NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 6 – Former Justice Minister Martha Karua became an instant heroine to a cross section of Kenyans for her move to quit the government over frustrations in her reform agenda.,
The legal fraternity and the civil society hailed Ms Karua as a true leader. The Law Society of Kenya Vice Chairman James Mwamu praised the Gichugu legislator pointing out that she had managed to walk her talk.
"It is very rare in Africa to find a Minister resigning as matter of principle," he told Capital News.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) also joined the commendation urging Ms Karua to forge ahead in her fight for reforms in the country. "It is a good decision on her part because at some point in time, one must make very tough decisions if there is no sincerity on the part of the government to let people perform the tasks they have been appointed to do," ICJ Chairman Wilfred Nderitu said.
Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi told reporters that Ms Karua’s resignation was a sign that there were issues that needed urgent redress.
“She is raising issues that ought to be tackled. The worst thing that can happen is for the reform process to be derailed. It does not look for resignations to start taking place. I do not have details of Martha’s concerns but she may have some legitimate concerns which have made her feel that she should not sit as the Minister for Justice,” Mr Mudavadi said in response to queries from reporters.
He went on to accuse some politicians within and outside the government of blocking consultations between President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga.
Lands Minister James Orengo on his part said: “We applaud Karua’s decision to resign. President Kibaki has lost a most worth ally.”
The Jamia Mosque Committee in Nairobi also praised Ms Karua’s move. Committee chairman Mohammed Osman Warfa termed her resignation "a bold act which attests to her sticking by the principles which she stands for."
"She has demonstrated unique qualities which Kenyans have been yearning for a long time."
Ms Karua made good her threat citing frustrations by a cartel in the office of the President that has been blocking her reform agenda. Coming at a time when coalition partners Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Party of National Unity (PNU) remained divided over the implementation of reforms the move came in a big blow to the government.
Sociologist Ken Ouko expressed pessimism that the country would realise any reforms in the lifetime of the coalition government. "The government will more certainly survive its full term but you can be sure there will be no reforms," Dr Ouko said.
Dr Ouko’s sentiments were echoed by Mr Mwamu who said Ms Karua’s exit however was likely to frustrate the implementation of the much needed reforms in the country.
"I am not very sure if she has tried and failed anybody else will succeed in these circumstances. Those forces she was complaining about in the office of the President are fairly strong, if they decide the next person is going to succeed am not sure they will."
Mr Nderitu on his part said that the resignation ‘should sound the alarm that all is not well in the grand coalition government’. "For the top leadership, this should be a wake up call. The events in the recent weeks are testimony enough, the Geneva meeting, the Kilaguni meeting and the resignation now."
There has been evident crisis in the coalition government with a weekend meeting called to address the crisis failing to kick off due to disagreement over the agenda. ODM has continually blamed PNU of standing in the way of reforms essentially to maintain the status quo. Central Organisation for Trade Unions Secretary General Francis Atwoli in the spirit of the resignation urged other leaders in the coalition government to follow suit.
"Karua is a highly respected politician. If you are in a company where you feel what you are trying to champion is hitting the walls, you do the most respected thing, and step aside. That is what she has done," he said.
He however called for a re-organisation of the working of the Grand Coalition Government to forestall any such future resignations.
"Let us not have more resignations like Martha Karua’s, let us stop creating a hostile political climate, Kenyans are not interested in who is who in the Government, we just want an environment where we can work for our development," he said.
Most readers on the Capital News website also had nothing but accolades for Ms Karua.
George Panther said: “Martha Karua… well done..Few can do this is … At least you are the only leader who seem focused…you have been in govt 4 sometime and no one can point a finger at you on corruption…you the only leader not been fronted by Ethnic background.. We are behind you.”
Another reader Jemmimah K. told Ms Karua: "You are the beacon of hope where hopelessness has reigned. You have earned your votes for 2012. A true Kenyan heroine. Martha Kudos and God’s blessings.
On his part, James Maina said: “Martha I’m proud of you we appreciate your hard work. We will be behind you. You have done a great job.”
Separately, the Kenyan chapter of Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) has also supported Martha Karua’s resignation terming it a bold move.
Chairperson, Naomi Wagereka on Monday said the former Justice Minister had shown quality leadership that Kenyans had yearned for long.
She said FIDA supported her not because she is a woman but because of the principles she stood for.
“It has been said before by many leaders including Nelson Mandela, he once said that this is a course I am prepared to live for, fight for and even die for alone. So that’s what leaders are called upon to do, once in a while as a leader you have to stand on your principles, you have to defend them and if need be quit,” the FIDA Chairperson said.
“I think she is a principled leader and she is a challenge to the other leaders,” she added.
Ms Wagereka called on other leaders who were criticising the coalition government from within to take an honourable stand and walk out.
“As we have already seen what happened in Kilaguni, we have given them (leaders) a lot as Kenyans and placed our faith in them but they are not delivering, instead they are fighting about positions, about which agenda was supposed to have proceeded,” she said in reference to the botched coalition management meeting over the weekend.
“We are very grateful for Martha because she has shown the right way to proceed; as a leader you need to take responsibility and if you are not able to work within a certain context you have to quit.”
Narc Kenya Deputy Vice Chairman Asman Kamama said: “This was the opportune time now for her to take that decision. As a party tried to prevent her from taking that decision but she said she was fed up with cartels that are preventing her from discharging her duties.”
“If people are preventing you from doing your job what else do you have to do you will have to hang up your boots”
“I am sure that there are ministers and assistant ministers who are going to hang up their boots. Just watch this space.”
Vihiga MP Yusuf Chanzu also added his voice in support of Ms Karua saying she was betrayed: “She has been betrayed. She has fought for things or goodies which are now being enjoyed by others. That is the highest level of betrayal.”