A woman in Amugagara, Kumel in Mukura sub-county, Ngora district is married to three men, who all live in one compound.
The 36-year-old Ann Grace Aguti has attracted the wrath of her father, Pastor Peter Ogwang alias Ikwenyar of Christ Foundation Ministries, who mobilised clan members to intervene, saying the practice is unacceptable in the Teso community.
However, the men; Richard Alich, John Peter Oluka and Michael Enyaku, told Sunday Vision that they have no problem with the arrangement. They regard Aguti as the head of the family, dine together during meals and obey her instructions, including observing the conjugal rights roster.
Aguti has allocated three of the seven tiny huts in her compound to the three men. Apparently, Aguti had more men, but dismissed some due to lack of discipline. How they met Alich, a widower, is a retired police officer with 10 grown-up children.
Oluka, alias Abaafu, is a fairly well-off peasant, who has a home in the same village. Enyaku is a senior bachelor, who also has land and a home in another village.
Alich told Sunday Vision that he met Aguti when she was returning home from Brac Uganda, Ngora branch, where she had gone to process a loan.
“Her bicycle had developed a mechanical problem, so I offered to repair it. In the process, one thing led to another and I found myself here. I stay in that hut,” Alich said, pointing at his place of abode.
The three men married to the woman
Oluka, the other husband, told Sunday Vision that being from the same village, he knew Aguti had a number of men.
“I met her at a swamp where I was grazing my cows and joked about her taking me on as a husband too — and that was it. She allocated me a hut,” he said.
“We have lived harmoniously for close to a year now. I have no problem with my co-husbands. The consensus among us is that mummy (Aguti) determines the duty (sex) roster and her decision is final,” Oluka said.
Enyaku said he was the first among the current husbands to arrive in Aguti’s home and believes he is the favourite.
“When I came to her home, I found other men already husbanding her, but she chased them away because she reserves the right to admit anyone of her choice. I also strongly believe her pregnancy is mine."
Aguti, who is a mother of three, is currently six months pregnant. She earns a living by selling cooked cow trotters (emolokony). It is not clear who the father of her pregnancy is because Enyaku is not the only one claiming responsibility.
It is said that Aguti also has a host of other lovers. Aguti responds Aguti said she should not be taken for a village whore because she is not.
“I was married before in a manner my clansmates want. But my desire is to have a tender loving husband, who can provide all my needs as a housewife. My husband was useless and I remained the breadwinner. When I left him, I started looking for that special someone, but I have not yet found him because even now, I have to feed the men that I have. So, my search continues!”
The practice of a woman having many husbands is known as polyandry. It is believed to have been the original arrangement of humanity about one million years ago.
Today, according to the Britannica encyclopedia, it is extremely rare and only practiced in the Himalayan mountains, where there is scarcity of land.
The encyclopedia locates it among the Tibetans in Nepal, parts of China and part of northern India, where two or more brothers are allowed to marry the same woman, with each of the husbands having equal sexual access to her.
In Africa, it is considered an anomaly and unacceptable in all countries. However, it has been reported in the Lake Region of Central Africa among traditional high caste Masai women, the Irigwe of northern Nigeria and in August 2013, in Kenya, where two men entered into agreement to marry a woman with whom they had both been having an affair.
According to history, among the aboriginal people who inhabited the Canary Islands before the Spanish conquest, a great famine in the 14th or 15th century killed so many girls that the surviving men lacked wives to marry.
Thus, polyandry was allowed and limited to one woman, five men maximum.
Aguti survived death
However, for Aguti, the Ikarebwo- Ikaalen clan rose up in arms. They say Aguti has disregarded her father’s societal status to engage in inappropriate behaviour that has disgraced the entire clan.
According to Ogwang, Aguti is risking her life ‘husbanding’ three men. He says they were actually four, but in December last year, one of them, Sam Otim, commonly known as Ejuge, became jealous and attempted to cut her neck with a sickle. He was promptly dismissed from her compound.
Aguti’s father sought the help of his clan and LC1 committee, who met last week to plot a way forward. They resolved to mobilise strong kinsmen to surround Aguti’s compound in the wee hours and arrest the husbands.
They also resolved to expel them from her house. However, when they arrived, they were met with resistance and Aguti defended herself during an exchange with her father.
“Dad, I am an adult with a home. It is my right to have the three men who, fortunately, understand each other,” Aguti declared before asking: “Who among you, dad inclusive, will take me as a wife now that you are chasing away my husbands?”
That was an abominable suggestion because one is not allowed to marry from the same clan.
Ogwang first tried to charm his incensed daughter into reasoning.
“My daughter, listen. I am worried about you as your father. Do you remember Ejuge and how we struggled to save your life? How we apprehended him as he tried to slaughter you with a sickle? What if we had killed him! How would we have handled the retribution from his relatives?” he asked.
Ogwang also reminded her of the time her fourth and fifth husbands, Otim and John Ebwaare, violently clashed before Otim turned his anger on Aguti. However, Aguti refused to be cowed.
She told the clansmates that when she returned home after her marriage in Asamuk, Amuria failed, her father gave her land on which to build. She said she understood that gesture to mean that the land was hers and that whatever happens in her compound was none of her father’s business.
Ogwang was not fazed. He demanded to know which of the husbands living on his land was officially introduced to him.
“My people, how do I know that these men are not here to grab my land? The longer they stay on my land unchallenged, the easier it becomes for them to assume my land rights as stated in the constitution,” Ogwang said amid support from his clansmates.
The pastor also said the way his daughter is acquiring loans from financial institutions, such as Brac Uganda and village SACCOs, while using the land as security, is dangerous, yet the money she gets ends up. catering for her husbands’ welfare.
“In case you default, the banks will take my land, not knowing that it does not belong to you,” Ogwang said. “Any man who wants to live with you should come with his relatives to officially introduce himself to me.”
The LC1 chairperson, Robert Oboi, had the final word. He said he supported the eviction of the men from Aguti’s home.
“As the local authority in the area, none of these men has been introduced to me. In case of any crime in this area, especially theft or even murder, they will be the first suspects,” he said.
The Ikarebwo-Ikaalen clan chairperson, who doubles as the area LC2 chairperson, Christopher Opolot, said he was shocked that Aguti had broken a territory none had ever gone to — marrying several men at a go in the same compound.
“What example are you setting for our daughters?” he asked.
The local council and clan ruled that each of the men returns to their respective villages. They were also told that if they want to return as husbands, they should come officially with identification and introduce themselves to the local authorities at Amugagara.
Upon that statement, Aguti wailed: “My dear husbands, I love you so much. I am not the one chasing you, but your father-in-law and his clan. Please do not forget me wherever you go. You have been my pillars in this large home of ours. Please keep checking on me because I may die of loneliness in the house.”
The three men left, vowing to return after getting the required credentials. And it was not a joke. Last week, Enyaku returned with duly signed letters and by the time of filing this story, he had re-settled with Aguti.