Ungovernable women, strong minded women, women who do not conform to the general expectations that society has of them are often labelled as witches.
It is a term used loosely to compel women into conforming, just as “ashawo” is used against women who choose their own moral high ways.
Labelling women is patriarchy’s weapon, brandished to subdue and control. The lynching of Akua on accusations of witchcraft should not be shocking. It is an aspect of our society that we have all contributed to and allowed to fester.
How then is it shocking that some residents of Kafaba stone a woman to death in a country where people believe in and establish witch camps? The concept of witchcraft is not foreign neither is lynching foreign, re: Major Mahama.
There is no peculiarity here, the false outrage seeks to mask our true nature, an outrage that bellies our fear and refusal to accept that our people are a blood thirsty lot who mete their anger and frustration out on helpless people. We target the weak, the forsaken, the powerless and we aggravate their plight.
Mawuli Tsikata puts it succinctly when he says, ‘’old women from rich families are not possessed with witchcraft. They are taken care of and celebrated in their old age. Daughters of the rich are not possessed with witchcraft. They are given opportunities, even when they disappoint. The witchcraft in reality is poverty.”
Most of you have accused older women of witchcraft, even young women who are not like you, when someone as little as takes your lover you accuse them of practising dark magic because how can she be better than you with no spiritual boost? Witchcraft and associated accusations have been discussed and exposed extensively, yet our governments have failed to institute the relevant social protection nets and left calls to close all witch camps unanswered. So why do we pretend today to be angry?
In brazen display of prejudice I have noticed posts on social media questioning why these witch camps exist only in the northern regions of Ghana. Permit me to dismantle that error, witch camps do NOT only exist within northern Ghana, perhaps they have put an obvious name on them in northern Ghana but across Ghana you will find so called prayer camps and deliverance homes hoarding mostly women and children accused of witchcraft, chaining, starving and whipping the accused. Yet we overlook the obvious function of these spaces. While these practices exist, we are all guilty.
WE killed Akua.
So we are indeed guilty because we are believers in, enablers and partakers of a so called ‘holy war’. We are a people whose holier than thou ways must be adhered to, and how dare any member of society deviate from our straight and narrow norms MUCH LESS A WOMAN? Your accusatory fingers have lynched many women before this murder.
I have read learned people allude to the fact that her actions and ways may have caused the accusations, what’s the difference between you and the criminals? Solving Akua Denteh’s one case will not resurrect her, it will also not undo the many murders of women on similar accusations, matter-offact, while we dialogue, a woman in some village is being tortured for the same reasons.
The big question is, WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Perhaps to Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Naabuli or a sharp turn into Volta Region?
Many of the women in witch camps are women who escaped being lynched, Akua is not the first, you are only angry because Akua’s lynching was taped and presented to you in uncut crudity.
In many societies across Ghana, self-acclaimed exorcists travel from one locale to the other performing ‘cleansing’ rituals at a fee. In a 2015 movie ‘The Cursed Ones’ British filmmakers Nana Obiri Yeboah and Nicholas K. Lory explore a disillusioned reporter and a young, reformed Pastor’s attempt to save the life of a child accused of witchcraft.
Yes, pastors and men of God play an unsavoury role in these misconceptions: using their idolised statuses to erode the agency of people who do not believe in or practice Christianity. Witchcraft accusations can take a victim by surprise, one moment someone calls you a witch and within minutes there’s a mob taking you away to determine your guilt or innocence through a crude experiment like the posture of a dead chicken.
Those who survive these accusations usually run away or are rescued by missionaries or local authorities. A childless woman may be accused of witchcraft if a neighbour’s child dies, even the death of her co-wife’s child can lead to a rapid accusation, a ‘cantankerous’ woman may even be accused if her husband dies and she tries to fight the elders over property, the avenues are many and flimsy but majority of the accusations are vapid and vindictive and the simple absence of wizard camps tells you that this is rooted in gender bias and an agenda to subdue.
So while we pride ourselves with meaningless platitudes and pretend to have wholesome cultural practices, what is the state of our social fabric?
The evidence is before us.
The problem is unsolved, Akua Denteh’s murder is our collective guilt. You joined hands with me in this barbaric act. We are all guilty.
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Written By Nuong Faalong