Few politicians, both men and women, have captured the imagination of Kenyans as the no-nonsense former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Martha Karua.
The feisty lawyer-politician who was thrust into the limelight during the clamour for multi-party politics, was a notable member of the merry band of fearless, fire-spitting and teargas-eating political hotheads dubbed the ‘Young Turks.’
But in 2002, when the Rainbow Coalition swept into power, Karua made a seamless transition from political activist to officer of government, easily becoming one of the most effective and reformist Water Resources minister Kenya has had since independence.
Born on September 22, 1957 in Kimunye village, Gichugu constituency, Kirinyaga County, the second child of Mr and Mrs Jackson Karua, is one of Kenya’s most recognisable and forceful politicians.
But whereas the Iron Lady of Gichugu, once referred to as the “only man in Kibaki’s government” is a daughter of Mount Kenya, rumours, which she has rubbished have persisted that her lineage is rooted in the Mulembe nation, specifically Ikolomani constituency, the bullfighting arena associated with former senator Bonny Khalwale.
Karua, they claim, is the daughter of the late Ikolomani MP, Musa Amalemba. And in Kakamega County, residents smile when her name is mentioned, with elderly Luhyas smiling with a knowing wink, as if to say “she is ours”.
Idle rumour it remained, until this week, when out of the blue, netizens dug up Karua’s and Amalemba’s photos, claiming the two closely resemble each other: teeth, eyes, lips, smile and even skin texture.
Following the storm on social media, The Nairobian team strolled to Amalemba’s home in Litambitsa village in Ikolomani constituency.
The former Housing assistant minister’s home is a shell of its former self, the path leading to his homestead narrow and bushy. We are welcomed by Amalemba’s third born son, Samuel Amalemba, 62.
Samuel, who has stayed in London, England for the last 40 years welcomed us to his father’s house where we were joined by his elder brother, Benjamin Amalemba, a former accountant with the Flying Doctors Service.
“Is Martha Karua your sister?” we shoot without preamble. They break into wild laughter.
“We first heard of the rumour during the 2017 elections but we downplayed it. Some said that Karua is the daughter of former Ikolomani MP, the late Clement Lubembe, who is also said to be the father of former Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai,” Samuel said.
According to Samuel, Ms. Karua has never visited them at the village and that at no point did their late father, Amalemba who died on July 17, 2000, tell them that she was his daughter.
He said when they first heard of the rumours, they checked all their late father’s documents with the hope of finding even a baptism card to ascertain that she was their sister, but all was in vain.
“We have never associated with Karua and we don’t have any documents to prove that she is one of our own. All we have heard are rumours although we would not hesitate to welcome her to our family if the rumours are true,” Samuel said.
His elder brother, Benjamin, said they would wish that Karua meets with them as a way of putting the rumours to rest.
“Last Saturday when the rumours went viral, some elders came to me requesting that we look for her (Martha Karua) to ascertain the truth and if we found out that she was our sister, we should welcome her back to the family,”
According to Benjamin, the elders told him that the type of politics Karua plays of a fearless woman who settles at nothing until she gets what she wants, is the same style of politics, the late Musa Amalemba was known for.
But an elder, aged 78, who sought anonymity, just said he suspects the late MP fathered a child in Central Province.
“When he (Amalemba) was the Housing minister, he had another wife from Central Kenya who used to take care of us when we visited him in Nairobi,” he said.
The online rumours were first started by a certain historian but he did not show any proof.
Amalemba, one of the first Luhya politicians to be elected to the Kenya Legislative Council (Legico), is remembered for establishing the Riruta Satellite Township in 1959.
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