Can Martha Karua be our Ruth First in Kenya?

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Ruth First (1925-1982) was a South African socialist, anti-apartheid activist, and scholar. She fled South Africa in 1963 after serving 117 days in solitary confinement in South African jails. She worked from exile in England until 1977 when she returned to hands-on political work in Mozambique.

On August 17, 1982, she was killed by a parcel bomb in Maputo, Mozambique.

Ruth First was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1925, the daughter of socialist immigrants Tilly and Julius First. Educated in Johannesburg, she completed a bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1946.

Banning and exile did not suffocate First’s activism but encouraged a qualitative change—from political journalism to activist scholar. Her first major monograph, a study of South Africa’s continuing illegal domination of South West Africa, researched while under police surveillance in 1961, was widely acclaimed and remains a classic.

Despite banning orders First edited ANC members’ speeches and trial addresses and was instrumental in the publication of Mbeki’s South Africa: The Peasants Revolt and Mandela’s No Easy Walk to Freedom. 

In 1970, with the publication of Power in Africa, she won international recognition as a key African analyst. She became a lecturer at the University of Durham and during the 1970s combined scholarship, a sharp critical eye, and firm political commitment to author and co-author many important works on South African apartheid, African politics, and an outstanding biography of Olive Schreiner.

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I bring all this up because I believe as many of us do that our country is at crossroads. You do not get there so often and when you do it is important to know what you are doing.

Ruth First is one of the most unique African freedom fighters. She gave her life for the continent. We know that.

In Kenya today we are struggling to get a combination of leaders who can take our country to the next level in terms of human rights, economic development, and prosperity and just to be the country we need to be in the world we live in today.

I don’t think it is necessary to talk about William Ruto and UDA at this point.

It is the country we have to talk about.

Raila Odinga can win the next General Election and be our president but it would be truly great if someone like Martha Karua was his deputy president.

The country knows who Martha Karua is. Sometimes we have not liked her, including me. But she is tough and real and we need that now more than ever.

So I am going for a Raila Odinga with Martha Karua as his deputy.

Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada

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