Will Bill Clinton Kaligani meet his US namesake 14 years later?

Thursday July 19 2012

L-R: President Museveni, Janet Museveni, Hillary and Bill Clinton (carrying baby) during their visit to Wanyange in 1998. COURTESY PHOTOS

Sometime in March 1998, a bevy of security operatives descended upon Wanyange Village, eastern Uganda in Jinja, to prepare for the arrival of very important people. They were particularly interested in the house of a seamstress named Betty Namugosa, who was about to give birth to her fourth child.

The operatives searched her house diligently, analysing every crack on the floor, their dogs toppling household utensils, until they were sure the place was safe.

“They had sniffer dogs that were as big as heifers,” Ms Namugosa recalled recently. “I have never seen dogs so big.”

If the woman was not prepared for the sight of well-fed canines upsetting her bedroom, she was ready to meet the people in whose service the animals were employed.

When Ms Namugosa finally gave birth to a baby boy, just in time for the moment that would bring her considerable fame, and just as the security operation around her house intensified, she knew that her joy would be complete.

“I decided to call him Bill and if it was a girl, I would have named her Hillary,” Ms Namugosa said.


Back then
On the late afternoon of March 24, 1998, camera crews and Wanyange residents watched as US President Bill Clinton held a baby in his arms, his wife Hillary smiling, to create what became one of the most iconic images of his tour of Africa.

It became the picture of an American president holding a poor African child, symbolically speaking, but it was really a picture of Bill Clinton holding Bill Clinton.

The New York Times published this picture on March 25 (the following day), and the caption quoted Mr Clinton as saying: “This baby is my namesake. People should not be written off because they were born or grew up in a poor area.”

Since the visit
A lot has happened in the years since 1998, Mr Clinton is no longer in the White House and his wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is perhaps America’s most powerful woman.

And Uganda’s Bill Clinton is now 14 years old, humble, shy but very brilliant, looking to becoming a surgeon to help the suffering poor who cannot access medication.

“I am happy. I would be happy if he sponsored my education,” said Clinton, now in Senior Two when Daily Monitor visited him at Holy Cross Lake View Secondary School.

“He is a very brilliant boy, but I think the problem is that the mother is poor and he is always out of school due to lack of fees,” said Mr Paul Mukyawe, the director of studies.

“Mama Chilintoni” as her neighbour knows her is a mother of eight, who lost her job about five years ago as a tailor and is selling second hand clothes to shoulder the burden.

Asked whether he gets special treatment because of his name, Kaligani gives an affirmative “no” answer.

Though the family is not aware of Mr Clinton’s visit today, they would be happy to meet him.

Ms Namugosa says after the 1999 letter, she wrote twice to Clinton using the White House address but she has never got any reply.

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