The memorable denial by President Kibaki that he is polygamous only fuelled speculation over Mary Wambui and her obviously powerful connections
The “activist” tag was preceded by “Wambui wa Kanu” due to her involvement in the party’s Othaya branch. Wambui, who has publicly declared her intention to succeed Mwai Kibaki as the next Othaya MP, has indeed led a very intriguing life for the last 10 years.
Shortly after President Kibaki won the presidency after the 2002 General Elections, Wambui granted The Standard newspaper a rare interview in which she candidly explained her relations with the President and the First Family.
On the walls of her house at Ring Road in Nyeri town were pictures of her together with members of the First Family. In one such picture she posed with the official First Lady, Lucy Kibaki, in what Wambui described as a shopping trip in London.
That Wambui and Kibaki were at some point in their lives intimate has never been in doubt, even to commoners in Nyeri, recalling it was Wambui, not Lucy, who drove Kibaki’s campaigns there, especially when he was too busy criss-crossing the country in search of presidential votes to campaign at home.
During the Kibaki presidency’s formative days, Wambui’s house in Nyeri was guarded by paramilitary police, and her vehicle always trailed by a convoy of unmarked vehicles.
In her compound, where a single-storey building stood, were flag poles, which the police then explained were meant for the national and presidential flags.
The hitherto cozy relationship between Wambui and her nemesis Lucy came to a head in 2003, after the former invited the then Health Minister Charity Ngilu to officiate at a function in Othaya District Hospital. Lucy was unhappy with the media attention Wambui was getting, and her insistence that she too was Kibaki’s wife; this rubbed salt to injury.
Although Wambui has since faded into the background of the First Family’s life, she has continued causing ripples with her business dealings, which have earned her a reputation in Kenya and beyond.
She is reputed to have invested heavily in real estate especially in Nairobi where some of her properties are reportedly leased out to police and other security agents.
According to former American envoy Micheal Bellamy, whose official communique was intercepted by whistle-blower website Wikileaks, Wambui has been at the centre of a drug trafficking racket, and was central to the arrival of two Armenian mercenaries known as the Artur brothers, and who were involved in the raid of The Standard in March 2004.
According to the leaked communication between Bellamy and Washington, the mercenaries were brought in to counter an attempt by the then Ethics and Governance PS John Githongo to expose corruption which was taking place at State House.
The Artur brothers were according to Bellamy somehow linked to the Sh6.4 billion cocaine haul which is believed to have been smuggled into the country by the Ibrahim Akasha family in January 2004.
Philip Murgor who was then Deputy Public Prosecutor and had been involved in the cocaine investigations but was sacked in 2005, allegedly told Bellamy that the mercenaries had been brought to Kenya at the instigation of Mary Wambui.
The Bellamy cables further alleged that the mercenaries were brought to Kenya by Wambui, after a trip to Dubai in December of 2003 where she had allegedly been accompanied by Kamlesh Pattni, the mastermind of one of Kenya’s biggest financial scam, the Goldenberg.
During the Dubai trip, Wambui, who is fabulously rich, is estimated to have spent $600,000 (Sh50m) there. Once the mercenaries landed in Nairobi, they caused a public spectacle as they held lavish parties where Wambui’s daughter, Winnie, featured prominently and even announced that she would marry one of the mercenaries.
The mercenaries drove vehicles with GK registration and were always armed. They caused a scene at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport when they flashed guns and declined to be searched. The mercenaries initially stayed at the Pattni-owned Grand Regency Hotel but when they were exposed by the media, they relocated.
During their stay at Grand Regency Hotel, the Bellamy cables indicates that Pattni had wired the presidential room where two were staying and secretly filmed all guests who called on them, including Wambui, and the then Director of Criminal Investigations Department John Kamau.
Wambui was adversely mentioned in the report by the Joint Sessions of the Departmental Committees on Administration, National Security and Local Authorities and Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs that was finally adopted in late 2010.
The report linked her to the controversial activities of the Armenian mercenaries during their stay in Kenya in 2006, saying she had been seen in public using the vehicle in which two officers attached to the PEU (Presidential Escort Unit) were carjacked.
“It is the view of the committee that there is a connection between Mary Wambui, the two PEU and the alleged carjacking of the two officers. The committee is convinced that the carjacking incident was stage-managed to give the Artur brothers (the opportunity) to use the firearms from the PEU,” the report reads.
In 2006 President Kibaki appointed a commission of inquiry chaired by former Police Commissioner Shedrach Kiruki but it was widely discredited as a ploy to derail the parliamentary probe.
The Government eventually deported the Artur brothers to Dubai on June 10, 2006. The parliamentary probe report was tabled in Parliament in September, 2007 but it was not adopted until Gitobu Imanyara moved a motion.
Wambui’s image appears to hypnotise people. The country was treated to rare drama in December 2007 after the First Lady slapped a master of ceremony during an end of year party after she was mistakenly referred to as ‘Lucy Wambui’.
A former State House Comptroller, Matere Keriri, a long time friend and close confidant of the president lost his job at State House after Lucy learnt that he had allowed Wambui to access the State House.
Earlier, during a New Year’s Eve party in 2003, then Vice President Moody Awori tasted the First Lady’s wrath after he raised a glass and referred to Lucy as the “Second Lady”, causing her to walk out of the State banquet. Awori later said it was a slip of the tongue.
President Kibaki is said to have known Wambui for 30 years and is said to have married her in a traditional ceremony. Wambui’s eldest daughter Winnie Wangui refers to President Kibaki as her father.
In a recent interview with the Sunday Nation, Wambui brushed off accusations that she has links with drug dealers.
Wambui, commonly known as Mama Winnie after her eldest daughter, said she has five children but did not elaborate who the other four are. “I’m someone’s wife, I have five children and six grandchildren,” she said.
Wambui is one of the few people who have, on more than one occasion forced the president to issue press statements denying that he has any other spouse except Lucy. The President also clarified to the public that he has only one family.
Her marital status aside, Wambui has trained her eyes on Othaya parliamentary seat, which the president’s son Jimmy Kibaki is also eying, although it remains to be seen whether the constituents will replace their London-trained economist MP and President with a primary school dropout whose source of wealth is tainted with claims of corruption and drug trafficking.