"At first it was a joke (...), but now it's problems": in Uganda, Musa Hasahya Kesera is the father of 102 children and struggles to provide for them... or even to remember their first names.
At 68, he is the head of a family of 12 women, 102 children - the youngest aged 10, the oldest 50 - and 578 grandchildren.
He has become an attraction in his village of Bugisa in eastern Uganda, but he will stop there. "I learned from my irresponsible attitude of having had so many children that I can't take care of," he says.
His large family lives between a dilapidated house with a rusty tin roof and about twenty mud huts nearby.
"With my failing health and less than a hectare of land for such a large family, two of my wives left because I could no longer provide for the essentials, such as food, education or clothing", underlines this father, currently unemployed.
To prevent the family from growing further, his wives take contraceptive methods. “Not me,” he blurts out.
Polygamy is allowed in Uganda.
Musa Hasahya Kesera first married in 1972 at the age of 17 in a traditional ceremony.
Her first child was born a year later.
"Since we were only two children (in his family), my brother, my parents and my friends advised me to marry several women to have many children and increase our family heritage", he explains. .
Attracted by his status as a cattle seller and butcher, villagers then offered him the hand of their daughters, some of them still minors - a practice prohibited since 1995.
Over the years, he can no longer even identify his own children.
"I only remember the names of the first and last born, I don't remember most of the others," he admits bluntly, rummaging through piles of old notebooks looking for details about their births: "It is their mothers who help me identify them".
Musa Hasahya Kesera also admits having trouble remembering the names of some of his wives. He must ask one of his sons, Shaban Magino, a 30-year-old schoolteacher who helps run the family business. He is one of the few children to have gone to school.
To resolve disputes, which are not lacking in the family, monthly meetings are organized.
The village of Bugisa lives largely from agriculture, with small farms of rice, cassava, coffee, or cattle breeding.
In Musa Hasahya Kesera's family, some try to earn some money or food by doing domestic chores for their neighbors or spend their days in search of firewood and water, often walking great distances foot.
Others stay at home, women weave mats or braid their hair while men play cards under the shelter of a tree.
When the midday meal, often consisting of boiled cassava, is ready, the father of the family emerges from his hut, where he spends most of his day, and calls loudly for the family to queue for food.
"But we barely have enough food. We are forced to feed the children once or even twice on good days," says Zabina, Musa Hasahya Kesera's third wife, who says she would never have married him if she had known he had other wives.
"He brought back the fourth, then the fifth until he reached 12," she sighs.
Seven still live with him in Bugisa. Five left it, for lack of sufficient resources or of space on the family farm.
02/02/2023 08:36:14 - Butaleja (Uganda) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP