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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
What is the role of a first lady?
Lucy, wife of Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki
Kenya's First Lady confronted a neighbour and slapped a journalist
Kenyans are still smarting from the outbursts of their first lady who publicly lost her temper with a neighbour and journalists.

Mrs Lucy Kibaki stormed into the house of the World Bank's country director Makhtar Diop, who was holding a farewell party, and demanded that he turn down the music.

She later burst into the offices of the Nation Media Group to protest at the coverage of her confrontation with Mr Diop, and slapped a TV cameraman who was filming her.

Mrs Kibaki is not the only African first lady to have caused ructions - Nigeria's Stella Obasanjo is reported to have ordered the arrest of a newspaper editor for publishing an unfavourable story about her.

BBC Africa Live asks: 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.


This debate has now closed. A selection of your comments below.

Most men deserve a slap from time to time.
Akosua Gawu, Ghana

Go on Mrs Lucy Kibaki! Why are women in Africa so intimidated? Most men deserve a slap from time to time and if someone's music is too loud they should act their age and turn it down.
Akosua Gawu, Ghana

One is a first lady by virtue of being the president's wife. She should play the role of a wife by being supportive of the husband. Due to poverty and misuse of power, Africans create unnecessary and overlapping of duties not often backed by the constitution.
Rob Shaji, Nigeria

While its true that there is no clear-cut role for a first lady to perform all over the world, at least, there is universally accepted convention which states that she has only one defined role which is ceremonial role and she should stick to that particular role. The problem starts when she oversteps her mark and takes advantage of her status to bully people below her. That is unacceptable.
Abdifatah Farah Aden, Australia

We have never heard Mrs Kagame making controversial statements or fight openly with any one.
Flora, Rwanda

I would scale the first lady of Rwanda four out of five. She personally supports vulnerable orphans, widows and she advocates for help for HIV/AIDS victims. We have never heard Mrs Kagame making controversial statements or fight openly with any one. She is a role model to many of us, Rwandan women.
Flora, Rwanda

The role of a first lady is vital in a society. Most first ladies do a lot to support children and the disadvantaged. If Mrs Lucy Kibaki does not know her role within the Kenyan community then I suggest the President prepares for her A JOB DESCRIPTION as a guide for her activities.
J.L. Kaboye, Sudan

Mrs Lucy Kibaki has my sincere sympathies because there is nothing more irritating than insensitive people who party and make noise at the expense of neighbours.
Mmabatho

Madam Lucy may be truly aggrieved by the loud music and the reports in the media, but she should not take the law into her hands. Let her remember that she is not only a first lady but first mother or even grandmother. We look upon her for daily life challenges.
Fred Nyabuta, Kenya

The role of a first lady is to receive flowers during visits and waving to the crowd that admires her husband.
David Lulasa, Kenya

African first ladies haven't been elected and they have no official status according to our constitution. So they should keep their role of housewives and stop disgracing Africa. We already have enough dealing with the problems caused by their president husbands.
Anumu Ketoglo, Togo

Some of these African first ladies do more harm than good for their respective countries. They should emulate Mandela's current wife, Graca. She's not like other first ladies who pre-occupy themselves with owning a string of properties in the country and maintaining fat bank accounts abroad.
Kabenge Swaleh, UK

Why couldn't Mrs Lucy Kibaki let state house media guide her in public relations?
David Mushabe, Uganda

A first lady's position is one of leadership, and leaders are expected to be the fountain of honour, respect, diplomacy, and the noble things we can ever imagine. Why couldn't Mrs Lucy Kibaki let state house media guide her in public relations? Didn't she realise that slapping a journalist would amount to assault? Nonetheless, I applaud her for shutting down the bar at State House!
David Mushabe, Uganda

Mrs Kibaki has a right to protest against anyone who insults her. As a person and also in her status she ought to be respected. That Cameraman who was slapped deserved it in all aspect. How could he just decide to film her when walking into the news room. Also why did they provoke her by playing loud music in the neighbourhood of the president? Do it again first lady.
Albert Kahindi Ngira, Kenya

There is nothing like first lady position in the constitution of most Africa countries. This is a self-acclaimed position that has done more damage to our people than good. It is a way of wasting public funds to execute white elephant projects that do not have direct positive impact on the lives of the majority of the populace.
Christopher Enakpene, Germany.

