Death Anniversary: Remembering Mama Lucy Kibaki
By Killiad Msafiri | April 26th 2020
I never bothered to study the
history of Kenya’s second First Lady until I sat down to do this story. An
interesting fact I soon found out is that we share the same birth month and
day. This iron lady was born Lucy Muthoni Kagai on January 13 in 1936 in Mukurwe-ini,
She was born of Rose Nyachomba and
father John Kagai who was a pastor of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in
Nyeri’s Muhito Parish. Ostensibly a bright student, Mama Lucy studied at
Alliance Girls High School from where she would embark to a teaching career.
The young Lucy would teach at
Kamwenja Teachers’ College before being transferred to Kambui College (now
Kambui Girls) where she would meet a budding KANU politician and former
Makerere University lecturer, Mwai Kibaki. The rest as they say, is history.
Mama Lucy- the tough, loving homemaker
Mama Lucy Kibaki as she was
respectfully called exemplified in many ways a typical African mother. While ‘mama’
is a common African name for mother, it is more than just that. Mama is also a
title that distinguishes honorable women in a society.
Indeed the motherly Lucy Kibaki was
in symbolic terms a mother to our nation or like the Swahili translation would
go ‘Mama Taifa’ as the country’s First Lady. Yet she was not just the president’s
wife, Lucy was also the mother of their four children and a homemaker- a duty
she played so well which is where we start from.
In 2013, Ida Odinga, the wife of
former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, when asked about Mama Lucy once said that
she viewed her “as a very strong and nice woman”.
“It just happened that we didn’t
interact a lot. But she is somebody I admire for her strength because being
where she is not easy. I like her and I have no problem with her.” She said.
As a chicken would protect her
chicks, so did Mama Lucy do to her family. Just months into President Mwai
Kibaki’s first term, the First Lady reportedly shut down a bar inside State
House where ministers and close allies of the president would enjoy drinks with
Agreeably, this was an indirect
message to the high ranking government officials that she wanted the president
fully focused on the huge task of leading a nation. She believed she had the
duty to protect the president’s image. At the time, President Kibaki was still
nursing a leg injury he got in an accident during presidential campaigns.
One day in January 2003, President
Mwai Kibaki called a press conference from State House to address the nation.
This was nothing out of the ordinary. Beside him was a stone faced First Lady
following the proceeding. This also was not abnormal.
The only strange thing about it was
the message he conveyed to the nation, moving his right hand toward her he
said, “this is my wife Lucy and I want to state something that I have wanted
you to hold dear and permanently in your heart.” The president went on to
declare that “I am married and have only one wife and everyone in Kenya knows
It was not however strange that
President Kibaki would call the attention of an entire nation to “make it
clear” that he only had one wife- Lucy Muthoni Kibaki. Barely a month before
this odd address, one Ms. Mary Wambui who later succeeded the president as the
Othaya Member of Parliament in 2013 had claimed to be Kibaki’s wife.
Whose idea was it to call such a
press conference? Well, your guess is as good as mine. What a way to mark one’s
Now to her infamous altercation
with former World Bank country director Makhtar Diop in 2005. The First Lady
stormed his residence late at night to demand that loud music be turned down.
The outgoing director was throwing
a farewell party next to the Kibaki’s private residence in Muthaiga to mark the
end of his tenure in the country when Mama Lucy disrupted the celebrations. She
reportedly tried to disconnect power cables as musicians Mercy Myra, Eric
Wainaina and Suzanne Kibukosya entertained guests.
A story of the altercation written in
the Daily Nation birthed controversy to another, the issues arising from it
receiving wide media coverage in the country for months to follow. All this
started because a mother just wanted peace and calm for her family at night.
Mama Lucy was so dedicated to
keeping family life private that she discouraged her children from pursuing
political careers, to her, family always came first. When she died in 2016 her four
children and husband said their last goodbyes as she lay on her hospital bed at Bupa Cromwell Hospital in London.
The slapping Lucy
As First Lady, Lucy accompanied the
president in almost all of his local tours as head of state. When the president
flew back into the country from international duties, she would always be at
the airport to welcome him back. Her hands shook great men and women from home
But when her hands were not shaking
other hands, they were slapping someone in public. They knew no status or
designation, her hands were swift to put you in your place or knock you out of
it. Getting into her bad books was something you really didn’t want in your
Former State House Comptroller
Matere Keriri knew this too well. Keriri first fell out with Mama Lucy when
they reportedly disagreed over the management of the president’s diary during
the First Family’s vacation at the Coast in December 2003.
Infuriated, the First Lady snubbed
the New Year celebrations. A few days later in January when the president was
returning from his two-week vacation at the Coast, Mama Lucy refused to shake
Keriri’s hand, publicly embarrassing him.
Matere Keriri’s tenure as State
House Comptroller did not last long. While initial reports claimed he was
kicked out of this powerful position, Keriri would years later say he was
forced to resign. Either way, the fierce Lucy had the last laugh.
Another man to find his face on the
receiving end of the president’s wife anger was ex-KTN journalist Clifford
Derrick. The cameraman was pounced on by a furious Lucy Kibaki after she
spotted him filming part of her late night siege of Nation Media Group’s
offices in Nairobi.
The First Lady had stormed the
newsroom to protest the coverage of her altercation with former World Bank
country director Makhtar Diop. “What are
you doing? Are you taking pictures? Stop.” Derrick said in an interview in
2005. “Then she slapped me, grabbed me, and we started to struggle as she
wanted to take my camera.”
Former Imenti Central MP and
renowned lawyer Gitobu Imanyara would lead a private prosecution against Mama
Lucy in a case of abuse of office reported by the roughed up journalist
Even though then Director of Public
Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko terminated the prosecution, the First Lady
apparently never forgave Imanyara for instituting proceedings against her. She
would later get back at him in what would be his last visit as MP to State
The lawyer claimed that the
president’s wife assaulted him when he and other legislators were invited to
State House for a meeting with the president. “Mama Lucy was in pyjamas and not
wearing any shoes. She immediately started throwing punches at me shouting
“nobody goes here without my permission,” Imanyara said.
Although the president apologized
for the confrontation, Imanyara would not be satisfied until the matter was
settled by the Njuri Ncheke (Meru council of elders) who ordered Kibaki to pay
him a he-goat for the dispute.
During Jamhuri Day celebrations in
2007, the First Lady was reported to have slapped a Master of Ceremony for
mistakenly calling her Lucy Wambui at a State House dinner.
One of Mama Lucy’s memorable moments in public was when she stood to dance to Emmy Kosgey’s Taunet Nelel during the promulgation of the Constitution in August 2010. She will also be fondly remembered for starting the State House choir which entertained guests during important events.
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