Reporters in Ethiopia say they have discovered the oldest man in the world, a farmer and community elder who could be 160 years old.
The state-run TV Oromiya published a 30-minute interview with Dhaqabo Ebba, whose vivid recollections of historical events and family tree indicate that he may have been born in the 1850s.
The journalist Mohammed Ademo, who has translated Mr Ebba’s remarkable story for the English-language OPride.com website, has suggested that the different government leaders the farmer remembers being ruled by would take him back at least 160 years.
Even today the majority of rurally-based Ethiopians do not possess birth certificates, and with the same applying to Mr Ebba it would be impossible to find any verification of precisely when he was born.
But the evidence from what the man can remember is compelling, according to Mr Ademo.
“When Italy [first] invaded Ethiopia [in 1895], I had two wives and my son was old enough to herd cattle,” Mr Ebba said to the TV reporter in the native Oromo language, at his house near Dodola town.
He also recalls the 8-day horseback trek it took to get from there to the capital of Addis Ababa – a journey which now only takes a couple of hours.
Mr Ebba has far outlived anyone of his generation, making it difficult to find someone to corroborate his story, but he claims to have the largest extended family of anyone in his region and has seen great-grandchildren grow up into adulthood.
It may never be confirmed definitively whether Mr Ebba is really as old as it would appear. No efforts seem to have been made to have him medically assessed or to call in representatives for the Guinness World Records.
The current holder of the organisation’s official accolade for oldest person ever is a French woman called Jeanne Louise Calment, who died in 1997 aged 122 years and 164 days.
Mr Ademo did say that he was working towards finding further proof of Mr Ebba’s extraordinary 160 years, and if anything concrete can be found it would smash the current record by a quite phenomenal margin.