His eye sight is poor, but his memory is still sharp. He is free from diabetes and any cardiovascular diseases.
It is easy to locate Yohana Ahuruma. Fr Fabius K. Bainakanaama takes me to Busunga village near the Uganda-DR Congo order, where we find the frail-old man seated by his mud-and-wattle home, which sits on a three-acre-piece of land. His compound is dotted with different tree species and flowers. From the well-manicured lawns, you can tell the old man has an eye for detail.
His eye sight is poor, but his memory is still sharp. A serious backache prevents him from moving beyond his compound, otherwise, he is free from diabetes and any cardiovascular diseases.
How old IS HE?
Ahuruma does not know his exact date of birth and neither does Hannifer Byabanyagi, his only surviving daughter.
When the first missionaries came to Virika in 1895, 121 year ago, he was among the first people to be baptised.
His baptism card indicates that he was born in 1885. That makes him 131 years old. "The missionaries estimated my age. When I came for catechism lessons before baptism, they looked at me and decided that I was about 10 years. That was in 1895. So, they recorded my year of birth as 1885. But I could be older or younger," Ahuruma says.
Life in Buganda
Ahuruma did not go to school. But he had a special talent in playing the flute which attracted the Omukama of Toro, Kyebambe III. The king lent him to Buganda's Kabaka Daudi Chwa II, who took him to his palace in Buganda in 1905.
"My journey to Buganda took me about 20 days because we moved on foot," he says. "I had no shoes and wore only barkcloth," he says. "Shoes were uncommon and expensive. But even if you could get them, putting them on would be construed as looking down family or community members who did not have them!" Ahuruma was to spend 35 years in Buganda and even married his first wife from the Buganda royal family.
"Many people used to fear the Kabaka. Chwa was a no-nonsense man but, to me, he was a close friend. He loved me and treated me like one of his children," says Ahuruma.
JOINING THE British army
When Ahuruma was 35, he joined the King's African Rifles (KAR). KAR was a multi-battalion British colonial regiment raised from Britain's colonies from 1902 until independence in 1962. When the World War broke out in 1939, Ahuruma did not know he would be part of it. But in 1942, he was among the soldiers trained to assist in fighting the Germans. "We were taken
to Nairobi, Kenya, where we underwent different military drills in preparation for the war against (Adolf) Hitler (Nazi Germany's leader)," he said.
At 131, he is Uganda's oldest man the infantry because he was young and energetic. He was then sent to Mombasa for more training in basic military skills and how to handle guns.
He was thereafter shipped off to Sri Lanka and later Burma in Asia. The sea voyage took two weeks from Mombasa to Ceylon, Southeast Asia.
"The war was tough. We used to kill the Germans and their allies. I remember one day I killed 14 of them and I was a hero. All the commanders liked me. I was a very short and strongman,"Ahuruma reminisces.
The war ended in Britain's favour in 1945 and Ahuruma came back to Uganda. "The army gave us many skills, including driving and writing," he says.
Guinness book of records
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the oldest verified age to which any human has ever lived is 122 years and 164 days. Jeanne Louise Calment (France), who was born on February 21, 1875 and died on August 4, 1997, holds this record. In March this year, Guinness World Records, which verifies claimed records around the world, announced Israel Kristal of Haifa, Israel, as the world's oldest living man.
He was born on September 15, 1903 after the war, Ahuruma returned to new realities of the new era. His friend, Cwa, had died and his son, Mutesa, was the Kabaka.
"I had left my wife and children in the palace. Unfortunately, my wife died shortly after my return, leaving a three-month-old baby. I decided to return to Toro with my baby and the missionaries at Virika helped me raise her. I was sad that my wife was buried in Buganda," he says.
Ahuruma says when he arrived in Toro; he found that Omukama Rukidi III had allocated his land to another person. Using sh500 Kabaka Mutesa II gave him for his resettlement, he bought land. "This time, coming back to Toro took us only four days because we used a train," he explains.
He retired from service and took up farming.