Who You Callin’ Polygamist?!
March 4, 2009 2 Comments
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has enjoyed several favorable notices from the Western press over the course of his political career.
TIME magazine once dubbed him one of the 100 people on Earth most ready to lead, and then-President Bill Clinton prominently name-dropped him in an interview with Peter Jennings as the living person he would most like to meet.
Unfortunately for President Kibaki, his latest notoriety is pretty damn embarrassing.
The Reuters headline says it all:
Polygamy is more or less acceptable in Kenya, but for the Christian convert and family man formerly known by the Christian name “Emilio Stanley,” persistent rumors of a second wife are bad press indeed.
Especially because his (first) wife gets totally loc’d out when these rumors are aired in her presence…
President Kibaki has been dogged by the suspicion that one of his political allies, Mary Wambui, is actually his baby mama and auxiliary squeeze.
As blog Kenya Political notes,
It is not hard to decipher Wambui’s role in the Kibaki administration and the president’s life. It is not a secret that Mary Wambui is no ordinary woman or politician. She enjoys state security at her homes in Nairobi and Nyeri and represents Kibaki in Othaya functions.
The genesis of the latest first family soap opera is former Kabete MP Paul Muite’s reference to Kibaki’s “two wives” during the commemoration of the raid on Standard and KTN.
While Kenyans should give Kibaki the right to decide who he is married to, they cannot wait to for the time the first family takes Muite to court; if only for comical relief. Muite has since reiterated that he stands by his comments on Kibaki’s two wives.
So why the fury and wrath? The most common explanation is that the president does not want to be accused of bigamy, having had a church wedding with [wife] Lucy. Another is the protective natural instinct of a wife and mother out to protect the sanctity of her marriage and her children’s inheritance from the other woman and gold diggers.
It turns out that you do NOT want to step to Kenya’s first lady, Lucy Kibaki.
Say the wrong thing and you get a backhand to the face!!
Kenya’s famously hot-tempered first lady slapped a government official in front of dozens of dignitaries during an independence day event after he introduced her using the name of President Mwai Kibaki’s second – and unacknowledged – wife.
Hundreds of officials, including the president, vice president and diplomats, sat stunned as Lucy Kibaki was introduced as “first lady Mama Lucy Wambui”. Mary Wambui is widely believed to be the president’s second spouse, although his office had repeatedly denied this.
According to the Standard newspaper, Mrs Kibaki immediately rose from her seat on the dais “and briskly walked to the MC, whom she slapped across the face”. Security guards removed the official, who works in the office of the president, and a new master of ceremonies was found.
Cameramen and photographers covering the event were forced to delete their footage of the incident, which threatens to embarrass the president just two weeks before he seeks a second term in a tightly contested general election.
Mrs Kibaki, who is in her late 60s, has used her slap to good effect in the past. In 2005, she was incensed when her neighbour and tenant, the World Bank country director, held a late-night party that kept her awake.
When the Nation media group reported how she had marched into the party and demanded that the music stop, Mrs Kibaki besieged the newsroom in the early hours of the morning to protest at the coverage. She then slapped a Nation cameraman filming her tirade. She was sued for assault, but the attorney general dismissed the case.
Mrs Kibaki is especially touchy on the subject of Wambui, even though polygamy is legally and socially acceptable in Kenya.
During a New Year’s Eve party in 2003, the vice president, Moody Awori, raised a glass to Kibaki as the “second lady”, causing her to walk out of the state banquet. Awori later said it was a slip of the tongue.
The growing whispering campaign about the President’s secret second family finally forced the press-shy Kibaki to announce formally that he is a one-woman man:
The 77-year-old, who has seldom addressed journalists directly since coming to power in 2002, was incensed at versions by some newspapers and politicians that he has a second relationship with a woman called Mary Wambui.
“You know and I know and everybody else knows that I have only one dear wife, Lucy here … but the media keeps repeating about my having another wife or wives,” he said at his State House residence in Nairobi, flanked by his wife.
“I have gotten into this very foul mood after listening to some statement … I want to say quite frankly anyone who is bent on that course will see me in court. And we shall deal with him, no other way whatsoever,” he added, referring to one politician who had spoken about a second wife.
Lucy Kibaki, famous for a volatile temper that once led her to slap a civil servant who mistakenly introduced her as Wambui, warned media she would not tolerate such reports.
“You have been tormenting us. I don’t know what you get out of it,” said, before pointing at a cameraman from the private Kenya Television Network (KTN).
“I nearly came to your studio last night to attack you the way I did the Nation,” she added, referring to a previous incident where she stormed into a newsroom.
The Kibakis said they would sue anyone who discusses the matter publicly.
Here’s the video of this evidently awkward press avail:
Well, obviously with his free-swinging wife about, President Kibaki has every reason in the world to deny his secret booty calls to the Wambui compound.
