In Uganda, a father of 102 children, but not one more

Sylvie Claire / February 2, 2023


At first it was a joke (...), but now it's a problem": in Uganda, Musa Hasahya Kesera is the father of 102 children and struggles to provide for them... or even remember their names.


At 68, he is the head of a family of 12 wives, 102 children - the youngest 10 years old, 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 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 20 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 basics, such as food, education or clothing," says this father, who is currently unemployed.


To prevent the family from growing any further, his wives use contraception. "Not me," he says.


Musa Hasahya Kesera was first married in 1972 at the age of 17 in a traditional ceremony.


His first child was born a year later.


"Since we were only two children (in his family), my brother, parents and friends advised me to marry several women to have many children and increase our family wealth," he explains.


Attracted by his status as a cattle seller and butcher, villagers offered him the hand of their daughters, some of whom were still minors - a practice that has been prohibited since 1995.


Over the years, he cannot 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, digging through stacks of old notebooks in search of details about their births: "It's their mothers who help me identify them.


Musa Hasahya Kesera admits he also has trouble remembering the names of some of his wives. He has to 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 who went to school.


To resolve the disputes, which are not lacking in the family, monthly meetings are organized.


The village of Bugisa is largely agricultural, with small-scale rice, cassava, coffee, and livestock farms.


In Musa Hasahya Kesera's family, some try to earn a little money or food by doing domestic chores for their neighbors or spend their days searching for firewood and water, often walking long distances.


Others stay at home, women weave braids or braid 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 comes out of his hut, where he spends most of his day, and calls loudly for the family to line up to eat.


But we hardly have enough food. We have 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 have left him because of lack of resources or space on the family farm.

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