A slap of a woman cannot harm and doesn't pose a challenge.
Mathenge Samuel, Kenyan in DR Congo

Mrs Lucy Kibaki entertained us. This is what we like reading in papers and listening to in radios. She didn't harm anybody, a slap of a woman cannot harm and doesn't pose a challenge. Other first ladies should act in the same way when they feel that the world around them is being unfair to them. And you journalists keep those stories coming. I love them.
Mathenge Samuel, Kenyan in DR Congo

People like gossip but I think this one is really damaging, particularly to the government's next election campaign.
Toudou Manuella, UK

The wives of African presidents should keep a low profile and give their husbands advise where and when necessary, privately and stay out of the limelight.
Ntabo Charles, USA

As a Kenyan residing in Johannesburg, I was appalled at the speed with which this unfortunate incident was spread across the international media. BBC, if you really must follow this up, investigate whether there is specific protocol African first ladies should have.
Angelita, South Africa

I think it would simply be wise to scan constitutions to determine whether any office of first lady exists in the countries concerned. If there is no such office, as is probably the case, then there is no reason for an elected official's wife to have any political influence beyond that of any other private citizen. This is certainly the case in my country. I do not even know the name of our Prime Minister's wife, nor do I know what she looks like.
Ray Martinson, Canada

The first lady should be a role model to all women in the country. There are so many issues or problems in Africa that they really can use their role to help fight against. They are the face of the country's women, they must earn some respect by what they do not demand it. I would rate my first lady a generous 4 out of 5.
Sonia, Rwandese in UK

The wives of Africa's presidents should be active in government.
Omorodion Osula, Boston

Except for a few of them that have over reacted, the majority of them are good. Former Nigeria first lady Mariam Babaginda came up with such programs like "better life for rural women" which was geared towards improving the lives of women in the rural areas. Laura Bush is making sure young American children can read and write. The wives of Africa's presidents should be active in government. They should not just be housewives but give them the opportunity to conceive and implement their own programs. Former first lady Hillary Clinton is a senator today because of the exposure she got during her husband's tenure. On a scale of one to five, I will give Laura Bush, Five. She was very instrumental in her husband's re - election.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

It is pretty bad for a first lady to behave as if she owns the whole nation. Even in the jungle, all animals set laws to guide them from messing around with thier fellows species.
Mabior Atem Mabior, Southern, Sudan

I think Mrs Kibaki's reaction to people who are abusing power is absolutely right. If for example, her complaint about noise by her neighboor happened in the USA, he will be warned once to put down the noise or face jail. However, in Africa, employees of international organisations sometimes feel they are above the law.
Eyob W Michael, Seattle USA

You are just giving Mrs Kibaki a bad name so you can hang her and all African First Ladies. Otherwise why do present a one sided report all negative of an event you did not witness. In response to your demand, the first lady of Ghana is doing excellently and I will rank her 5. Help the First Ladies to play their role to help our countries and make news out of Mrs Kibaki's anti AIDS campaign.
Kwesi Ansah, Atlanta, USA

Mrs Kibaki, like everyone else is entitled to some peace, especially at night
Asabuyake, Accra

Mrs Kibaki, like everyone else is entitled to some peace, especially at night. She was right to complain about undue disturbance from partying neighbours, whether they are World Bank representatives or not. Being a 'first lady' cannot carry undue responsibilities as she was never elected. Leave the lady alone !
Asabuyake, Accra , Ghana

Lucy has lost her dignity. As a first lady she should be aware that her role is very important to Kenyans. She is a supposed to be a diplomat not a spoiler. Shame on you Lucy.
Geoffrey Gwaro, Indianapolis, USA

Before we all raise our index finger to point at and condemn her appaling behaviour, lets find out what Mrs Kibaki's problems are. For sure, there is an undelying issue. She is our mom.Let's treat her with the dignity she deserves regardless of her behaviour.
Kariuki Wa Kamiti, Atlanta , U.S.A.

