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Lynching of Akua Denteh: Criminalise witch name calling

BY: Ibrahim Mahama
Madam Akua Mariama Denteh, the 90-year-old woman who was lynched at Kafaba
Madam Akua Mariama Denteh, the 90-year-old woman who was lynched at Kafaba

On Thursday, 23 July, 2020, a 90-year-old woman, Madam Akua Denteh was beaten to death in broad daylight at Kafaba near Salaga, a well known slave market in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Salaga and Kafaba are in the East Gonja Municipality of the newly created Savannah Region carved out of the Northern Region.

The hysteria and public outcry created by the lynching of the 90-year-old woman is beyond description. Whether or not things will change, we will wait and see.

The Ghana Police immediately offered GH¢2,000 for information leading to the arrest of the culprits even though the evidence was streaming on social media and shown on TV.

The first arrest the police made was the chief of Kafaba. Whether the arrest was right or wrong, we will get to know in due course of time.

Crime

What was the crime of this 90-year-old woman to warrant being brutally lynched in public? According to newspaper reports, a fetish priestess declared Madam Akua Denteh the witch responsible for the burning of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) youth shed.

The priestess also accused the old woman for being responsible for the irregular rainfall at Kafaba. She, therefore, recommended the lynching of Madam Akua Denteh.

In this 21st century, when developed countries are planning the building of underground cities, tourists’ travels to the moon, life in submarines at the bottom of the ocean for months, flying in 500 capacity jumbo jets at a speed faster than sound and transplanting human hearts and kidneys, the black man, who is the oldest citizen of the earth, is still accusing the fair sex of being witches — an accusation which is a figment of human imagination.

The ancient Romans, who lived years before Christ (BC) erroneously believed that their god, Nimbus, was responsible for rainfall. Today, Africans, Ghanaians, believe that a poor 90-year-old woman, Madam Akua Denteh, was responsible for the inadequacy of rainfall at Kafaba and should be beaten to death in the public square.

An Akan speaker may say, Ewurade Nyankopon, did we go or did we come! (In the name of Almighty God, where are we going in this 21st century!)

Is Africa that backward or a few ignorant Africans want the rest of the world to believe that Africa is many, many years behind the rest of the world in civilisation and development?

Figment

Belief in witchcraft and witches is a figment of human imagination. Today, belief in witchcraft and witches is the figment of the imagination of a few incorrigible Africans, who accuse innocent African women of being witches.

Witchcraft and witches do not exist. Witchcraft and witches are ancient phenomena used against women. They should not have a place in this modern world. They are nothing but a mirage.

Under President John Dramani Mahama’s government, the Minister of Gender, Women and Children Affairs made the first attempt ever by a Minister of State to put an end to the suffering of innocent Ghanaian women who are accused of being witches and subjected to hooting, torture, and expulsion from their places of birth.

However, that attempt was feeble. And above all, it was a nine-day wonder. The minister lamented the maltreatment of women accused of being witches. She issued a warning to all abusing such women.

She then ordered the closure of all witches camps in the country. She made sure that the camps were closed down but there was no law making it an offence in calling anyone a witch.

Law

A law criminalising the calling of people witches is the panacea for saving the Ghanaian woman from the accusation of witchcraft and subjection to torture. Such a law must be draconian. The penalty for a breach of the law should include imprisonment for a second offender.

While I welcome the closure of the so-called witches camps, I totally disapproved the closure without the enactment of a law making it an offence to call a woman a witch.

When the camps were closed down, in the absence of the law, the so-called witches suffered. The closure in the absence of the law treated symptoms instead of the disease.

Consequently, when the minister disappeared from the scene, the incorrigible believers in witchcraft and witches and the irascible, irate youth moved back into their old bad ways and caused mayhem to the poor women.

What I see of this problem of so-called witches in Ghana is this – when the incorrigible believers in witches and the irresponsible youth exhibit their unwarranted brutality on the so-called witches, there is always public hysteria and outcry.

In one of my most recent books, Missing Pages, I attributed the continued existence of witchcraft and witches to past and present governments, law makers, the security agencies and above all traditional rulers. It is their tacit or express recognition of the twin ancient phenomena and failure to protect innocent Ghanaian women which give life to witchcraft.

In towns and villages where traditional rulers give protection to women accused of witchcraft, witchcraft exists only in name, like fairies, invisible and harmless to human beings.

The executive arm of government, Parliament, the security services, the media and above all, our traditional leaders, should join hands now and say enough is enough!!!

It is now time to enact a law making it criminal to call, declare, accuse a woman as a witch and take physical action against her.

The writer is a lawyer, politician, author and senior citizen.