And now for some East African entertainment:
On Tuesday, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya called a press conference with his First Lady by his side to announce that he had no other wife, bar her. Back in 2007 the First Lady, Mrs Lucy Kibaki, had slapped an MC who accidentally introduced her as ‘Lucy Wambui’ (- Wambui, being the name of the woman long speculated to be President Kibaki’s second wife since 1972 and mother of a daughter by him).
The disturbing dimension of this press conference was of course the comment credited to the First Lady during the ill-advised questions that the President took after making his statement. ‘You have been tormenting us.’ she raged at staff of the Kenyan Television Network, ‘I don’t know what you want. I nearly came to your studio last night to attack you like I did with Nation.’ This was a dangerous admission for a woman to make, with the Kenyan Police Commissioner sitting beside her, but then she was not just any woman. Lucy Kibaki had of course, earlier visited the offices of the Nation newspapers in the course of an ‘attack’ provoked by their disrepectful news coverage.
Mrs. Lucy Kibaki should realise that a hot temper is not the preserve of presidential spouses. The First Lady of Kenya is an elderly woman. She does not exactly have the left jab of Britain’s John Prescott, who punched an egg-thrower back in 2001. Some men, assaulted by an unexpected uppercut, may respond instinctually, creating headlines (and broken noses) that would not be as easily sorted as the First Lady’s 2007 slap. I urge on her the personal and presidential restraint that President Bush showed to the Iraqi shoe-thrower (and other presidents, doubtlessly, show in their bedrooms). She might be well advised to explore other means (and there are ample!) of cowing MCs and whipping news publishers into line. Publicity is usually a thorny issue for glass house dwellers, but a general rule of thumb is that a Presidential press conference to deny a rumour is usually the best way to spread it. Statements like “I want to make it clear that I have only one dear wife Lucy” (emphasis mine) could be capable of strange interpretations.
Far be it for anyone to instruct a man on the running of his family. The President of Kenya appears to have his own pretty well in hand. Now, to return to running the country…