Musa Hasahya Kasera of Uganda is filled with anxiety and sleepless nights over the uncertainty starring him concerning the future of his large immediate family. At 68, Hasahya already has 12 wives, 102 children, and about 578 grandchildren, and his home has turned into a somewhat tourist destination, attracting many local and international visitors, including media organizations.
His children’s age ranges from 10 to 50, while his youngest wife is below forty years old. Hasahya finds it difficult to remember the names of his wives, children, and grandchildren, and he is struggling to cater to his vast family. He often seeks assistance from one of his sons, Shaban Magino, a 30-year-old school teacher, to provide for the family.
He was able to train just a few of his children through the basic education level. “Aside from my first and last child, I find it difficult to remember the names of the rest of my children; the mothers are the one that helps me to identify them,” he said.
The unemployed father of many who was a farmer in his youthful years complains of his failing health and dwindling income which make him unable to meet his responsibilities as the father of the home.
“Due to my deteriorating health, merely less than 1 hectare of land, and my inability to continue my farming business, two of my wives left because of lack of basic needs like food, education, and clothing. I sent my wives to go and learn family planning, they are now using contraceptives, but I don’t,” he said.
Hasahya said he will no longer have more children because of limited resources. “I have learned from my mistakes and irresponsible lifestyle of having many wives and children who I am unable to offer good care.”
The large family lives together in a dilapidated 12-bedroom house in the Bugisa Village in Butaleja District, a remote rural area in Lusaka, Uganda. Hasahya married his first wife, Hanifa, in 1972, in accordance with the traditional rites of his ethnic nation. A year later, his wife gave birth to their first child Sandra Nabewire, and he dropped out of school to seek means to fend for his family.
“My parents gave birth to only two kids – I and my other sibling. My relatives advised me to marry more wives and produce more children to enlarge our family,” Hasahya said. In his youthful years, Hasahya was a flourishing and well-respected businessman and the Chairman of his community. With so much wealth – money, lands, and cattle — Hasahya’s high status attracted many people to him, and many villages willingly offered their daughters to him for marriage, even the ones below the age of 18.
With enough wealth at his disposal, Hasahya decided to marry more women and expand his family. “We have fertile soil, so I provided hoes and other farming tools for each of them to cultivate the farmlands and produce enough foods for the family. However my income gets smaller and smaller over the years and my family gets bigger and bigger, and the increasing cost of living in the country don’t help at all.”
Years of marriages and births have withered the family fortunes, and he is seeking assistance from the government to train his children and meet other family needs. Hanifa, his first wife, said that Hasahya has a caring and listening heart and listens to everyone before making decisions. He never rushes to make decisions, and he treats everyone equally, she said.
Uganda banned child marriage in 1995, but the East African country legalized polygamy, allowing a man to marry many wives according to certain religious and traditional rites. The remote rural area of Bugisa, where Hasahya hails from, is predominantly a peasant farming community, where the residents are largely involved in cattle rearing and subsistence farming of staple food crops like cassava, rice, maize, and coffee, according to media reports.
His wives and adult children often engage in menial work, like fetching water, firewood, and sweeping for their neighbors, plaiting hair, and other domestic chores. The men often sit under the shade of the trees in the family compound to play card games.
Hasahya said that aside from the two wives that left him, the remaining ones are steadfast to him because they love him and are happy with him, and he is also advising anyone planning to marry more wives to abort the idea.