Who is Martha Karua? From Magistrate to Azimio Running Mate candidate

Who is Martha Karua? From Magistrate to Azimio Running Mate candidate

NARC-Kenya Party Martha Karua, who is one of the candidates shortlisted as a possible running mate for the Azimio La Umoja coalition,  is a values-driven national leader, with a proven record of championing for a progressive Kenya.

Karua’s public service is long, broad and deep but it is truly distinguished by her service in all three branches of government, giving her unparalleled experience in the working of national government and unique insights into how to foster and maintain intergovernmental relations.

She is a renowned Kenyan political leader, human rights defender and reform champion with a deep commitment to social justice, the rule of law and the building of accountable institutions.

A lawyer by profession, Karua started her law career in 1981 as a Magistrate, before venturing into private practice as a founding partner of one of the most successful women-led law firms of the time- Martha Karua & Co. Advocates.

Karua has successfully argued precedent-setting cases and been involved in historic public interest litigation. In 2020, Karua was conferred with the rank of Senior Counsel. In her legal and professional practice, she has consistently advocated for individuals, human rights and healthy families.

It is her fundamental belief that strong and dignified lives create healthy families which collectively form the basic building blocks of a stable and prosperous nation.

She is renowned for her advocacy of women’s rights and also actively represented pro bono victims of politically instigated and sensitive cases among them the Koigi wa Wamwere treason trial where she represented the late lawyer and assistant minister Mirugi Kariuki.

She is a courageous, principled and inspirational leader, with a broad spectrum of experience in law, politics, policy and sustainable development. She is a strategic thinker with wide national, regional and global networks. Her competencies have had her as a lead negotiator in pivotal moments in Kenya’s history.

In addition to a Bachelor of Laws from Nairobi University, Karua holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from the United States International University. For two decades, she served as Member of Parliament (MP), representing Gichugu Constituency in Kirinyaga, winning four consecutive elections.

She was the first women elected as a MP in Gichugu constituency paving the way for the election of women in Kirinyaga. With a participatory, community-minded approach to development, her leadership ushered in improved services to the constituency such as access to education, health care, water and improved infrastructure.

To ensure greater ownership and sustainability, she mobilized both community and partners to co-fund community action projects. Her model of leadership promotes public participation, community prioritization and collective responsibility has ensured a collective growth and development of her local communities.

For more than six years, Martha served as a Minister in the Government of Kenya in charge of various portfolios. As a Minister, she led various teams in negotiating different protocols and also made reports on the status of Kenya’s respect of Human Rights. With others, she worked towards the establishment of institutions that promote and protect human rights, such as the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights among other independent national and international accountability institutions.

Between 2005 and 2009, she was Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, under whose watch Kenyan new and most progressive constitutional dispensation was promulgated.

She is a strong believer in institutions, constitutionalism and constitutionality as the means of securing good governance and accountable people-centred development. As such, even while out of government, she has consistently advocated for respect of the rule of law and fidelity to the Constitution.

International exposure to and interaction with global human rights actors, especially UN platforms, have helped sharpen her skills and capacity in negotiations for various human rights conventions, protocols and advancement of rule of law.

In 2005 as Minister for Water and Irrigation, Martha Karua was instrumental in developing the much-celebrated water sector reforms. Long before Devolution, she guided inter-ministerial engagements in the government to ensure decentralization of resources to the grassroots. At the regional level, she worked with all the Ministers of the Nile Basin to affirm the rights of all countries in the region to access the Nile Waters.

In 2008, due to her negotiations skills and ability to bring diverse groups together in resolving disputes, she was appointed to lead the government team in the Koffi Anan led mediation between the Government and the Opposition, leading to the National Accord and the Grand Coalition Government and ending the violence that had engulfed Kenya after the disputed December 2007 elections.

Earlier in 1998 with others she launched the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG) focused on an all-inclusive dialogue on constitutional review thus diffusing tension between the protagonists, pitching the government on one side and opposition and civil society on the other. She worked with the parties to develop a common agenda for reforms that led all the groups to work together as compatriots in search of a new dispensation.

