Jenipher Nshemereirwe, 52 and Zaburoni Betongyeza, 106, recently tied the knot at Katonya Church of Uganda, Kyabugashe parish in Rukungiri district, after living together for 33 years. Caleb Bahikaho talked to them.
At the age of 18, young Nshemereirwe, was a beautiful woman, with lots of dreams, among which was marry and start a family.
She says many young men wanted to marry her, but the moment she set her eyes on Betongyeza, who was 73 years old at the time, she did not look back.
But what attracted Nshemereirwe to an old man, leaving behind young energetic men? It was his voice, she says. “He is soft-spoken. It is his voice that attracted me most,” Nshemereirwe says.
How they met
According to Betongyeza, it is Nshemereirwe’s cousin who identified her as a suitable companion and connected him to her.”
“He was working on my farm and when I told him that I wanted to get a fourth wife, he said his uncle had an honest girl. So, we made arrangements to meet her.
He says by the time Betongyeza met Nshemereirwe at Kashenyi Market, her cousin had told her that he was a rich man, with a lot of cattle, land and coffee plantations, so she did not hesitate.
In April 1981, I paid bride price of three cows and five goats to her parents and we started living together.
Bentongyeza says he promised Nshemereirwe that they would marry in church if she remained committed to him and, indeed, this came to pass on February 1 at Katonya Church of Uganda, Kyabugashe Parish at a function presided over by the Rev. Charles Karenzi.
They later hosted their over 500 guests to a reception at their home at Katabushera village, Nyakagyeme sub-county, Rukungiri district.
Nshemereirwe says although they are in their old age, their love is still strong. “To me, 33 years is like 10. Our love was rejuvenated the moment we moved into our new house,” she said.
The couple constructed a three-bedroom house, where they live with their children. Betongyeza said works on the house stalled due to lack of money. He needs about sh6m to complete it.
Bentongyeza married his first wife, Kelemesia Turugurwa, in 1952, when he was about 46 years old. At the time, he lived in Bugerere, (Kayunga district), where he worked for a chief called Ernest Ndaula.
He says earlier on in 1940, he had attempted to marry a Muganda woman, but his father, who had seven wives, advised him against it, saying it was better to marry from his tribe.
“Because I had spent a lot of time with Baganda and Basoga women, I wanted to marry from those tribes, but my parents were a hindrance. That is why I delayed to marry,” Bentongyeza recalls.
He and Turugurwa had 10 children. He then got a second wife, Faith Busisiri, who passed on, leaving behind six children. “After her death, I married Turugurwa‘s sister, Joy Nkabwanga, with whom I had six children.
“However, things did not go well with my two wives because they were sisters. That is why I decided to get Nshemereirwe and God has blessed us with 12 children,” he says.
Bentongyeza says he fathered 34 children since 1953, six of whom have passed on.
Like father like son
Betongyeza says his father died at 110 years. He attributes his father’s long life to his ability to marry young women, who took good care of him.
He said those days, women respected and took care of their husbands, unlike today, when a man can spend a week without eating at home.
“Women would compete to prepare food for him. He always had a balanced diet,” Betongyeza said.
Betongyeza says his biggest challenge is lack of school fees for his children. Four are in secondary school, while three are in primary.
“I used to sell milk to raise money to look after my family, but thieves stole my two cows and three sheep.”
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I was 18, he was 78 when we married