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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Columnist: Baba Musah

Cultural compatibility with modernity

File photo: The lynched 90-year-old woman File photo: The lynched 90-year-old woman

Over the past few days, many Ghanaians have been thrown into a state of great shock by a certain video in which a 90-year-old woman was seen beaten mercilessly by some people while she was sitting on the ground.

The incident reportedly resulted in the lynching of the 90-year-old woman and it’s said to have happened at a community called Kafaba-Savannah Region according to media reports. I think it is a very unfortunate thing and ought not to be repeated anywhere in Ghana moving forward.

I could not even watch 30 seconds of the video. I felt scandalized just like many people across the country. But I think that we must not see the problem or canker as something limited to one geographical area in the country. The issue of #witchcraftcy has long history from literature and from oral history. It has some cultural dimensions.

However, culture is DYNAMIC and therefore outmoded cultural beliefs and practices ought to be abandoned completely or better still be reformed to reflect the reality of modern times.

I was happy when the then First Lady Mama Lordina Mahama decided to use her foundation to give hope to the alleged witches and wizards at their various held centers or camps in the country. She demonstrated love and compassion for these vulnerable people in our society by providing for them their basic necessities for their wellbeing. This is a great gesture she continues to extend to these vulnerable group of people even as a former First Lady of Ghana even before the latest incident which outraged Ghanaians. Kudos to her. I was also happy about the previous NDC govt’s efforts through the Gender Ministry under Hon. Nana Oye together with some CSOs to ensure the disbandment of these supposed witches camps in the country.

More efforts must be made to permanently address this menace and if possible, make appropriate legislation to criminalize such inhumane treatment to potentially innocent people who may not have ‘big people’ in their families to defend or provide protection for them.

As a son of the north, I think that, this practice must be looked at again especially given the rampant occurrences of such incidents in northern Ghana. Culture is dynamic and thus certain practices that are deemed outmoded or in contravention with the existing laws of Ghana, must bemodified or done away with.

It maybe prevalent in certain parts of the country as reported in the media circles but it’s not limited to one geographical area or place. Many innocent people have been victims or killed under similar circumstances over the years but in the quiet. But for technology sake (video recording), this latest incident probably would have equally passed unnoticed. How many of such cases passed unnoticed across the country? Hmmm.

I am yet to see someone who comes from a ‘well-to-do-family or ‘rich home’ being accused of being a witch or wizard and subjected to this inhumane treatment like the 90 old helpless woman went through. This is not to suggest that they may have not been some isolated cases of such nature. But it appears to me that, most of the people who are often accused of being witches or wizards, usually come from ‘very poor’ families backgrounds or homes. As a result, their poverty status makes them more vulnerable and easily compounds their plights as they maybe no one to protect, defend or support them in times of such accusations.

It’s important to note that, the issue about consultation with the gods, ancestors or oracles is an embodiment and an integral part Traditional African Religion which dates back to centuries. As long as the constitution of Ghana recognizes different faiths or beliefs, such traditional and cultural practices will continue to exist among Ghanaians.

Maybe, effective sensitization programmes could be initiated by central govt, district assemblies, NGOd etc to educate our traditional authorities on the need to do away with some of these practices or better still reform or fine tune them to suit current societies.

If Ghana is to make good progress in the fight to eradicate ‘witchcraftcy’ menace and the subjection of vulnerable and innocent people through some of these torturous issues or ordeals, then concrete measures ought to be taken. Such measures must bring on board our traditional authorities ie Chiefs, Tindanbas, Queen Mothers, Youth Chiefs, Religious leaders, Opinion leaders, Assembly members, CSOs etc because they would play very critical roles in the success of such initiatives.

It can be done. I think, even before a possible legislation could be considered, the government and other relevant stakeholders must initiate intensive education and sensitization programmes aimed at bringing awareness to the general public. For instance, dedicated contact numbers or hotlines could be made available to the general public across the country, so that if someone comes across an issue of that nature, so the person can easily report to the nearest police station or inform the national call center for immediate follow up or action.

God bless our homeland Ghana.