Kenya's volatile first lady runs amok in Nairobi

Meera Selva
Thursday 09 August 2012 04:09

Kenya's volatile first lady Lucy Kibaki went on a series of night-time rampages through Nairobi over the weekend, attacking diplomats, journalists and policemen she believes have not treated her with sufficient respect.

She first ran amok when she stormed into the house of the World Bank's country director Makhtar Diop in a tracksuit at midnight on Friday and demanded he turn his music down at a private party to mark the end of his posting in Kenya.

One party guest said: "Makhtar Diop was playing bass guitar on the stage when Lucy came in and demanded they stop the music. They stopped straight away but she then tried to disconnect the equipment. She was spoiling for a fight and she wanted to make trouble."

Mrs Kibaki's children, who were at the party, failed to pacify her, and she returned to the house, which is next door to the Kibakis' private home, twice more in the early hours of Saturday to insult more guests.

Guests say Mr Diop remained calm throughout most of her outbursts, but lost his temper when she shouted: "You must have had a bad mother to do something like this."

Insulting one's mother is unacceptable in most African cultures, and the Senegalese Mr Diop had to be physically restrained from retaliating.

The following evening, Mrs Kibaki went to the local police station in shorts - unconventional wear for stout, middle-aged African women - and demanded that Mr Diop and his guests be arrested for disturbing the peace.

Kenya is trying to rebuild good relations with the World Bank, which had criticised the country's widespread corruption, and on Monday, all Kenyan newspapers reported that Mrs Kibaki's behaviour had embarrassed the country.

The negative press coverage only infuriated Mrs Kibaki further, and on Monday night, she walked 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 a cameraman who was filming her and refused to leave the offices until 5.30am yesterday.

In one of her many meandering speeches, she said: "They even reported that I went to the police station wearing shorts. What is wrong with the first lady wearing shorts? Yes, I was wearing shorts. I also wear skirts, and bikinis when I am swimming."

Mrs Kibaki was already well known in Kenya for her hot temper - most of her ire in the past has been directed at politicians and journalists who acknowledge the fact that her husband has a second wife, Mary Wambui, something that is legal and socially acceptable in Kenya. In 2003, she flounced out of a New Year's Eve party after Moodi Awori, the Vice-president, referred to her as a "second lady," which she interpreted as an insult.

Mrs Kibaki's latest bad temper is thought to be provoked by the fact that Ms Wambui stepped into the public eye last week when she donated some medical equipment to a hospital.

Mrs Kibaki's antics have provided government critics with the perfect ammunition with which to attack the President - they argue that the septuagenarian Mwai Kibaki is unable to run the country if he is unable to control his own family.

MP Reuben Ndolo, who was recently arrested for singing a song making fun of Mrs Kibaki, told The Standard newspaper: "It is high time the head of state came out and defined the first lady's jobs. Why should the first lady wake up in the night in a pyjama and go to the World Bank chief's house to stop his party from playing music?"

Mr Kibaki, who came to power in December 2003, lacks the personal charisma and common touch of his predecessor Daniel Arap Moi. He has been dogged by ill health, and many Kenyans believe he allows his wife to make too many personal and political decisions for him.

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