There’s also some weird controversy involving two Armenian dudes, the Artur brothers, causing a ruckus in Kenya (one blog says they “took Kenya by the storm“) before ultimately getting arrested and deported after holding customs officials at gunpoint. One of the Armenians was getting down with Mary Wambui’s daughter, who claims to be the daughter of President Kibaki. Needless to say, a connection with the Armenian scandal via an illegitimate daughter is not something that the President really wants to be a part of.
Also, there’s the fact that his wife is slapping the shit out of everyone and he surely wants to stay out of the reach of her vengeful palm.
However, as Political Kenya notes, the issue is not just hurt feelings but the more critical matters of succession and inheritance, both financial and political…
One interesting angle to the story is that the fight for Kibaki’s wealth is on. Wealth and inheritance are grave issues and for a wealthy aged man like Kibaki, interested parties try to position themselves early enough. A public declaration of who the probable heirs will be goes along way in securing rights to inheritance from would-be gold diggers. It is not clear to the general public what the Lucy family of four does for a living other than relying on daddy’s wealth and running opaque family businesses.
Another angle to the story is the battle royale expected in 2012 at the Othaya parliamentary seat where Kibaki has been an MP since 1974. A whole generation of leaders have been put on hold as Kibaki idolised Othaya politics. For once Othaya constituents will have a chance to test-drive new leadership material. Othaya constituency will definitely be a hotspot in 2012.
The Kibaki family will not want to fade into oblivion come 2012 and are strategising on how to keep the Kibaki political [clan] reigning. The eldest son, Jimmy Kibaki is being fronted as a heir to the parliamentary seat. There are however doubts that he will make it and a work around is being sought. Jimmy has already started being a guest of honour in many a fund-raising in the area, an area he is not well-known to visit but has to do so for political expediency. On a recent fundraiser he was quoted as saying: “Allow me to speak in English as I neither know Kikuyu or Kiswahili” which left many wondering how he will campaign come 2012. He went ahead to give a donation of Kshs 400,000 from his father and Kshs 60,000 from himself.
Another hurdle for Jimmy Kibaki and the Lucy first family has been the popularity of Mary Wambui as a possible political heir to the Kibaki political seat. During the constitutional debate of 2004-05, it was proposed that the president will not be an MP in the new constitutional dispensation. Othaya constituents toyed with the possibility of having a new MP if the proposal was adopted. Back then, the consensus was that Mary Wambui, was the rightful replacement then. This allegedly sparked a controversy within the first family to the extent that it was alleged Lucy offered to battle it out with Mary for the seat in such an eventuality. It is also alleged that this could have happened if Mary Wambui had gone for the Nyeri Town seat in 2007, the reason she allegedly was made to delay her political ambitions.
Talking to the Othaya constituents, the political tide for Othaya has since turned against the first family and any alleged relations to an extent that none of the first family members and supposed Kitchen cabinet operatives is expected to win a civic seat in the next election. The constituents are unhappy with the way their MP has handled their issues and talked down on them since he became president.
In order to contain the ambitious Narc Activist (now PNU Activist), another proposition will see Othaya split into three with the town area reserved for Jimmy Kibaki, the northern part set for Mary Wambui, who comes from the area, while the southern part set aside for the KTDA Nyeri region chairman and former Medical Supplies chairman Peter Kanyago.
The tricky bit is the impact of a Mary Wambui parliamentary career that has potential to cause more embarassment to the first family. What better ways to forestall such a possibility than to insist on who the members of the first family are?
Although this scandal is simply an amusing trifle to those of us in other countries who are not directly affected by Kenya’s governance, the blog Gukira offers a sobering reproach to President Kibaki and anyone who would rather laugh at the drama than get involved in Kenyan politics for the better:
Daily, I am reminded that Kenyan politicians are not “of” the people and “for” the people.
As political repression continues to increase—an increasingly gagged press, brutalized activists, policemen turned into death-squads—our politicians make vague pronouncements about the future. In response to the UN report on the police death squads, for instance, Martha Karua promised us that plans are in motion. I could only wonder how many of us will be dead by the time those plans unfold.
In what is surely the most disappointing moment of his entire tenure as president, Mwai Kibaki faced the nation to tell us that he has “one wife.”
We are dying and being killed. We are being repressed and oppressed. We cannot even buy books in our bookstores. Our intellectual lives are being stifled. Our social lives circumscribed. And, in a strategy reminiscent of Moi’s time, some of the loudest voices can afford to be loud precisely because we live outside the country.
And Kibaki talks about his intimate life.
We citizens are as culpable in government mismanagement as our public servants. We have let ourselves be de-fanged and disempowered. We have stood by while our fellow citizen-activists are arrested and harassed. We have allowed ourselves to believe that our only option is to whisper and “lay low.” We have allowed ourselves to believe that we can complain, but that we also cannot change the system.
We are citizens. We outnumber the politicians. We even outnumber the police, no matter how much violence they use. And we need to stop letting fear and cowardice rule us.
If Kenya is to change we must change it. No one else will do it for us. And we need to set the timetable, not wait until the politicians tell us it is time for change.
Change begins now. With us.