BULAMBULI – On the morning of 27 September, I travelled to Bulambuli district, on the slopes of Mt Elgon to celebrate the World Tourism day.
This was a special one under cultural tourism organised by Elgon Tourism Network [ETN to celebrate the oldest people in the Elgon sub-region.
And although the tourism fraternity converged in Gulu to mark World Tourism Day, I joined ETN to celebrate the day with the oldest people in the Elgon sub-region.
World Tourism Day celebrated globally every year is meant to raise awareness of the importance of tourism.
And just as I entered the compound, my eyes meet Ms Yunia Mutuwa, at 122 years, she could be the oldest person living in Uganda
Even in her advanced age, Mutuwa is neat, her short, grey-haired head is well trimmed and she remembers everything that happened during her youthful stage in the early 1920s.
Although she looks frail and weak from the way she does her things, the greatest weapon she has is a good memory and the only weakness she has is failing sight and hearing.
From the interview I hold with her, I notice that she remembers all her 12 children she gave birth to even the dates even when most of them are dead apart from one daughter Ms Penina Mukiite, 86.
Mutuwa smiled and waved at us as we approach her for an interview, she welcomed us and then searched for what she could sit on before she told us to startMutuwa gives answers to my questions without thinking but they turn out to be the right answers to most of my questions because she has good memory about most things to do with her long life.
Most of Ugandans aged over 50 years can tell their age from a birth certificate but at the time Mutuwa was born, there was no birth certificate then and most children were never born in hospitals.
“I don’t know my age but what I know is that I was born at the time Semei Kakungulu [colonial agent] came here with Bagwere and Basoga chiefs  and I remember very well that I got married in 1924 to my late husband Mr Ibrahim Maswere,” said Mutuwa
“And I have one daughter living and I got married when Mr Koliabu Maswere, 103, was in P4,” she added making Mr Maswere to nod in appreciation.
She explained that she was born in Buwanyanga village in Busano sub-county and that her clan is called Bashisa.
She said although she is saved and goes to church regularly today, she was just looked for with a cane, taken to Nabumali church of Uganda, taught Christianity and later baptized in 1932 and wedded the same year.
She explained that she was baptized and wedded by Rev Crabtree in 1932.
She said although there were no hospitals then to teach mothers about family planning, she spaced her 12 children by three years.
“There was that man called Kakungulu who moved with chiefs from Bugwere and Busoga, he forced people to plant Coffee and trees. And so every family also ensure that there were Kimitoto [type of tree] in Coffee gardens for better production,” said Mutuwa.
She said a war between Bugisu and the Banyole [Butaleja] over boundary was settled by Kakungulu with his chiefs by digging a deep hole and pouring ash in it and that marked the boundary that exists up to now.
Asked about her peers who are still living, Mutuwa said most of them were killed during tribal war and others died a natural death but there are those who went out to Buganda for settlement.
“There was that hunger we called here Bikutiya [1918-1919] after World war one, this when people started moving out of Bugisu,” said Mutuwa.
The secret of staying for many years
Mutuwa says has stayed for many years because she believes in God and that God wants her to stay this long before starting to sing in Luganda.
“I am saved, I am not like other people who get saved because of food and I also love my God, I pray and you people don’t want to pray. That is the secret of my long stay,” she said.
I also eat well mushrooms, local Sodium hydro carbonate, matooke, yams, Cassava, Blood from animals [cooked], a lot of greens of all types, beans without cooking oil.
Mutuwa says that although she has been taken to hospital against her will, she uses local herbs whenever sick because I fear western medicine.
“I remember one time around 1960s, I was told to go to the hospital, I just went and hid at my sister’s home and came back home to use herbs,” said Mutuwa.
She added that she has no stress even when my husband died long ago. People usually go early to the grave due to stress, I take herbs for treatment, they are around me and even the vegetables we eat as source but this is what most people have relegated these days to oily foods and a lot of meat.
She said as young girls and boys who lived before the 1920s, the most popular means of entertainment was the flute.
“Men would play the flute and we would dance throughout the night but none of us ever went out with a man unless you were sure that was your husband,” said Ms Mutuwa.
Ms Mukiite, 86 her daughter and the only surviving child says her mother has profound memories of her past and that occasionally she communicates to them.
“She takes local herbs to be strong and she has lived a type of life without conflict, she didn’t move from one man to another like most girls these days even after the death of my father, her husband,” said Mukiite.
She revealed that although her husband [my father] later married another wife, there was no stress and no conflict as they were trained to cook food and serve the entire family with your co-wife and husband in turns.
Mutuwa’s tips for a long life
Mind your own business
Stress is a silent killer. It can take years off of your life, and in some cases, it can end it. I focus on my own life and I do not compare it to that of my peers or neighbours.
Avoid junk food
Dr Stephen Mungoma, the chairman of Elgon Tourism Network said to live long people must avoid eating junk food.
“And it is not a good idea to fill your mind with junk thoughts or your day with junk energy or your life with junk people. Fill your plate with natural foods and you will go from overweight to overjoyed. I eat vegetables with every meal and I eat beef twice a week,” said Mr Mungoma.
‘Plans are underway to establish Junia foundation for all the very old in Mt Elgon sub-region, have all religious and cultural sites for protection,” said Dr Mungoma.
He explained that Elgon Tourism Network together with Falling Sky Resort and tours will make this an annual even where the old people will be brought out to teach people about their longevity.
The Executive director of Falling Sky Resort and tours Pastor Robert Khaukha said the target is to make Mt Elgon a global tourism destination in Uganda.