NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 6 – Martha Karua says she was forced to quit the government because of frustration from her colleagues who are opposed to reforms.,
The Gichugu MP who resigned on Monday as Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, said her fight against corruption had led to recent attacks against her by top politicians in the government.
“I will now be able to totally disagree with anything that is anti-reform, corruption and lack of transparency in government,” said the no-nonsense lawmaker.
She said her resignation letter had already been dispatched to President Mwai Kibaki, who is in Zambia attending a COMESA-EAC-SADC high-level conference.
“My letter to the President is very brief. He is away… let him have the privilege of reading the letter first, but it doesn’t say much more than I have told you,” she told a news conference at the Justice Ministry’s offices at Co-operative House in Nairobi.
Her latest aggravation came up last week when President Kibaki appointed new judges without consulting her despite her push for an open and transparent process. The resignation also pre-empted a plot by back benchers in Parliament to censure her for allegedly “not doing enough to institute reforms.”
She linked latest attacks against her by top politicians to her vicious fight against corruption in the country. “If I am to conduct a reform agenda and every time we talk reforms people in government feel I am stepping on their toes then they have forgotten what reforms are,” she had previously said on Sunday.
Ms Karua had until Monday been holding fort at the crucial Justice docket as the country grapples with re-writing its constitution, reforming key institutions such as the judiciary, police force and dealing with the legal issues arising from a disputed presidential election and post-election violence.
The Gichugu MP said she would now focus on matters of nation building and her 2012 presidential bid.
Ms Karua was the President’s astute defender during formulation of the National Accord and was widely credited for putting forward a case that saw him retain majority control in the power sharing agreement with Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
But in recent months Kenya’s iron lady has been rubbing all sorts of people the wrong way, attacking everyone from Cabinet colleague’s like William Ruto (Agriculture) and Kiraitu Murungi (Energy) on corruption in their ministries; to the country’s Chief Justice Evan Gicheru in a no holds-barred scathing condemnation of the government she served.
After declaring her interest in the Presidency last year, Ms Karua shrugged off criticism from the President urging her and others to desist from 2012 succession politics. She said her political agenda was not affecting her work as Justice Minister. It was at about the same time that she declared that her NARC Kenya party would not continue with its coalition membership in the President’s Party of National Unity.
But lately it appeared Ms Karua’s sharp tongue which has previously earned her praise as a human rights monitor may have cut her.
Though trouble may have been brewing for a while, it all started going wrong last month when legislators led by Kamukunji’s Simon Mbugua said they would move a Motion of no confidence against her when Parliament resumes sittings, claiming that she has failed in her duties.
They said she ought to take ‘political responsibility’ for the failures of the Judiciary. ‘Political Responsibility’, a term she coined when attacking Mr Ruto over a scandal in his ministry surrounding maize, was now being used against her.
Born in 1957 in Central Province’s Kirinyaga District, Martha Karua studied law at the University of Nairobi before enrolling at the Kenya School of Law in 1981. She worked as a Magistrate from 1981 to 1987 before going into private practice.
Ms Karua rose from opposition politics in the early 1990s but took her no nonsense approach into Parliament and the Cabinet. An Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, Ms Karua was the first woman lawyer to be popularly elected to Parliament.
She once made the headlines when she walked out on former President Daniel Moi during his tenure while he was addressing a crowd in her constituency.
She has at one time served as Minister of Water Resources Management and Development.
She has been involved in championing women’s rights and worked with the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Kenya) and the League of Kenya Women Voters.
Ms Karua was among those who formed NARC that won the 2003 General Election and put President Kibaki.
Anne Kiguta, Anthony Kagiri, George Munyori and Judie Kaberia contributed to this story.