Fear of dying a bachelor made 97-year-old Johana Butuuk marry young wife

Fear of dying a bachelor made 97-year-old Johana Butuuk marry young wife
Fear of dying a bachelor made 97-year-old Johana Butuuk marry young wife

At 97, Mzee Johana Butuuk Maritim is just three years away from hitting a century old. He has become an overnight social media sensation after he decided to take Alice Chemeli, a mother of five kids to be his wife in an elaborate church wedding few days ago.

It is the disturbing thought of dying a childless and senior bachelor that forced him to get a wife in his sunset days, he revealed to Nation. Africa.

The wedding ceremony took place on January 14, at his compound where local priests from the nearby Catholic Church presided over the rare function.

According to the Kalenjin culture, if a man fails to get married in his lifetime, his kin leads efforts to make an effort of getting him a wife, possibly with children to ensure his progeny is not wiped out in the family tree upon his demise.

It is on this cultural dictate that Mzee Maritim felt compelled to get a wife who is 57 years his junior, albeit his failing health and advanced age, coupled with impoverished living. The incessant nudging by his late brother before he died also contributed.

“I am very happy to have a wife and children. One cannot buy a cow and leave the calves,” beamed Mzee Maritim as he ushered us to his shanty at Tuiyobei village in Soy constituency, Uasin Gishu county.

“She has been rehabilitating me for the past two decades since I was an alcohol addict and one of the filthiest men around, which is one reason I did not marry early enough. I was unattractive to women because I was wasted. But now through her my lineage will prosper,” he revealed as we settled for the interview with his wife, Alice Jemeli, in tow helping him walk.

The nonagenarian took Ms Jemeli to be his wife after a courtship of 20 years. They now live together with her five children- two sons and three daughters, from a previous marriage.

Some of the children have since completed high school and are sharing a one-bedroom mud-walled house.

“Since I am now ensured linage, my joy is short-lived. The marriage is now presenting me with challenges I never anticipated. The upkeep of the wife and the five kids without a proper house and a tiny house in which we are huddled cannot accommodate us. I have limited resources to meet the basic needs,” he narrated.

The man owns a cow and just an acre of land patched in a hilly rocky environment, making farming unsustainable.

“I am seeking well-wishers’ support to fend for my family. I need a better and more spacious shelter, away from the rusty structure,” he says.

“Getting food is also challenging and since I am old I cannot fend for them. I am appealing to our governor Jonathan Bii and other well-wishers to come to my aid,” he implored.

His wife defends her marriage stating it was not informed by material gain. She says she only wanted a husband and a name for her family besides being comfortable with him.

“My children are okay with this although they do not call him dad, but ‘Agui’ (grandfather) since we came here when they were all grown up. They know he is now their stepfather, and they are happy about it. None has ever shown any form of disrespect, but they love him because he is happy with them,” she said.

“I work to sustain the family, pay school fees and provide food for them. I don’t ask anything from my husband because I treat him as my firstborn,” she said.

Ms Jemeli confirmed they have dated since 2003 and she hopes for a blissful future together even as he enjoys his sunset days.

The couple’s neighbors praised Ms Jemeli for taking it upon herself to live with the man they described as an ‘outcast’ because of his filth and alcoholism.

“We were concerned because he was getting old without a family. At least he will now have children, which are culturally encouraged,” a neighbor Ms Elizabeth Kosgey said.

“He failed to marry when he was young because alcohol wasted his heydays. It is never late to marry,” she said.

Another neighbor Mr Thomas Wamalwa said the old man’s life has changed since Ms Jemeli came into his life.

“Before, nobody wanted to associate with this man because he used to live a miserable life. We pray that they will live happily after,” he said.

By Patricia Kiabi & Fred Kibor



Fear of dying a bachelor made 97-year-old Johana Butuuk marry young wife

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