Prior to government service, Karua was intimately involved in the defence of victims of illegal detentions and politically instigated charges during the repressive single-party era in Kenya. This work introduced and linked her with key civil society actors and causes, leading to her contribution to the founding and active service in key civil society organizations such as the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), the League of Kenya Women Voters, International Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya (FIDA Kenya) and International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) among others.

Additionally, as a veteran of the second liberation and the struggle for democracy in Kenya, Karua fought for the creation of independent institutions especially the Kenya judiciary in the early 1990s, both as Council Member of the Law Society of Kenya and as a practising advocate.

  • Global Executive MBA, United States International University (USIU)-Africa, Nairobi 2011
  •  Bar Examination, Kenya School of Law, 1981
  • LLB Honours, University of Nairobi, 1980
  • A Levels, Nairobi Girls School 1976
  • O Levels, Karoti Girls Secondary School 1974.


  • International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)-Kenya Chapter
  • The League of Kenya Women Voters
  • Law Society of Kenya
  • Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers


  • Minister for Justice & Constitutional Affairs, Government of Kenya, 2005-2007; Minister of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, 2008-2009
  • Minister for Water, Government of Kenya, January 2003 - December 2005
  • Elected Member of Kenya National Assembly (Parliament) for Gichugu Constituency December 1992 - January 2013
  • 2009-2013 Nominated by Parliament to be a member of The Select committee on constitutional Review. As a member of this committee participated in successful negotiations that ended the impasse amongst committee members on contentious issues.
  • 2001-2002 Nominated by parliament as a member of the select committee on Constitutional Review.
  • 1997 Organised and provided leadership Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG).
  • 1998 Nominated by Inter-Parties Parliamentary Committee (IPPC) to be a joint secretary of the drafting committee that oversaw the drafting and enactment of an all-inclusive Constitution of Kenya Review Act 1998. This started the formal journey of reviewing the constitution of Kenya enacted at Independence.
  • Nominated by parliament as a member of the select Committee on Anti-Corruption mandated inter alia to hold public hearings and make recommendations on a legal framework to fight corruption.
  • Martha Karua Advocates 1987-2002
  • Magistrate, Senior Resident Magistrate, of Kenya Judiciary 1981-1987


  • Founder Member and Elected Chair, The League of Kenya Women Voters 1992-May 2002:
  • Founder Member and the first Chair of the League of Women Voters that advocates for participation and inclusion of women in leadership
  • Elected Council Member of Law Society of Kenya 1989-1992
  • Elected Council Member of Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers: Between 1990-1994
  • Elected as council member of FIDA – KENYA, a non-governmental organisation in Kenya that focuses on advocacy especially promotion and defence of women’s, human rights and provides free legal services for indigent women.
  •  2022 Dakar Senegal, Founder of African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW)
  • 2020 Conferred with the Rank of Senior Counsel
  • 2016 Inducted into the Roll of Honour of the Law Society of Kenya
  • 2013 Recognized by the Government of Kenya as a National Hero
  • 2000 Honoured by The International Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya as a Women’s Rights Defender
  • 2000 Honoured by The Law Society of Kenya as an outstanding legal Practitioner
  • 1999 Honoured by International Commission of Jurists Kenya as Jurist of the Year
  • 1990 Honoured by The Human Rights Watch as a Human Rights Monitor


  • Third World Women Conference in Beijing, 1995
  • Several Commission on the Status of Women Yearly Review meetings at The UN
  • World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), Durban 2001
  • World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Johannesburg 2002
  • As Minister of Water Attended Third World Conference on Water in Japan, 2003
  • Nile Basin Water Ministers in Ethiopia, Elected Chair of Nile Basin Initiative, 2003
  • As Minister of Justice led Kenya’s delegation to report on human rights situation to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Accra Ghana in 2006.
  • As Minister of Justice Lead government delegation to report on human rights situation to UNHCHR Geneva in 2009.


Martha Karua August elections

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