changed her mind when Odinga made Karua his running mate.

“It was a breath of fresh air to have such a woman who is not only smart and forward-thinking, but also very committed to good leadership. Kenya is safe with her as deputy president,” Koome told Reuters.

“It’s very tough and for the first time in a long time I believe that as a country we are winning the war on corruption that has been our greatest disaster.”

ATTACKS ON WOMEN

Odinga has also appointed Karua to be his Minister of Justice should they win, capitalizing on her reputation for standing up to power. A lawyer in the early 1990s, Karua said she helped lay the groundwork for Kenya’s charter and fought for multi-party democracy.

In 2001, she defiantly walked out of a rally held by former authoritarian President Daniel arap Moi after she was refused the floor.

She also resigned from government in 2009, citing differences with then-President Mwai Kibaki over human rights, anti-corruption and judicial appointments.

But Karua has dismissed her nickname “Iron Lady” as a sexist trope, telling Reuters in a June interview that “strong leadership in women is seen as the exception.”

Women are underrepresented in Kenyan politics and often subject to violence: a parliamentary group said there have been dozens of attacks on female candidates this election cycle. Continue reading

“She will turn the tables. The next generation will be happy to have her at the helm, and yet I’m a man so imagine how other women feel,” said Martin Anyanga, a businessman in Mombasa, of Karua.

Karua has also pledged to curb the national debt, which has more than tripled by 7 trillion shillings ($61.3 billion) since Kenyatta took office in 2013, pushing against the country’s debt ceiling.

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Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld in Nairobi; Edited by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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