Martha Karua has drawn a new line in the mountain

Martha Karua campaigns in Kiambu. [George Njunge, Standard]

This Sunday, let us glean some campaign lessons from Martha Karua’s playbook.

Lesson number one: Neutralise with words and pacify with reason. Karua’s encounters with hecklers in her Mt Kenya tour bring to mind a story about a burglar.

The thieving guy hid inside a cupboard when the homeowners returned earlier than he expected.

From his hideout, he could overhear their conversation. He slowly begins enjoying the eavesdropping, and after a long period waiting for them to retire to bed, he begins to fight the urge to contribute to their discussion.

But then he ended up laughing loudly at one good joke, and his robbing mission came to an embarrassing end. The burglar had bungled his burglary.

Unlike the unsuspecting homeowners in the story, Martha anticipated the predictable trap. So she asked the hecklers to come so that they could reason together.

And just like the burglar, the hecklers began enjoying the eavesdropping, and eventually couldn’t fight the urge to participate.

But after co-opting the disrupter, she addressed the real issue - the opponents - hell bent on using the youth to cause chaos.

She even dared those who sent the hecklers to come and face her themselves: “Kuja unipokonye microphone” (Come and take the microphone from me).

The message being “If you are so convicted and unafraid, and you do not want me to speak at my own meetings, come and face me yourselves, come take the microphone off my hands, instead of sending poor youth to do it on your cowardly behalf. 

Lesson number two: Charm, do not offend. Insults have become political currency in Kenya.

In 2011, Mukhisa Kituyi described this phenomenon as ‘verbal flatulence’. Politicians, particularly those that have been campaigning for the last three years or more, have used insults as a crutch without which they cannot excite crowds and tickle spectators.

Martha is turning this fallacy on its head. When speaking about political opponents, she has made it about an interrogation of their ideology, not an attack on their person. Ironically, she is turning out to play hard politics, by not playing normal politics. Articulating logic is more painful to the opponent than any insult.

It is more damaging than any name-calling. Karua’s dignified campaigns are making others look like petty playground fights. This new campaign has sieved out the trivialities, particularly in Central Kenya. A line between statesmanship and charlatanism is being drawn.  

Lesson number three: Be fearless or go home. Martha’s inaugural campaign tours are setting the lions apart from the mice. The lady does not flinch.

But the confidence we observed as she moved across Central Kenya, is that of a person who comes to the table with conviction and ‘clean hands’.

It is said scalded cats fear even cold water, and guilty people tremble at their own shadows.

Martha’s resolute fearlessness is the kind that looks you straight in the eye, instead of exploiting young people by sending them to disrupt meetings. It is the kind that shows up boldly, speaks honestly, laughs freely, engages happily and listens genuinely.

-The writer is a political analyst and PhD candidate in political economy. Twitter: @DaisyMaina7