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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Profile: Kenya's controversial first lady
By Gray Phombeah
BBC News, Nairobi

For more than two decades, Kenyans were desperate to have a first lady.

Then, in 2002, voters went to bed with one Mwai Kibaki and to the pleasant surprise of everyone, woke up in the morning with him and his wife Lucy Kibaki.

Lucy Kibaki
Lucy Kibaki accused the press of dragging her name through the mud
It marked the end of former President Daniel arap Moi's 24-year rule, during which his wife hardly ever appeared in public.

They had the first glimpse of their new national bride, donning a blue and white African dress, as Mr Kibaki was sworn in as the third president of Kenya in the capital, Nairobi.

Two years on, a series of night-time rampages through Nairobi last weekend by the first lady has left her once adoring fans appalled and wondering loud about the leadership ability of her husband, who is now seen to have failed to keep his own house in order.

In the course of four days, Mrs Kibaki launched verbal attacks on diplomats, journalists and policemen she believed had not treated her with sufficient respect.

This was the latest outburst from the first lady whose antics have led to her short life at state house being likened to a soap opera, causing a mounting scandal that is threatening to undermine the president.


The latest episode started when Mrs Kibaki stormed into the house of her neighbour, the World Bank's country director Makhtar Diop, in a tracksuit at midnight last Friday and demanded he turn his music down at a private party to mark the end of his posting in Kenya.

It happened when Kenya was trying to rebuild good relations with the World Bank, which had criticised the country's widespread corruption.

The following evening, Mrs Kibaki went to the local police station in shorts - seen by many Kenyans as a rather undignified choice for a stout, African grandmother - and demanded that Mr Diop and his guests be arrested for disturbing the peace.

Then on Monday night, she burst into the offices of the Nation Media Group with her bodyguards and demanded that the reporter who had written about her confrontation with Mr Diop be arrested.

She slapped cameraman Clifford Derrick who was filming her and refused to leave the offices until 0530 the next day.

By Tuesday morning, the story was front page news in all newspapers and footage of her public outburst ran for hours on local television stations.

Shy and reserved

All this was in stark contrast to the image of a woman born in 1940 to a Presbyterian prelate and a devoted Christian mother in the Mount Kenya region.

Close family friends speak of a shy and reserved young woman in her early days, who performed well in school to become one of the first African women in Kenya to tutor in teacher training colleges.

Cameraman Clifford Derrick
Cameraman Clifford Derrick shows where the first lady slapped him
Lucy met Mr Kibaki, a dashing bachelor who had just quit his teaching job in neighbouring Uganda's Makerere University, in 1960 and their romance led to a marriage that has lasted for 35 years and included five children.

Like many other politicians' wives in Kenya, Lucy Kibaki stayed in the shadows as Mr Kibaki rose from an MP after Kenya's independence in 1963 to become a minister and vice-president under Mr Moi, and finally the president of Kenya in 2002.

From then on, it was quite clear that Mrs Kibaki was no ordinary first lady.

Just months after her husband became president, she is reported to have shut down a bar inside state house that was a watering hole for ministers and close allies of the president.

Ministers and president's advisers who crossed her path were ordered, in quick succession, out of the building.

In one public row, Mrs Kibaki's turf war with the president's former powerful personal secretary saw him being removed from state house.

'Second lady'

In 2003, she skipped a New Year's Eve party after Vice President Moodi Awori referred to her as a "second lady", which she interpreted as an insult.

Soon Kenyans were to learn that they didn't only get their first first lady in 24 years, but in fact they had two - a woman called Mary Wambui who had maintained a 30-year-old friendship with the president and was now receiving protection from government security agents.

Mwai Kibaki in a wheelchair
Lucy Kibaki cared for her husband (r) when he had a car crash
Mr Kibaki issues an official statement - purported to have ordered by Mrs Kibaki herself - saying Lucy and their children were his only "immediate family".

For some time now, most of her ire has been directed at politicians and journalists who have continued to acknowledge the fact that her husband has a second wife, something that is legal and socially acceptable in Kenya.

A few weeks ago, her husband watched helpless as Mrs Kibaki told a political rally in western Kenya that her husband would stand for re-election in 2007 - still a taboo subject as rival factions in the coalition government tear at each other.

Her supporters say she is fiercely protective of her husband following a car crash in later 2002 that left him with a broken arm, a dislocated ankle and a neck injury.

She was by her husband's side campaigning vigorously in the run-up to the 2002 presidential polls.

And the forceful woman has also been widely admired in Kenya as a vigorous anti-Aids campaigner and crusader against female genital mutilation.

Although many Kenyans took her to their hearts at the dawn of new era of democracy, the love affair is now over.

Is it time to rethink the role of the first lady? Do they do more harm than good? Do you think the wives of Africa's presidents have a public role to play? Or should they keep a low profile? Tell us, on a scale of one to five, how you would rate the first lady in your country.

Send your comments to the BBC's Africa Live programme using the form below - some of which will be published below.

And you can join the debate on the BBC Africa Live on Wednesday 11 May at 1630GMT and 1830GMT.

