Last week, the entire nation was thrown into a state of shock by another gruesome murder, this time, the lynching of a 90-year-old woman Akua Denteh at Kafaba, in the Savana Region.
The woman was accused by fellow women of witchcraft. In the video widely circulated two women were seen shamefully and unspeakably molesting the woman that nature has blessed with long life. A fetish priestess is reported to have identified her as the cause of woes in the town and therefore paraded the fragile woman before a huge crowd and subjected her to severe molestation and beating which resulted in her untimely death.
The incident has sparked off a huge public sphere and a wide-spread condemnation from across the country. Former Presidents John Mahama and John Rawlings, Government and officials as well as Civils Society Organisations and individual women advocates and activists have condemned the wicked and barbaric acts.
The president of the land, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo has in no uncertain terms condemned the action of the people who committed the atrocious crime against the 90-year old woman. Until quite recently, Women of ancient Africa often led powerful, spiritual , and traditional roles that garnered them respect and admiration from society. In our traditional parlance, when there was a very difficult situation, the community runs to the old woman for advice and direction. Old women took on positions as oracles, spirit mediums, seers, and advisors, and therefore dominated the spiritual system across the land.
Each voice such as the Minister for Such Gender, Children and Social Protection, Cynthia Morrison, has condemned the lynching and demanded an “immediate investigations and prosecution of all the perpetrators of this gruesome murder in accordance with our laws.” Others have also called for justices and in some cases, suggestion means to help eradicate these primitive acts in this 21st century.
Local and international media reports on the case suggest that this practice is prevalent in the Northern part of Ghana and currently there are hundreds of women accused of witchcraft by relatives or members of their community are living in ‘witch camps’ after fleeing or being banished from their homes.
It is believed that there are around 800 women in these camps who live under very poor conditions and have little or no hope of a normal life. These women have fled discrimination, threats, or even mob justice as has happened to the innocent Akua Denteh.
This woman is not the first victim and perhaps would not be the last if this is not checked. Several women have been murdered in similar wicked circumstances. At least we recalled the mother of three who was beaten and set on fire after being blamed for making a child sick through witchcraft some six years ago. In 2010, the case of a 72-year-old woman who was also set on fire and killed made headlines around the world.
In some of these unfortunate incidents, women are the most vulnerable, does that depict that women are the only people in this world who are witches?
In her book “The Devil in the Shape of a Woman” the prolific American historian, Carol Karlsen noted “Perhaps the most salient point about witch trials, students quickly come to see, is gender. In Salem, 14 of the 19 people found guilty of and executed for witchcraft during that cataclysmic year of 1692 were women.”
She argued that across New England, where witch trials occurred somewhat regularly from 1638 until 1725, women vastly outnumbered men in the ranks of the accused and executed adding that 78% of 344 alleged witches in New England were female.” what did women do wrong
What about the male counterparts of the so-called witches? If anything at all there are also wizards. If there are no wizards then and there are also no witches. So, what happens to the wizards who we are made to understand are men.
Wizard usually refers to a male, while witch usually refers to a female. The English celebrated author Harry Potter, says “a man who anomalously showed the same abilities as a witch is known as a wizard. The term wizard is sometimes used as a male counterpart of a witch in fiction.
In any case, who identifies and declares who is a witch? We know too well that issues of such nature are spiritual and therefore must be dealt with spiritually. What sense does it make for someone to fight the spirit with the physical beatings and eventual lynching?
In all these the perpetrators are women. Does the old saying that women are their own enemies apply here? “I know even writing this that it is an essentialist view, but maybe this is the only way to break free of patriarchy and disrupt the current norms to such an extent that we can create an equal society where people are seen as individuals, and rewarded or judged by their actions and not by their gender. I don’t have the answers but I know that suggesting that women are their own worst enemies isn’t helping anyone.”
Again, witchcraft is often associated with the poor. Are there not some rich people who are witches and if there are who on earth could stand to lynch them or even accuse them of being witches.
So, therefore, it stands to reason that poverty has a link and strong connotation on witchcraft. They could be best described as bedfellows.
The video again suggests that the entire community accented to the barbaric act. The reason being that, they looked on unconcern and absolutely no attempt was made by anyone among the crowd to help save the dying woman who was pleading for her life to be spared. At least there is a chief of the town and there is also an Assemblyman. Were these opinion leaders aware and what did they do?
Another irony is the lack of prompt action on the part of the Ghana Police Service. 72 hours after this nobody in such a relatively small community had been apprehended for a crime that was openly committed. It took the media and civil society to call on the police to act promptly before the chief of the town, Zackaria Yahaya was arrested and five other people surrounding themselves to the police. This is shameful and another dent of the integrity of our internal security kingpin. Can our police be proactive sometimes?
By and large, the condemnation must not end with the matter. Pragmatic measures must be put in place to find a lasting solution to such acts in that part of the country which is creeping in into the Ghanaian society like cancer.
We must act promptly as a nation to put a stop to these uncivilized acts from happening again. Women activists parliament and all stakeholders must double up their game to halt this for this is not be associated with a country like ours.
It is shameful, primitive, sinful, and barbaric and must not be associated with a society like ours in this day and age.
In the words of President Akufo-Addo, “We should all work together to ensure that never again do such acts disfigure the face of our nation. I hope that the quick response of the police will lead to the rapid administration of justice in this unfortunate matter,” he said.
Nana Sifa Twum