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Opinions of Sunday, 2 August 2020

Columnist: Felicia Yuorlong

Once a respected man now excommunicated as a wizard: The story Mr Sonnaa

File photo of a witch camp in Northern Ghana File photo of a witch camp in Northern Ghana


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He was born and bread in that village, grew up with his brothers and friends, married and saw his children's children.

He was among the respectable men in the village. He had cattle and had a farm. And could be classified as an average Ghanaian.

As years went by, his wealth reduced but he was not reduced to a pauper. He could still farm and feed from his farm produce. God had blessed him with children with males being the majority. So he was not a poor lonely old man as some other old men. Even in his late 60s , he was still strong and active in his farming bussiness.

His woes began when rumours started gathering that he was a wizard. Who ever started the rumour, no one knew.
Being in a village in which common malaria is attributed to witch craft, it was not difficult to always find a reason to comfirm those rumours. He became the main suspect of every death either mysteriously or of a known cause.

One would think that a village of a population as few as this would look out for each other since they were related to one another. But it was not so for Mr Sonnaa. His own kinsmen were part of those championing his "arrest".
Two years ago, the worst that could happen to anyone happened to him.

A stranger who was not part of the tribe in that village decided to bring in a soothsayer to help catch witches in the community since he couldn't understand why people kept dying in the village. According to the narrative of my mother, the said stranger and some of Mr Sonnaa's kinsmen went to Kong a nearby village to bring the soothsayer.

This soothsayer came with his men and the chief of the village (Konfali).
They first went to the house of an uncle of Mr Sonnaa's to perform some rituals. Leaving the chief behind, they proceeded to Mr Sonnaa's house. My mother is a direct sister to Mr Sonnaa. According to her, they were outside when they arrived with the guard which supposedly identifies witches and wizards. On arrival, they pounced on him beating him. His son who was arround tried to defend him but he also had his own share. My mother joined in the fight but was given the slap of her life, leaving a cut on her face. It took a woman to come to the rescue of Mr Sonnaa. His community members were not concerned. Some of his brothers couldn't care less.

At evening, one of his sons came from town, went to the strangers House and got involved in a fight with the stranger.
The stranger went again to the community where the soothsayer was brought from and this time round came with young men on two " mortoking". Armed with cutlasses and allegedly guns.

By then Mr Sonnaa had gone to Tuna to file a case at the police station. Imagine what would have happened if he was arround. His house was demolished spoiling grains of corn, millet and guinea corn. Cooking pots and utensils were destroyed. He was excommunicated from the village. His entire memory of his childhood and adult hood had been destroyed. His dream of playing with his grandchildren were shattered. He could no longer think of dying peacefully under his own roof.

He moved to settle in Tuna. Few weeks after his arrival, unfortunately his brother in-law who had been battling an illness passed on. Fast forward, he was blamed for his death by one of his in-law's kinsmen. The Tuna chief said he could not grant him protection if he continued to stay in town. He could stay and risk being killed or leave. The police advised that he should stay indoors to avoid trouble.
With a heavy heart, he left his wife behind and left to the southern part of the country. At least he could stay there without being destroyed.

The police handled the case as usual of Ghanian police. People involved were invited for thier statements. Mr Sonnaa was asked to look for the soothsayer before the case could proceed to court. Since he could not play the role of the police, the case is still hanging. The perpetrators moving about freely while Mr Sonnaa remains a destitute in a strange land.

At the attorney general's department in Tamale, I went with Mr Sonnaa to the lawyer who was supposed to handle his case. We were told she was on marternity leave but a new lawyer would be assigned to the case.

In Ghana , I believe the poor cannot go to or win a case in court without an external help. With no money to follow up, the case has died a natural death.

Unlike Akua Dente, Mr Sonnaa was lucky enough to not have been lynched. But he is now as good as dead. Just recently, he came down for a brother's funeral. He looked haggardly, walked wobbly and dressed tattered.
I hope one day he gets Justice for what he had been through.

The above incident took place in the savanna region in the sawla tuna Kalba district championed by a local chief ,under the auspices of the whole community, the district police and the family of This man.

We all kept silent but are now quick to judge those who stood by while the woman was lynched.
Am guilty because I couldn't do enough to support him.

Look around you, how many of such issues come across your way on daily, monthly or yearly basis in your community? How many have you looked on unconcerned?
Let's try to be one another's keeper.
Stay blessed.

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