Whenever I come across what is termed ‘odd news’ from the foreign media, I marvel at the astonishing happenings in some parts of the world, the testimony to the saying that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’.
But how many of such stories can equal the recent news item with the mind-boggling headline here in Ghana: “Woman arrested for selling human meat”?
As reported by the Daily Guide and other media on July 14, a 60-year-old woman, Florence Appiah, was nearly lynched at the Adabraka Market, in Accra, accused of selling human flesh. Apparently, she had been found carrying for sale “fresh meat in a tray” around 9 a.m. the day before.
Eyewitness accounts said Appiah, not known in the market, was moving from one end of the market to the other “with a big tray full of the meat that looked like the flesh of a human being”. An alarm was raised and people rushed to the scene. Fortunately for her the police obviously having got wind of the commotion and the likely mob justice, rushed there and rescued her.
Accra Regional Police spokesperson ASP Effia Tenge, who confirmed the incident said Appiah’s explanation was that she had only been carrying out the instructions of her pastor.
Maame Appiah said following the deaths of her two children in mysterious circumstances, she had contacted her pastor for help and he had directed her to “buy cow meat and carry it around a market place” to avert any further deaths. Therefore, early that morning, she had gone to the Makola Market to buy the meat and then she came to the Adabraka Market with it as instructed by her pastor.
The police were taking the meat for a forensic examination to determine whether it was truly beef or human flesh, the reports said.
Fortunately for Maame Appiah, there was a follow-up report that a Makola Market butcher had confirmed her story to the police. He reportedly said that it was indeed two kilos of beef he had sold her after much haggling.
As it is with such stories, there were various versions making it difficult to know what actually happened. While some said it was fresh meat she was selling, others claimed it had been roast meat; while some accounts gave the impression that it was a panful of meat she had been carrying, other versions indicated that it was a small quantity.
She said Maame Appiah’s husband also confirmed that his wife was only following a directive from her pastor. ASP Tenge, said she had since been released on police enquiry bail and was expected to report to the Adabraka Police daily.
This weird story raises a number of issues. If Maame Appiah had indeed been carrying two kilos of beef on her head, I’m surprised that anybody saw the meat at all. How big is that quantity of meat, especially if, as reported, it’s displayed in a covered pan?
In my experience, two kilos of beef is just about enough to fit into a medium size cooking pot, therefore the big quantities implied in some of the reports can’t be true.
In any case, who identified and declared that it was human flesh? Based on what analysis?
I think that the police should find out whoever it was who said it was human meat and ask that person two simple questions: why did you conclude that it was human flesh? Did you conclude that because you have handled human flesh before?
However, to me one main aspect which it appears the police have overlooked is that of the role of the ‘pastor’. The pastor needs to be invited for questioning, at the very least! If that is the sort of directives he gives to his followers, they need to be protected from him!
A woman who has lost two children in “mysterious” circumstances is an already traumatised, depressed and disturbed person. If he really wanted to help her come to terms with her grief, why not counsel her? Or, why not accompany her to talk to medical people, maybe the doctors who treated the two children, for an explanation as to what killed them?
Instead, he compounds her agony by giving her this bizarre directive, which could have ended very tragically if the police had not been sent for. Probably Florence Appiah’s luck was that the Adabraka Police Station is very near the Adabraka Market, in fact within shouting distance.
But evidently, Maame Appiah’s ‘pastor’ is only one of thousands self-appointed religious leaders taking advantage of the religious freedom in the Ghana Constitution to manipulate the lives of the vulnerable, as well as sowing discord and hatred in families.
One only needs to tune one’s radio at dawn to any of the myriad radio stations to marvel at how much so-called pastors play on people’s ignorance, faith and weakness.
So many troubled souls seeking assistance, solace from the ‘pastors’, and invariably the radio dawn preaching ends in an invitation and insistent venue directions for the distressed to go and see the ‘pastor’.
What happens when the person accepts the invitation to see the pastor in person is anybody’s guess.
And it’s very fortunate for Maame Appiah that the butcher is an honest man and confirmed her story. Given the circumstances, there are people who are so afraid of the police that they would even have denied ever having seen the woman, let alone sold her any meat.
While we wait to know the final police report on this strange story from the Adabraka Market, in my opinion there is another matter that the incident has raised: the lack of security, the absence of supervisors or administrators in our markets.
Markets are very central to our lives, but how well do our local governments look after them? Shouldn’t every market have somebody in charge, and a market office where people can go and speak to an official when they need help or someone to step in and take charge when necessary?
There is also the need to protect the naïve, gullible and vulnerable from the so-called pastors. Who checks the dubious pastors feeding fat on the misery of others?