African Press Freedom Under Stress: Kenya's First Lady vs. the Cameraman and the rest of Kenya

The cameraman who was slapped by Kenya's First Lady a couple weeks ago received another blow when his case against her was blocked today.

Derrick Otieno went to court after the police failed to press charges against Lucy Kibaki as she refused to apologize for her actions. According to the Nairobi magistrate a claim filed by the attorney general said that the case wasn't properly presented.

Mr Otieno had told the BBC's Swahili service that he wanted to take the first lady to court to deter others from assaulting journalists, saying he has been beaten four times during his career.

"I waited for a whole week, hoping for at least an apology from state house - in vain," he said.

The saga started when Mrs Kibaki went to the home of outgoing World Bank director Mukhtar Diop, demanding he turned down the music at a his farewell party. It is reported that she pulled out the electricity from the sound system.

News of her antics were splashed all over the local newspapers. Mrs. Kibuki was so outraged about her making the news that she stormed into the offices of the Daily Nation, Nairobi's top newspaper, and staged a standoff, on World Press Freedom day of all days. Mrs. Kibuki went into the offices to demand that the reporter who wrote the story about her be arrested. She accused the paper of dragging her good name in the mud.

In the five hours she was there, she seized reporters' notebooks, tape recorders and mobile phones, and slapped Mr Otieno when he refused to stop filming her.

Mrs. Kibuki is certainly no stranger to such outbursts. In the three years she has been first lady has left her once adoring fans appalled and wondering loud about the leadership ability of her husband, who is now seen to have failed to keep his own house in order. This latest bout couldn't have happen at a worst time; Kenya is trying to rebuild its relationship with the World Bank.

She has launched verbal complaints at journalists, diplomats and government officials she believes has treated her as less than favorable. She is reported to have shut down a bar inside state house that was a watering hole for ministers and close allies of the president. Apparently ministers and president's advisers have routinely been ordered out of the state house at her advice.

While Mrs. Kibuki is known for being a a fierce anti-AIDS campaigner and advocate against female genital mutilation, her embarassing outbursts overshadow all these good deeds.


At Friday, May 20, 2005 8:31:00 AM, Anonymous Shelly in San Fran said...

You are correct, as always thalia. The first lady's unfortunate outbursts overshadow her good deeds. But she is unlike wives of other african heads of state because they stay out of the limelight.


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