Karen Nyamu, a controversial and versatile lawyer-cum-politician, has lived an eventful life.
“I am that lady who doesn’t fake it. I am real,” she says in an interview with Lifestyle where she opens up about her past struggles and what the future holds for her.
From being linked to influential men and leaving unpaid bills to falling for a musician several years younger than her, she says she remains unbowed despite intense public scrutiny.
“I don’t fear controversy. Controversy always follows me,” she says.
In her most recent spat, she took on the father of her second and youngest child, Mugithi singer Samuel Muchoki alias Samidoh, after claims that the married artiste hinted at not recognising their baby.
“My father was very angry with my reaction over the Samidoh issue. My furious father told me to drop his name, ‘Nyamu’, from my name as I was embarrassing him with the social media posts. I was saddened to see my father hurt over the issue,” she tells Lifestyle.
Following a family meeting, there is now a ceasefire between Karen and Samidoh.
“We have agreed not to raise the issue again especially in the media,” she says as she looks at the musician’s child.
When she is sad, she confesses to cooling it down by staying at home listening to music and having a glass of wine as she plays with her two children.
Karen says she is currently taking it slow in her dating life. “I will need a man who will convince me that I can be happier in marriage than when I’m single,” she says.
The outspoken Karen adds: “Being alone does not mean that you have not settled down. But if you have to stay with a man, he has to work hard to convince you he is worth it.”
These days, she has slowed down on attending social events and her social circle is small, and that’s just the way she wants it.
“I used to club about three to four times a week. I was always that person who wanted to turn up for an event. I now want to have more time for my children and myself,” she says.
Karen lists fellow female politicians Nairobi County Deputy Governor Anne Mwenda Kananu, CAS Rachel Shebesh, nominated MCA Anita Thumbi and Mlango Kubwa MCA Patricia Mutheu as her confidants.
After enjoying a tumultuous life, she tells Lifestyle that she is now a different woman – no longer simply shaped by her experiences, but inspired to live a better life because of them.
She confesses that there are things in her past which if given a second chance she would want to do differently, especially after a string of tabloid-baiting moments.
Our interview with the lawyer-cum-politician, who is in her late 30s, is in the balcony of a city apartment, and she seems relaxed in her free flowing dress.
Her list of controversies range from publicly puffing bhang and passing it round during the finals of the annual Koth Biro football tournament at Umeme Grounds in Ziwani in August 2019, being trolled online for failing to clear a bill at the Manor 540 restaurant in Nairobi’s Westlands, being taken to court over alleged fraud by Safaricom to dating wealthy and controversial men.
She explains that she refused to pay the hotel bill totalling Sh12, 000 because a worker at the restaurant published the issue on social media to shame her.
“I left some youths from the ODM party at the restaurant who were still eating and drinking and explained to the management that I was to clear the rest of the bill the following morning. Why would someone at the hotel go on to publicise the issue on Facebook if it was not to embarrass me?” she poses.
On the Safaricom issue, the telco took her to court, where she was charged with conspiracy to defraud the company of about Sh1.8 million per day through a dealership arrangement. She was eventually acquitted of the charges.
“About dating some of the wealthiest and powerful men in the country, I am often accused of having affairs with men who I have never even met,” she says.
With a tinge of regrets, she says: “Wealthier and older men slow down the thinking of women intending to pursue professional careers.”
Born in the early 1980s in Umoja 1 Estate in Nairobi’s Eastlands, she is the daughter of a civil engineer and her mother was an Early Childhood Education teacher.
She started her schooling at Riverbank Primary School in Nairobi’s Ngara area before joining Kamuthatha Boarding Primary in Embu, then one of the best-performing primary schools in Eastern Province. After her KCPE, she joined Limuru Girls for her secondary education.
While sitting her KCSE exams, she was suspended from school after being found guilty, alongside other girls, of breaking into the school canteen to steal sausages.
“I had to sit the remaining five KCSE papers from home. My father was very mad at me as he had to drop me in school daily to sit for the exams,” she recalls.
After her KCSE exams, she was admitted to the University of Nairobi, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Law before joining the Kenya School of Law, where she read for a diploma in law. She also holds a master’s degree in International Relations.
She recalls Prof PLO Lumumba and Supreme Court judge Smokin Wanjala as her favourite lecturers while at the law school.
She has practised as an advocate through her law firm, Njeri Nyamu and Co. Advocates and currently works as a director at the Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company.
Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko also nominated her to the position of Nairobi County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture. She is yet to be vetted for the position due to the legal challenges that befell the former governor before he was eventually ousted.
In 2016, she took a shot at politics when she vied for the Nairobi County Jubilee Party Woman Representative ticket and emerged third after Shebesh and Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga, in a race that attracted 11 aspirants.
“I saw a gap in leadership and felt that I could do more than Shebesh,” she says.
Her entry into politics caused a stir due to her campaign style and use of a catchy campaign slogan, ‘Bae Wa Nairobi’, loosely translated to the women that Nairobians love or city girl.
Shebesh used the slogan ‘Manzi Wa Nairobi’, loosely translated as ‘The Nairobi Girl’ while Omanga branded herself as ‘Msupa na Works,’ and ‘Msupa na Kazi’, loosely translated to a beautiful lady who is good at her work.
During the Jubilee Party campaigns, Karen had to be rescued on two occasions by police due to political violence as she campaigned in Dandora and Kayole.
Despite the violence, she insists that she will still be in the race in 2022.
“I am still going for the woman representative position. As an elected leader, I will push for legislation to deal with the youth bulge and unemployment,” she says, smiling. “I want it to be for the youth and especially young women; to inspire them, or help them in some way.