The East African Standard Monday May 9, 2005
By Imre Loeffler
To be the wife of the president is difficult.
Whatever the matrimonial dynamics may be, when
the husband is sworn in, the wifeís
responsibilities increase even if they do not
change in character.
The principal responsibility of the wife is to
reciprocate in love and care, to look after the
husband, comfort him, shelter him, support him,
be concerned about his happiness and health, and
try to retain some measure of privacy for him and
to look after his house and his guests.
All wives of presidents who are worth their salt
will clash with the courtiers and the counsellors
and other hangers on, the coterie assembled
around their husbands, because they will want to
protect the man from the unreasonable demands of
the court and the politicians, who always will
want the head of state to support, by his
presence, causes which will advance their own
career, power and standing.
Invariably, the wives of presidents will get
involved in the nitty-gritty of personal politics
and will want to have a say in the composition of
Assumptions to the contrary, the courts have not
died out with the appearance of democracies.
Contemporary presidents have courts consisting of
wives, mistresses, ministers, officials and
assorted individuals of ill-defined
What courtiers had and have in common from
ancient China to the White House, from imperial
Rome and the Kremlin and from the court of St
James to the State House in Kenya is that they
are courtiers to enhance their own power and
advance their own interests over those of the
ruler and the state.
In the beginning this is what Lucy Kibaki has
done. She tries to protect her husband, valiantly
if not very discreetly. Considering how unwell
her husband has been, her passion is
Thereafter she began to venture in to high
politics. She may well have been misused to fly
kites for the kitchen cabinet or she may just
have become a little too venturesome for her own
By this time adulation had began and there were
editorial suggesting that the "First Ladyís
position" should be institutionalised.
She was burdened with more and more
responsibilities and she became the centre of
attention and the person to grovel before. The
old custom of groveling before the chiefs has
been continued during the colonial times, when
playing toady to the Governor and his wife was
developed to a high art only to spill over into
Mama Ngina was more interested in business than
in glory. There was no First Lady during the Moi
years. Lucy Kibaki was lionised and she
apparently began to believe that she is above her
countrymen, poor thing.
Also it is the media who attached "excellency" to
her name. This word has no place in the 21st
Century. It is an anachronism and it is
meaningless, it should be discarded altogether.
Just because the governors and their wives were
addressed and referred to thus, shall the
republic perpetuate this preposterous custom?
There are many in Kenya who truly excel: in
schools, in farming, in tending cattle, in the
various industries in the professions even some
in the Civil Service.
Due to the vagaries of Kenya history among the
inhabitants of State House there was never anyone
particularly excellent, no man and no woman.
However, the most worrisome aspect of the
invasion of the Nation Centre by Lucy Kibaki is
the behaviour of the police.
At least two senior police officers have
accompanied the wife of the President whilst she
trespassed, created a public nuisance, committed
breach of peace, abused and intimidated people,
"confiscated" mobile phones and cameras and
assaulted a cameraman.
If an "ordinary" Kenyan would have behaved in
this manner she or he would have been arrested,
would have been bundled away, put in an already
full cell for the night, if resisting, would have
been beaten and on the next day would have been
taken to court, arraigned for the multifarious
That the two senior police men, one of them PPO
King'ori Mwangi, were not happy with the episode
they witnessed apparently for the duration of
some five hours, is obvious. The pictures of the
two show faces of doubt, annoyance and
So why did they not do their duty, restore peace,
explain to Lucy Kibaki the law, take her away, or
They did not, because they were afraid. They were
afraid of the consequences, for they grew up in a
society in which the mighty are above the law, in
a society in which even just to remind the mighty
of the law may have dire consequences for those
whose duty is to do so.
In all probability those policemen made
themselves guilty of dereliction of duty as well
as, by association, in invading the premises. One
looks forward with interest whether they will be
subject to disciplinary procedures.
Whether Lucy Kibaki herself should appear in
court to answer for her behaviour is different
matter. It could be that the unfortunate woman
suffers from delusions of grandeur, or that she
is maladjusted. It could also be that she had a
withdrawal problem. Yet it could also be that she
is just a simple lady whom fate has thrust into a
position with which she is unable to cope. If so,
this would be unfortunate.
Whatever the circumstances, Lucy Kibaki deserves
compassion, she is ill suited to the role she
tries to assume. The wife of the President may
not care for the interests of the State but, if
she is a good wife, she will certainly fight in
the interest of her husband.
How well she can do that will depend on her
intelligence, charm, tact and talent and history
is full of examples of great, admired and
accomplished queens and of wives of presidents as
well as of awful witches, mistress of intrigue,
quarrelsome princesses, incompetent housewives
and also of sluts and drunkards.
Lucy Kibakiís present spate of difficulties began
when her tenant and neighbour apparently
infringed upon her and the other neighboursí
rights, creating a disturbance by means of
amplifiers, blaring music and songs into the
Muthaiga night. Loudness, amplified loudness in
particular, is invasive and may be unlawful,
whether it is made for the glory of the Lord and
Allah, whether it is sallying forth from the lips
of a politician, or it represents merriment.
Loud music in the night is certainly not
permitted whether in Muthaiga or in Korogocho.
The poor people in Korogocho suffer form
unwanted, amplified noise much more than Muthaiga
residents, because the people of Korogocho do not
know their rights and even if they did, no one
would help, them for the policemen are likely to
be partial to the noisemaker: amplified loudness
signifies power and wealth.
Lucy Kibaki could have called the police on that
fateful Muthaiga night and it would have been the
job of the police to advise the noisemaker,
however prominent, that his loud party is a
Would she have complained to the police, it is
very likely that the police would have silenced
the big man responsible, because, on balance, the
complainer would have been regarded the mightier
and because the other party was leaving the
But no, one understands, Lucy Kibaki chose to be
more pro-active: she took the matter in her own
hands and, as so often before, she behaved
In discussing the escalating nature of Lucy
Kibakiís unfortunate behaviour, the media would
be well advised to do a bit of soul searching.
The media are responsible for the entire "First
lady" craze. The American press invented the
designation and they use the expression in an
The First Lady hysteria is a local phenomenon
engendered by the media who use the term as it
were an epithet, an attribute, a significant
appellation, whereas all it means if that the
lady happens to be the wife of the man who was