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Kanyonga says she is 120 and still recalls the Berlin Conference

By Vision Reporter

Added 16th March 2008 03:00 AM

ELIVANIA Kanyonga may not look like she is 120 years old, but it is hard to dismiss her claims that she recalls the Berlin Conference which took place in 1884. In this year, Germany called together the major western powers of the world to negotiate the control of Africa.

ELIVANIA Kanyonga may not look like she is 120 years old, but it is hard to dismiss her claims that she recalls the Berlin Conference which took place in 1884. In this year, Germany called together the major western powers of the world to negotiate the control of Africa.

By Gladys Kalibbala

ELIVANIA Kanyonga may not look like she is 120 years old, but it is hard to dismiss her claims that she recalls the Berlin Conference which took place in 1884. In this year, Germany called together the major western powers of the world to negotiate the control of Africa.

This conference marked the beginning of the partitioning of Africa.
Kanyonga, who can no longer walk, but crawls like a baby or moves in a wheelchair, says her breasts were just developing at the time of the conference.

Although she cannot remember the year she was born, Kanyonga believes she is about 120 years old. She recalls seeing the Belgians and the Dutch at her home near the Rwanda-Uganda border.

Kanyonga sits on her granddaughter’s verandah and welcomes visitors in Rukiga, the only language she knows.
“We ran away from the Whites who came to Kabale because we feared their complexion.

We had also been told that they would kidnap us and take us with them to their home countries,” she adds.

Kanyonga’s last-born Alice Nyabunja, is 70 years old. Kanyonga says she gave birth to Nyabunja when she was already in menopause. “I had stopped getting my periods and was shocked that at 50, I could still conceive,” she narrates.

Kanyonga’s family, which originally lived in Kabahesi village, Buhara sub-county, migrated to Kagadi in the early 1970s because there was land shortage.

Kanyonga, who has four generations of grandchildren, lives at her granddaughter’s home behind Kasangati Police Station.

She gets very excited when she talks about her late husband, Daudi Barugahari. “I would run outside our hut and carry him on my back whenever he came back home drunk, late in the evenings,” she says with a smile which reveals some missing teeth.

Kanyonga says on her wedding day, she did not have a gown or new dress, but she still got married because she loved her husband. Her father bought her two fresh cow skins which she wore for the wedding. “I still long for those soft cow skins.

I wore one of the skins as a skirt and the other was used to cover my pointed breasts,” she explains.

She says her legs and arms were covered with bangles, which made noise when she walked.

“My husband told me I looked so beautiful with a piece of a rabbit’s tail tied around my head and a flower on my face. Necklaces made out of animal skin covered my neck,” she boasts.

Kanyonga explains that she did not even have shoes for the wedding, but still looked smashing.

She says there were no vehicles at that time, so she was carried in ekyishato (animal skin supported on four sticks) to her husband’s home in Kabahesi village.

Kanyonga says the skin was carried by four boys while 10 young girls dressed in new cow skin escorted her with her aunt (senga) and elder sister.

On her way to her husband’s home, she cried because she missed her parents. When she arrived at her husband’s home, her entourage went back home. Kanyonga says during their times, women were not allowed to eat goat’s meat, eggs and chicken, but her husband defied the norm.

“My husband said he could not eat meat as I looked on. He bought me a goat which I slaughtered to celebrate our marriage. All the villagers were invited and at the gathering, my husband declared that I would be eating goat’s meat,” she said.

Kanyonga, who prefers meat to any other sauce, says her late husband used to go hunting in order to bring her meat. Her husband died in the early 1990s and was buried in Kagadi.

“He brought animals and I roasted them. The whole family would have a good meal,” she says. Kanyonga, who is popularly known as a traditional birth attendant in Kagadi, says she never experienced labour pains during childbirth because she took a herb, which she refuses to disclose. The wonderous herb made her produce without any pain.

She recalls the time she went digging and gave birth in the garden. Another time, she was walking out of her house to get firewood when she felt the baby coming out.

Kanyonga says she helped a young girl in Kasangati give birth. She applied the magic herb and according to her neighbours, the girl gave birth in a few minutes.

When asked about who trained her, she says it was a God-given gift. Kanyonga, who became a born-again Christian recently in the Church of Uganda, spends most of her time worshipping, if not sleeping.

“I wake up at 6:00am to pray with my grandchildren, then I take breakfast and go back to bed. When I wake up before lunch, I sing for the Lord and recite my favourite Bible verse, Psalms 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” she explains.

Kanyonga regrets why she did not accept Jesus Christ before her husband died because if she had, she would have convinced him to become born-again.

One of her children, Felistance Bataribeitu, got married to Gershom Bataribeitu, but both passed away. Two years ago, Bataribeitu‘s daughters picked their grandmother from Kagadi and started her on Swiss Garde products, which Kanyonga says have improved her health.

Kanyonga says since she started taking the medicine, she rarely gets body pains. “Although I get diarrhoea whenever I eat groundnuts and beans, I have learnt to eat eggs which have made me stronger,” she adds.

Kanyonga says she is an ardent supporter of President Museveni and has voted for him every time he has contested for presidency.

“I know I cannot meet Museveni in person, but wherever he is, let him know that I regard him as my own son and pray that the Lord guides him in leading the country,” she explains.

Asked what her desires are, Kanyonga says she wants her grandchildren to make her an outfit from a cow’s skin so that she can wear it before her last days, which she says are not very far from now.

Kanyonga says she is 120 and still recalls the Berlin Conference

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