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Curtain falls on Britains first lady PM

By Moses Michira and agencies

Nairobi, Kenya: Former British Prime Minister popularly referred to as the ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher died Monday at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke, her spokesperson Lord Bell reported.

Baroness Thatcher, Britain’s only female leader immortalised in Kenya, ‘died peacefully following a stroke’ according to her family.

“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning,” read a statement from Lord Bell.

Baroness Thatcher is often cited as the most influential leader of Britain, where she served as Prime Minister between 1976 and 1990; a record three consecutive terms.


In Kenya, Baroness Thatcher’s life is immortalised by the library that her government helped build at Moi University in Eldoret that was completed in 1992 at a cost of £7 million (now worth about Sh1 billion).

The state-of-the-art building was named the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Library and it covers an area of 15,000m2, accommodates 600,000 volumes and provides seating for 2,500 readers.

Baroness Thatcher quipped in her speech on January 5, 1988, while addressing the then President Daniel Moi, that the British were relative newcomers to the World compared to Kenyans owing to the archeological evidence.

“In Kenya, is found the longest and most complete record of Man’s cultural development of any country in the world, with the earliest remains dating back some twenty million years. That makes us relative newcomers!” she said.

Baroness Thatcher went on, “But we have, of course, been closely involved with your more recent history and we are delighted that we still have today such very extensive links with Kenya through investment, through trade and through the growing numbers of our people who come to visit Kenya on holiday.”

Her speech was concocted with light notes and several Swahili phrases and was delivered at State House over a State dinner hosted in her honour by President Moi.  

“Mr President, you have a saying here: Kusikia si kuona (To hear is not to see). I have heard much of Kenya; now I have come to see and to learn. I felt that I should come and see for myself more of the tremendous efforts on economic development that are going on in Kenya and in Africa and your invitation, Mr President, provided the opportunity,” she said.

The use of Kiswahili phrases endeared her to the ministers and top public servants at the State dinner party and she was heavily applauded throughout her speech, according to archived records.

“You have a Kiswahili saying, I believe, Akili ni mali (wits are wealth). Perhaps we should update this to: Elimu ni mali (Education is wealth),” said Thatcher as she went on with her speech, in recognising reforms in Kenya’s educational system championed by President Moi. 

A day after the State banquet, Thatcher visited several development projects around Rift Valley Province where as a sign of humility and friendliness, shook hands with most of the women she met.

In one instance at Isinya in Kajiado, Baroness Thatcher was adorned with a personalised beaded Maasai necklace, given to her by a leader of a women’s group she had visited.


Wahome Mutahi’s SATIRE

Thatcher is quoted to have said while on the visit: “In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.”

Thatcher prominently featured in the works of Kenya’s political satire writer, the late Wahome Mutahi, whose alter ego ‘Whispers’ was her husband, ‘Whispers Junior’ and ‘The Investment’ as son and daughter respectively.

Mutahi’s column depicted Thatcher as a tough woman, in the same light World leaders viewed the former British PM who was nicknamed ‘The Iron Lady’ over her stand against the Soviet Union that was later to disintegrate to several countries in Eastern Europe.

Before her tenure as the British Prime Minister, Thatcher worked as a research chemist and later trained as a lawyer.

She was elected to parliament in 1959 and was elected Prime Minister in May 1979, which she relinquished in 1990. She retired as a Member of Parliament in 1992.

Her leadership cracked down on crimes, imposed tax breaks. Thatcher has suffered several strokes in the last decade that resulted in temporary memory loss.

In 2009, there were false rumours of her death that nearly caused a diplomatic spat between Canada and Britain.



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