President, First Lady clash in public

Kenya’s president and his first wife have clashed openly in a row that is unprecedented among world leaders.

asleep at the wheel

President Mwai Kibaki: asleep at the wheel

President Mwai Kibaki came to the defence of Internal Security Minister George Saitoti just two days after his wife, Lucy Kibaki, launched a scathing attack on the minister.

Lucy made her stinging attack on Prof Saitoti when she visited critically burnt survivors of last week’s disasters at the Nakumatt Downtown supermarket and the fuel tanker explosion in Molo.

A visibly angry Lucy blamed Saitoti for what she described as lethargic interventions in emerging security and disaster situations across the country.

“118 people are dead not because they were sick or had an accident but because of ignorance,” she said, explaining that civic education could have helped people learn the perils of handling inflammable fuels.

Less than 48 hours later, Kibaki said he had full confidence in Prof Saitoti and was pleased with his performance. “In view of the reports which have appeared in the media, I wish to assure my Minister for Internal Security George Saitoti that I have full confidence in him and that I appreciate the good work he is doing,” Kibaki said.

Kenyans have been left pondering at the latest happenings within the first family, especially after Lucy talked about the President’s displeasure with Saitoti. “Even the President is angry. What is the Ministry of Internal Security doing? They should have organised all the chiefs, assistant chiefs, district officers and provincial commissioners, to educate Kenyans and tell them to keep away from accident tankers,” Lucy said.

The public row between the President and Lucy reminded Kenyans of the soap opera witnessed in State House after 2003, when the President’s second wife emerged after Kibaki took office in December 2002. Mary Wambui had hitherto kept a low profile and few knew of her existence.

Her emergence, together with daughter Winnie Wangui, incensed Lucy. A key State House official and Kibaki ally, Matere Keriri, was fired for exhibiting bias towards Mary. Kenyan media followed Mary around and she was only too happy to show off her palatial home guarded by paramilitary officers. She had two police officers accompanying her 24 hours a day. This left no doubt as to her marital status to a powerful personality.

Then, Kibaki dropped a bombshell. In a live telecast in 2003, Kibaki announced that Lucy was his only wife and that he did not recognize Winnie as his offspring. Mary and Winnie were stunned. Winnie’s high school friends told Kenyan media that the Kibaki children used to visit their step-sister in school.

However, Mary and Winnie’s state priviledges were not withdrawn. Infact, Winnie got a high profile job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Mary Wambui became Kibaki’s de facto political emissary. She attends fundraisings where she contributes millions of shillings whose source is a subject of speculation. She participates in meetings of President Kibaki’s key allies and lobbies on behalf of the president.

Kibaki has always played the role of dutiful husband to Lucy, a man who never attacks his wife publicly regardless of her behavior. In December 2007, Lucy slapped a government official in full view of the President. The matter was hushed over. In early 2008, Lucy assaulted a legislator as Kibaki watched but no action was taken. This time however, Kibaki may have decided that enough is enough.

Like an abused husband who suddenly decides to stop putting up with an errant spouse, Kibaki has come out of the shadows of his marriage. In a patriarchal society where a man is expected to rule his household with a stick, Kibaki’s move has been hailed across the country as the mark of a real man.

However, at the age of 78, it may be too late for Kibaki to redeem his masculine image. A lifetime under Lucy’s toe has done more harm than good over the years. Indeed, Lucy is one of the reasons behind Kibaki’s dip in popularity after his victory in the 2002 polls. She is too abrasive, arrogant and inarticulate.

The public row between Kibaki and Lucy regarding the state brings into focus the rudderless nature of Kibaki’s presidency. His hands-off, laid back style of leadership is causing confusion. His allies, taking advantage of his don’t-care attitude are engaging in massive corruption scandals that have hit the poor especially hard. Today, the country can only boast of shortages in food, water, electricity and oil due to corrupt deals that are bankrupting the economy.

Perhaps, Lucy should have directed her criticism to her husband. Indeed, it may just be possible that the person Lucy is really angry with is not Professor Saitoti, but Kibaki. After six years in State House, Lucy knows enough to realize that her husband is sleeping on the job.

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With reports from the Standard daily.
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One Response

  1. I love Lucy. She speaks from the heart. And I understand her pain when people flaunt a possible mistress before her – that is plainly insensitive and hurtful. Diverse opinions are common between spouses in strong marriages. Kibaki is more of a man for being able to take criticism calmly. He and Lucy remind me a lot of the couples in the Baptist Church in the US.

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