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Kenya’s first lady, Lucy Kibaki, known for her controversies and a tendency to ‘run’ her husband’s administration with an iron fist, is conspicuously missing in action.
Lucy Kibaki has not been seen in public for the last two years.
In the last two months, both the mainstream media and the social media scene have been buzzing with rumors of the first lady’s possible illness that the government is keeping secret.
The Presidential Press Service (PPS), which handles all matters concerning the first family, maintains that the first lady is “fine” and “going about her roles privately.”
The Star Newspaper, a local daily, recently ran a headline asking questions about the whereabouts of Lucy Kibaki. PPS was quick to respond and sent a strong statement to newsrooms in Kenya.
The statement, said to be written by first lady Lucy Kibaki herself, moved to dispel fears and debates in social media about an alleged report that Kibaki was recuperating in a private Nairobi Hospital.
The Karen hospital, owned by the president’s private doctor, Dr. Dan Gikonyo, also sent statements denying that the first lady was ever admitted there.
The PPS statement went on to list the number of projects the first lady was engaged in, including her role in the Organization of Africa First Ladies against HIV/AIDS, (OAFLA).
“In her operations at OAFLA, now and then and when she deems it fit, she has communicated to the media. An example is during the International Women’s Day last month when she urged Kenyan women to overcome unhelpful cultural barriers and the fear of loans so as to play their rightful role in national development,” the statement said.
Lucy Kibaki is the chairperson of the OAFLA Kenyan chapter and PPS insists that she has been participating in activities that do not necessarily require involving the press.
But the Kenyan first lady has been known to have a love-hate relationship with the Kenyan media.
In 2005, she stormed the newsroom of a reputable media house and unleashed her wrath on late night reporters busy meeting deadlines. Kibaki was very confrontational and injured a photojournalist in the commotion.
The first lady also stunned journalists at a presidential function in late 2007, when she slapped the master of ceremony when he goofed and referred to her as Lucy Wambui. Her security detail detained photojournalists and erased photographs of the incidents.
Although her abrupt, edgy and ‘shoots straight from the hip’ characteristics have bewildered them, Kenyans have nonetheless come to love their first lady for her robust approach to national issues and her nonconformity to protocol.
At one time Kibaki publicly criticized a state minister and her trusted political ally, Prof. George Saitoti, and asked for his sacking when he made statements that she did not agree with. The first lady was infuriated when Saitoti said the tragic Sachangwan oil tank fire that killed 120 people should serve as a lesson to people who rush to scoop oil from grounded tankers.
Lucy Kibaki’s last public appearance was in August 2010 during a national ceremony for the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution. As such, her now famous lively and energetic jig during the ceremony, where she moved the crowd by joining in on a popular song, is still subject of fond debate in a country not famous for its fun-loving public figures.
The state house has remained tight-lipped after the last statement PPS sent to newsrooms on Oct 2, 2012.
By Halima Salat.