He is aging, square-jawed with stout looks. His graying hair, white beard and wrinkled face bespeak of a person that has graced the good and braved the bad of a long tumultuous life of handicap that befell him at a tender age of eighteen.
He is Alexandre Sebagisha. He is 73. He has been using one arm to fend for himself and his family for almost fifty years.
He lost his right arm at eighteen, in a battle as they tried to return to his home country.
A resident of Musaza Cell in Musaza Sector of Kirehe District, Sebagisha lives alone after becoming a widower a year ago when his wife passed away as the first woman he married lives in Tanzania.
How Sebagisha lost his arm
Born in 1945, he was 14 years old in 1959 when Tutsis were chased away from Rwanda as some were massacred, with their houses burnt to ashes and their property confiscated. He and his family fled to Tanzania in 1960 from where, he with other men, used to attack Rwanda in small battles known as ‘Inyenzi’ battles.
“I lost my arm when I was 18 as we tried to get back to Rwanda. We had been forced out of our motherland because we were born Tutsi. My right arm was shot in 1963 in a battle and it was lost like that,” Sebagisha recounts pointing a finger at his right shoulder.
He started putting his remaining left arm to all works including digging. The land to where they sought refuge was fertile and he could not just sit there in elegiac lamentation.
“I used my single arm to take care of my family. I grew crops and I got a lot of yields. I later married,” he says.
After the Rwanda Patriotic Army stopped the genocide in 1994 and liberated the country, Sebagisha repatriated to Rwanda like many other Rwandans who had fled to foreign countries.
Back to Rwanda, Sebagisha kept his farming work using one arm. Today, he has aged and frail, grouped in Ubudehe Group Category 2 though he wishes to be grouped in the first category as to receive the Vision Umurenge Program (VUP) funds reserved for poor old people.
“I request local leaders to put me in the category that would help me receive the VUP funds because it can help me in my daily life. I am now becoming old and I am no longer strong to do farm work My body is becoming weak due to an advanced age,” Sebagisha says with a tinge of sadness flashing over his gray-beard laden chin.
He refused a prosthesis
Sebagisha says he was recommended the arm prosthesis by medics but he refused it as he thought it could serve him nothing.
“I ask the doctors if the prosthesis would help me do farming with a hoe to which they replied no. They told me it was just for helping me wear a suit and look well dressed. I recalled the 50 years spent farming with a single arm with no arm replacement and I took their proposal for a joke,” he says.
With his single arm, oldie Sebagisha only does subsistence agriculture which gets him only food. He can’t produce crops to the market to be able to buy other stuff he needs in his daily life.
As he now lives alone, Sebagisha says it gets difficult for him to get his clothes washed. All those he asks to do it for him ask for money from him.