"Starting a family"

In 1974, Mbabazi and Jacqueline moved to their one bedroomed Kitante Courts cottage. It was number 13 (pictured above) and stood where present day Ministry of Health stands. The cottages had been designed for colonial civil servants who needed a place to live whenever they came to Kampala from their upcountry postings. The structures gave an impression of total luxury to the Mbabazi’s coming from the village. Kitante courts was also in close proximity to the “Whites only” colonial hospital that was situated where the Hilton Hotel stands today. The other well-known residents at the courts were Justice Patrick Tabaro, Justice Bart Katureebe and Elly Karuhanga.

The combined living out allowances for non residents from their respective university halls was one thousand seven hundred shillings, an amount that just covered the rent and almost nothing else. The Mbabazis had a baby on the way and on the evening of March 28th Jacqueline’s labour pains began. In those days there were only two private hospitals in Uganda: Mengo and Rubaga. The rest were government hospitals, so Mbabazi took his wife to the nearest one, which was Mengo hospital.

His firstborn thus made an entry into the world in a general ward at Mengo Hospital. In those days, men were not allowed to enter the maternity ward, probably because they were at the very least ten women giving birth at the same time. After situating Jacqueline, the nurses sent him away with a warning that labour would take at least seven hours or longer for a first child. At loose ends, Mbabazi decided to contact his relative Jack Twine who lived in Kampala and asked him if he could give him company during the wait.

The duo proceeded to wait it out at a local bar in Mengo. Twine was always an interesting person to be around. He owned a number of sports cars and had done well as a businessman. One was always certain of having a good time with Twine. Mbabazi was anxious about the safety of his wife and child. The two men had a lot of catching up to do and engaged in animated conversation until the wee hours of the morning. Eventually, it felt like it was not sustainable to sit and wait from a bar so they parted ways and decided to check back at the hospital in the morning for some news.

Very early on the morning of the 29th Mbabazi went back to the hospital with high expectations. He found that Jacqueline had given birth to a baby girl a little after midnight. Twine also visited Jacqueline and found an excited new father there. Twine’s gift to the new parents was to pay all the hospital bills.

As a new father, Mbabazi was clueless about looking after a new mother so that first day of baby’s arrival, he arrived at the hospital empty handed. To remedy the situation, he quickly went to the canteen to get her something to eat. The first born brought joy into their lives. When Mbabazi looked at her for the first time, he was struck with total amazement. She weighed in at 3.6 kilograms at birth and was very pretty. He thought to immediately name her after his maternal grandmother Ruth Ndataga. His mother had implored all her children to at least name one of their children after her mother.

When Mbabazi suggested the name to Jacqueline, she disagreed. She had already zeroed in on a name for her, they could settle for the R. Mbabazi agreed thus Rachel acquired her name. Mbabazi who was Marxist then felt that it would not be right if he did not recognize his political orientation so he gave her the name Che in remembrance of Che Guevara. Mbabazi’s father Kezekiah Bagwowabo who used to name his children after specific happenings in his life thought that the best traditional name for her was Kiconco. She was a gift and they all felt that way about her. So she took on the names Rachel “Che” Kiconco.”

Rachel was a quiet and peaceful child during the day when Mbabazi was allowed in the ward to see his family so he expected that being a father to her was going to be an easy job. When they got home, it was another matter. Rachel had the habit of crying incessantly from 10:00 pm. Mbabazi knew that this was the signal that it was his turn to take care of baby.

In those days it was the norm for visitors to come and visit a newborn. The guests would leave a gift of some money for the baby, so if a visitor gave the family five shillings, it was sufficient for them to buy several tins of milk as well as food for the house. Rachel thus became a gift because whatever she got was enough to feed the family.

Mbabazi’s sister Dinah thought that raising a child in Kampala without the support of the extended family was going to be difficult, so she sent the couple a young girl who she said would help them with babysitting and housekeeping. Her name was Kengyeyo and she came from Bugongi, Kabale. This young girl was impossible and could never take instruction. Every time Mbabazi attempted to instruct on how to look after the child, she would quarrel. Just the mere mention of her name would send her into a quarrelling mood. Any request to prepare milk led to a quarrel, just as would the request to assist Jacqueline with cooking or cleaning. It got to a point where all Kengyeyo ever did was quarrel. Mbabazi therefore took a decision to send her back to Dinah.

