She could be the oldest woman in Ankole region. Her grandchildren call her ‘Wacha Manene’. “The love of God has kept me alive all this time,” Juleina Kyetuuza Nyamushungwa who clocked 106 years says.
On December 28, 2008, a party was held in her honour but she was not able to attend due to her advanced age and she opted to stay at home. She couldn’t even attend the church service.
Born to Martha Bateta and Augustine Ishebakuru in Nyakahanga Village in 1902, Kyetuuza has lived to see her life change from primitive to modern living, from using traditional to modern medicine, from living in grass-thatched huts to storied houses. Her parents were among the first folks of Ankole to embrace the Anglican religion, something that shaped her early life. She lived honestly and eventually served as an evangelist along with her husband Anania Nyamushungwa, a catechist in the Anglican Church of Mujumo in Itojo Sub-county, Rwampara. They were married in 1929 and had eight children, four boys and four girls. Only two are still alive including her third born Jairesi Kitungwa who is 75 years old.
Despite her old age, she suffers no major diseases except loss of hearing. She is still able to see and recognise her relatives. To talk to her, one needs to shout in her right ear. Once she has identified the voice, then you can have a conversation with a lot of shouting though.
Asked how she has been able to live this long, she says she put her trust in God, has always lived positively and that longevity also runs in their family. “I have always been looking to achieving better things in life and I always put trust in God after learning how to read the Bible,” she says. Her name seems to suggest it all.
Her parents could have predicted that she would live this long. Kyetuuza means one that survives for long. It is not surprising that her two siblings, an 83-year-old brother, Misairi Barungira and her sister Elina Kembabi, aged 81 are alive and still strong. “We might have survived this long maybe because of the food we eat. Karo, unpeeled potatoes and beans have been our core foods. Besides, we rarely fall sick like our sister. We do not suffer from malaria and related illnesses,” Kembabi says.
Despite her age, she has not lost her sense of humour and love for her grandchildren. “Iwe Dan, okaburira nkahi, mbwenu wampikire kanyije nkushune rero omanye ngu mukaaka akihurire,” (Dan you have been lost for long. Now that you have come, let me pinch you and you feel me so that you know I am still alive and strong.) she said as she greeted her grandson. She teased and asked him to buy her glasses to regain her sight. “Dan buy me glasses so that I can identify your children properly,” she said with a chuckle at the time I was visiting.
Nyamushungwa evangelised her community with her husband and they founded three churches in Rwampara County, including Kikunyu, Karambiro and Ijumo Church of Uganda and promoted education. Each of the churches has a primary school attached to it.
This has had an impact on the level of development in the region. Her siblings and grandchildren still go to the same churches and schools and all are doing well. One of her grandchildren, Daniel Babonereirwe is a banker and currently a senior commercial officer in the Trade and Industry ministry. She was also a traditional birth attendant and a herbalist and saved women’s lives in the years when modern medicine was still scarce with poor road networks in the region. Despite her limited education, she embraced adult literacy and was able to read and write, promoted knitting of sweaters and pottery which earned her some income.
What her family thinks of her
Daniel Babonereirwe Grandson:
She was a strict disciplinarian and did not believe in ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’. She never pampered her grand and great grandchildren. Instead, she would make us work hard. Some of us are where we are because of her. For that, matter we nicknamed her ‘Wacha Maneno’ because she tolerated no nonsense. In her hey days, she was a dedicated woman with self-esteem, a high sense of morality and very hard working.
Jairesi Kitungwa, daughter:
My mother has lived positively, full of hope that everyday, something good will come out and when things fail to go her way, she does not lose hope. She used to walk me to school in those tough days when there were still wild animals. She would escort me to Bweranyangi Girls Secondary School about 80km from home on foot.
Misairi Barungira, brother:
She has been a generous lady to us, liked gardening and has always been a good preacher. She brought us up as her own children and has always been inspirational in church matters. I am proud of my sister and happy that she has lived this long.
Rev Canon Keith Katakanya:
She has been a committed lady, worked very hard to spread the gospel with her husband and they mentored me into joining the church service. She continued to preach the good news even after the death of her husband in the 90s. It is only age that has halted her from her work.
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