Kenya's First Couple row over fire

The blame game in the wake of Kenya's deadliest national disaster took a surreal turn yesterday as the President was forced to defend a minister from the wrath of his own wife.

Mwai Kibaki, 77, hurried out a statement in support of his Internal Security head George Saitoti after the minister was savaged by the First Lady, Lucy Kibaki. Kenya is in a week of mourning after two fires in the space of three days left at least 150 people dead. The first was a blaze at a supermarket in Nairobi. The second was an overturned tanker that exploded in the Great Rift Valley while hundreds of scavengers tried to siphon free fuel from the wreck.

"Even the President is angry," a furious Mrs Kibaki said after visiting the site of the tanker tragedy on Monday. "What is the Ministry of Internal Security doing?"

In an outburst on local radio she went on to blame authorities for failing to educate the public over fire hazards.

The previous day the minister had visited the same area and appeared to blame poor Kenyans for bringing the fire on themselves.

Mr Kibaki had to publicly back the humiliated Mr Saitoti. "I wish to reassure my minister... that I have full confidence in him and appreciate his good work," he said.

Mrs Kibaki has in the past burst into broadcast stations to attack journalists and launched a very public row with one of the President's mistresses after the woman was accidentally outed by Mr Kibaki's vice-president.