Obama and bin Laden in Kenya

The newest name craze for Kenyan babies? Barack and Michelle, reports the BBC.

My first job in Africa was running a follow-up survey in western Kenya–chasing down 8,000 primary school students 5 years after they’d received a randomized health intervention. More than a third had moved away, and we searched high and low around the country for more than a year.

The name list was a Who’s Who of the globe’s political class. There were Bill Clinton Ojiambos and Bin Ladin Odongos. There were George Bush Jumas and Hillary Clinton Awinos.

My favorite moment: in 2003, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exasperated enumerator came to me, “I’ve been looking all day,” she said, “and I just can’t find this Saddam Hussein.”

But the best name of the bunch was undisputed: Orange Velvet. That’s right. Some mother looked at their beautiful new boy the day he was born and said, “I will name him Orange… Orange Velvet.”

We never did find little Velvet, and the name’s origin puzzles me to this day. Any inside Kenyan information is much appreciated.

For tales of Luo names in Uganda, see this post from last year.