Leave Lucy alone. She is fun, and fairly harmless.

To hell with so called 'press freedom' or press divisive gossip, really, which relentlessly seeks to protray Lucy and others in a bad light just for a bit of devilish drama. The African press people are having their traditional Afrocentric values of respect and dignity corrupted by their unwitting mental enslavement to crass and confused European attitudes.
Yaamaji, USA

I think Mrs Kibaki is actually right to speak up for herself. Why should she suffer anti-social behaviour from the IMF representative? She also has rights like the rest of us. So what if she wears shorts. For too long women in Malawi were banned from waring trousers, why should women in Kenya be banned from wearing what is suitable for the climate. Tracksuits are cheap and actaully show that the Kibakis are not using state funds to live it up as some African leaders and their wives do. I say stand up for yourself Mrs Kibaki - no-one else will. And for a grown man to cry over a slap shame on him. Africans should also realise that the more we cry for press freedoms the more human and like us our leaders will seem, ask the British royals. So take the reports with a pinch of salt and remember reporters need to sell newspapers and we buy them for the gossip as well as the news.
Ziv Mashasha, Swindon UK

The press has every right to tell Africans what is going on in their countries and especially when it's about elected leaders like the president and other senor politicians. She is abusing power that she was given by no-one.
Ronald Ngala Yongo, Kenya

The first lady should stay at home and try and cook and raise a good family. With most of the politicians now well into grandparenthood, the first lady's role should be to babysit her grandchildren and pass on her wisdom to the girls on how to look after their husbands. This would give the presidents time to concentrate on running the country and focus on issues that really matter. The first lady gender equality issue is a western concept that has no place in Africa.
Ranwel Kumwenda, Malawi

Press freedom requires responsibility and African journalists need to really espouse this to be allowed the freedom they need. As much as they should expose extreme conduct on private lifes of leaders, they need to be factual, respectiful and avoid unecessary excitement.

It is emerging that some of the issues they wrote about Mrs Lucy Kibaki may not have been factual. The public understands that the press knows more about her condition more than the public and she may be in need of support by all. We do not need to overstretch our leaders by dwelling so much on their negative sides and not highlight their good sides.
Isaac Rodrot, Malindi-Kenya

This is not how a typical African woman behaves. This behaviour is that of a woman with dictatorial tendencies, pushing her husband into dictatorship. The next thing is, she would tell her husband to ban all political parties, clamp down on the press, and only allow her 'pure' and 'polished' views prevail. All hail the dawn of the new era in Kenya!!!
Kwame Gyebi, London, UK

No one should be above the law. In the US or Western Europe, it would have been a different story!
Nilio Gumbs, Cayman

First ladyism is alien to African constitutions. Since there is no provision for the office of first lady in them, I think they should restrict themselves to advising their husbands at home. African first ladies can speak for themselves as ordinary citizens as against government functionaries. After all, they are entitled to freedom of expression. African Journalists should not stay out of the private lives of African leaders because it is said that if a leader cannot run his immediate family well, how can such person be trusted with running the affairs of a whole nation? Africans are known, at least, for respecting their leaders, and I don't think journalists are exception. However, this showing of respect should not cloud their sense of responsibility to educate the citizens of the happenings within the corridors of power. By virtue of their duties, they are the watch dogs of the society.
Yakubu Afenoko Innocent, Nigeria

I am overwhelmed by the male chauvinism being expressed here! A first lady staying at home to cook?! This kind of prejudice can only be attributed to lack of gender sensitivity by some Africans as a result of their cultures that encourage a male superiority complex. We all know that behind every successful man there is a woman! Behind Kibaki was Lucy all those years. What has happened to the African values of respect and reverence for our elders and leaders? I salute you Mrs Kibaki for standing up to your rights and what is your rightful respect! And as for closing an African watering hole - bravo again for bringing sanity to the presidency. What self-respecting first lady can tolerate the rowdy, raucous drunkenness of fat pot-bellied politicians in her residence at state house day in day out?
Gerard Nyangezi, Kigali, Rwanda

This is not about gender. This is not about the right to wear the trousers. This is about a person using family connections to try to bully people. I am an African woman and I have had enough of these people whose bad behaviour is condoned just because they are married to someone important. There is no excuse for bullying behaviour. If the press wants to report it, that is their right.
Ama, Ghana

Press freedom does not mean we should write to assassinate people's character or tarnish their image. African journalists fail to understand what is right or wrong when it comes to issues regarding to others' personal lives. If you know you cannot say the truth please keep quiet. One thing is common in the African press: When we write to tarnish or fabricate bogus stories about other people - it is written at the front page with clear headline; but when it is mistake or error it is written where you can hardly see the headline or the story. Mrs Kibaki is very, very right. This is the only way we can have honest journalists. Say the truth or keep quiet!
Saikou , The Gambia

Mrs Kibaki has right to speak for herself but should use more mellow ways to do that so as to set a good example for all in power. She should be aware that she is a voice of many and to behave accordingly.
Jacqueline Njoki Wambura, Lacey,Wa

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Kenya's first lady storms paper
03 May 05 |  Africa

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