I think Mrs Kibaki went too far slapping the poor camera man. However, I have to commend the Nation media on duty that night for sitting quietly while Mrs Lucy lectured them. Actually, I think they were very respectful and must have been paying attention to her since they gave a very unbiased view of the saga. As far as I am concerned she came out smelling like a rose. It must be very hurtful to sit through the half truths that are sometimes concocted by the media.
Makena Guantai, England

There is a Nigerian proverb that says, "When the soap is dirty, what shall we use in washing our hands"
Alex Obiefuna, USA

There is a Nigerian proverb that says, "When the soap is dirty, what shall we use in washing our hands".
Alex Obiefuna, Michigan USA

I am sure Mrs. Kibaki has a right to be angry. Let her be human.
Pianapue Early, Richmond, Virginia - USA

In a country where judges wear British style spaniel wigs, the wife of Kenya's leader should have acted like Cherie Blair and wore a perfuctory smile 24/7.
Yohannes, Eritrea

As far as I know Nigeria's constitution has not provided for an office for our President's wife or one of his wives - other than what she is - a wife. However, the first lady has a social role - just as my wife does. She should live an exemplary and lawful life that is worthy of emulation by the younger growing generation.
Chigbu Uchendu, Uturu, Nigeria

Is Africa the only place that you want to know how the first ladies are doing. Would it not be interesting how first ladies are doing in Europe?
a keen observer,

Lucy is suffering for challenging most of the Kenyan men's expectation that a woman is to be seen but not heard
Cathrine Njagi, Birmingham

We, Kenyans are always complaining of noise pollution from the bars and even from the the churches that worship at night.Yet when Lucy Kibaki complains, we say she is a nuisance.What hypocrisy. Lucy is suffering for challenging most of the Kenyan men's expectation that a woman is to be seen but not heard. Lucy is acting not only for herself but for Kenyan women in challenging an oppresive culture.Go on Lucy we are with you.
Cathrine Njagi, Birmingham, UK

Mrs Kibaki's actions in the past week can only be described as outrageous! At her age we expect better judgement from her, not the kind of outbusts and sometimes appaling statements attributed to her. She is a total embarrassment not only to Kenyans but I think, Africans generaly.
George Odhiambo, South Africa

Just because you are the president's wife in any country - in Africa or elsewhere, doesn't mean you are free to bully people. The mentality that we should not "overstretch" our leadership is why politicians are able to continue with their corrupt ways while ordinary citizens struggle. If you expect so little of them and are afraid to "stretch" them, why should they bother working to improve the country. Free and independent press is important in every.
Swindon Branch, New York & Kenya

The elders say when a banana is rotting away, we must not say it is getting ripe. The behaviour of our first lady who is in the role of mother of nation by virtue of her husband's position is a disgrace. Grace and wisdom should be the contribution of this woman to the nation!"Wetin no good, no good!"
Prima, Surrey

An African wife should be elegant disciplined and role model to other up coming women, Lucy should not bulldoze everyone just because she is a presidents wife, there are better diplomatic ways of solving conflicts with our neighbours, she should remember that it is the same press that highlighted their election petitions during the last elections that led to Kibaki being a president, i dont remember voting for Lucy, she should try and attend diplomatic classes and international and public relations. and consult past first ladies like mama ngina kenyatta on how to handle the pressure of being an African presidents wife. I have lost respect for her, and i think that if this is not stress then she needs medical attention and counselling, maybe we dont know the depth of her medical or mental situation, but she needs hel.
Perry Brusotti, Genoa, Italy

I think the role of African first ladies should be minimised,so that they may not be powerful.Because, some of them are seen or viewed as more important than the vice president,which makes them disrespectful,as happened in Kenya.
Setor Awude , Accra, Ghana.

Press freedom should stop where personal attacks begin. Although I support Mrs Kibaki in her efforts to keep her life out of a journalistic mud fight I sincerely believe her reactive behaviour has stooped way beneath her level and reputation as First Lady of Kenya. Who will ever take her seriously again. Moreover, "behind every strong man is a strong woman" - who will respect Mr. Kibaki??
Khady, Senegal

First ladies have a role to play in this unfair world divide. In my country Botswana first ladies have the precedence of bringing development or services to marginalized groups in society like children, people with disabilities and disaster victims. Through their ascribed status they often manage to facilitate and by-pass bureacratic red tape in expediting service delivery to the minorities. In todays competitive world first ladies have positive public role to perform. But Mrs Kibaki still has few lessons to learn.
Thuto Tomeletso, Gaborone, Botswana




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