This time both his sisters, Phoebe and Rhoda, decided to assist the young couple by sending their daughters to live with them. Apart from family support, Mbabazi’s friends also proved to be invaluable. Bart Katureebe who had graduated the year before him and also lived in Kitante Courts loved to babysit Rachel. Bart would always check on her after work and so it came as no surprise that the two developed a very strong bond. Rachel’s face always lit up with a smile when Bart came to visit. He had a way of calming her when she was crying so he became the most welcome guest at the Mbabazi cottage.

Life was so much better with his nieces in the house, but this meant that Mbabazi had more mouths to feed. Providentially, the month Rachel was born was the same one in which he sat for his second year exams and he passed. He would be proceeding to third year. He was working with John Katende and this extra earning helped him cater to these extra costs.

The second born arrived on the 30th June 1975. She was born in Mulago maternity ward which was on the fifth floor. Mbabazi never had to pay a shilling for the delivery since this was a government hospital. A very chubby child, she weighed in at 4.6 kilograms. Lenina Patricia Kemigisha was named after revolutionary fighter Lenin and since Mbabazi was not really interested in using his foreign name, he passed it on to her thus she became Patricia. Kezekiah named her Kemigisha (meaning the one with blessings) because when she was born her eyes would follow you around wherever you went. Mbabazi does not recall her crying except of course when his friend Otafiire Busingye would pay the family a visit. Then she was inconsolable. Food was never her problem, she just loved to eat.

On March 28th, 1977, Mao Andrew Kamugasha was also born at Mulago. Mbabazi gave him the name Mao after the great leader of the Chinese communist revolution. This time Jacqueline would also insist on the name Andrew. Mbabazi’s father named him after his father Kamugasha. Mao was also a small child and poor eater like Rachel. He weighed about 3.4 kilograms.

The delivery of Mao was interesting. Expecting that this would be another girl, Mbabazi decided that he would visit Jacqueline after putting in a few hours of work at Ministry of Justice. While there, however, he received a phone call from Dr. Frank Mwesigye, Jacqueline’s brother-in-law wondering what he was doing at work when he had just had a wonderful baby boy. Mbabazi ran out of that office and straight to the hospital. He found an excited crowd at the hospital that was celebrating the birth of a son.

Mark Karl Marx Bagwowabo arrived at Mulago hospital nineteen months after Mao. He was born on the 31st of October, 1978. He was named after Karl Marx the father of marxism. Kezekiah felt that since Mark bore a striking resemblance to himself, he should be named Bagwowabo. Weighing in at 4.8 kilograms, he was the biggest child they had and like Lenina, he loved his food. As he got older, if dissatisfied with the portion of milk given to him, he would throw his bottle. That was the signal for a refill.

Allan Namanya was to arrive much later on and so did Khaddafina Karungi who was born on 17th day June 1991. Their story though is tied to the second part of the struggle for liberation.

The first four would endure aerial bombings during the 1979 liberation struggle when Tanzania assisted the freedom fighters to overthrow the Amin dictatorship. The family lived in Kibuli then. They would live through house arrest under President Obote in March 1981 after the attack on Kabamba, only being rescued by strangers and the British High Commissioner’s wife before Hope Mwesigye (Jacqueline’s sister) came in to take charge, They would again endure House Arrest in Nairobi under President Arap Moi in 1984.

 When talking about his family, Mbabazi says, “My children were good children. I never had to worry about them. They accepted every challenge that came into our lives and handled them better than I expected. Our home was always a high human traffic area because of my work first in FRONASA, then UPM and finally the Movement. They eventually embraced all my colleagues and called them uncle or aunt. Through these periods, I worried a lot for their safety, but we had embarked on a road that was not supposed to be easy. Liberation struggles can be very dangerous more so to family members, however, it was a risk all of us in the struggle were prepared to take.”


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