Karume, the astute politician and tycoon

February 24, 2012 2:20 pm


James Njenga Karume died early morning on Feb 24
NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 24 – James Njenga Karume was a popular politician who played active political roles under the leadership of Kenya’s three presidents.

At the age of 45 he found his first footing in Parliament through a nomination in 1974.

In 1976 Karume was a key influential member of the Gikuyu Embu Meru Association (GEMA) a body that brought together leaders from the vote-rich region and this made him to be considered in key political decision maker.

Karume was not a man who sat and waited for things to happen. He joined the likes of Kihika Kimani and Paul Ngei in a movement intended to change the Kenyan constitution to bar Daniel arap Moi from succeeding Kenyatta. By then, Moi was Kenyatta’s vice president.

In the 1979 elections, Karume successfully secured the Kiambaa parliamentary seat. He was re-elected in 1983 and 1988.

During President Moi’s regime, Karume served as an assistant minister in various portfolios.

In 1991, Karume teamed up with politician John Keen and Mwai Kibaki to form the Democratic Party (DP). In the 1992 general election, however, he lost the Kiambaa seat to Kamau Icharia who vied under the more popular Ford Asili.

But come 1997, Karume reclaimed the Kiambaa seat on his DP ticket.

In 2002, when Moi fronted Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred successor, Karume dumped Mwai Kibaki to join the KANU campaign team. He retained his parliamentary seat.

Kibaki won the presidency under the Narc ticket. However, following a fallout with Raila Odinga’s wing in the rainbow coalition, Kibaki closed ranks with individual MPs in KANU who included Karume.

The Kiambaa MP was picked by his long-time ally and appointed Defence Minister.

During Kenya’s controversial 2007 general election that almost brought the country to its knees, Karume lost his seat which he vied on Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) ticket to Stanley Githunguri who was on a KANU ticket.

Following the violence that engulfed Kenya, Karume was among the people mentioned to have strongly sided with Kibaki.

He lost his first wife, Maryanne Wariara in 2003. He married Grace with whom they have a four-year-old son.

In business, Karume has been described by many as a man who worked hard.

‘Beyond Expectations: From Charcoal to Gold’, is Karume’s autobiography that was published in 2009 and probably is and will be what future generations will refer to know the story of Karume as a politician and a successful businessman.

The autobiography summarises the story of his life, how he rose from a charcoal burner to a business magnate.


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