Vestiges of Barbaric Animalistic Ritual Murders in Ghana

Sat, 23 Aug 2008 Source: Bottah, Eric Kwasi

By Eric Kwasi Bottah, alias Oyokoba

Family and friends, if you are like me, perhaps you were sickened to your stomach by a news item that appeared on Ghanaweb regarding serial killings of hunchbacks (see Ghanaweb August 18, 2008).

Briefly the macabre news item pointed to the arrest of three people near Bibiani, Western Region, namely Nuhu Billa, alias Apana, Alidu Musah, Alias Tony and Abudu Rahman, alias Taller who is a butcher, plus a fourth person missing at large, who conspired to kill one Musa Iddi, a hunchback for his hump to enable them get rich quickly through juju, i.e. “sikaduro”.

This is just plain barbaric. How in the world do people get the idea that hunchbacks have mother lodes of cash in their humps? Now if they could not make themselves rich by their humps, how could they help others to be rich? Over there in Tanzania, the phenomenon is to capture and kill albinos for similar purposes.

I have pondered a lot over the sources of our “sikaduro” and “bayifuo” (witchcraft) beliefs, and I can't seem to fathom out how notions of witches and wizards, with magic powers, are so entrenched in our communities. I do not believe the powers attributed to witches and wizards are real, neither do I believe in juju or “sikaduro”. This is what I think though; that the “bayifuo” belief is most probably a throwback to our not so distant past primitive societies where people engaged in cannibalism, and ritual sacrifices that involved the murdering of people for their blood to imbue oneself, rightly or wrongly, with some extraordinary powers. This is not uniquely African; all human societies have gone through such experiences in their development, but in Africa vestiges of them have become entrenched and continue to be patronized by people of all walks of life. Some politicians, businessmen, professionals, Christians, and Moslems, dabble in it. The fact that they dabble in it, does not mean the powers projected to them are real, rather the criminal behaviour is. If one killed somebody for some powers, one thing should be made clear to him, he has committed murder and there is no proven human measurement to show he derived any perceived powers. The thing is, belief in these barbaric practices defies logic, and it does not necessarily depend on a person’s level of education or station in life. The irony is that whether people are succeeding in life or not, rich or poor, they would find some rational to immerse in it, if they so wishes.

Even though it exists in western societies as black magic; back in our distant primitive societies, cannibalism and ritual murder coincided, overlapped and infused each other. I would submit that it is notions of those cannibalistic and ritual sacrifices that have been uplifted and forged unto witchcraft in our modern era. People still have imagery and imagination of what obtained then, in their minds today, as are told in oral history, and they associate them with witchcraft rather than cannibalism. In Africa today, I find some correlation between the images and beliefs that are attributed to witches as something that greatly parallels primitive societies where people either hid behind masks or openly practiced cannibalism and human sacrifices as part of their traditional religion. It fits into a grandiose of over all religiosity and worship. Just think of it, cannibals are often primitive people who converge on special occasions to eat their prisoners of war or the sick amongst them. So also is the belief today that witches meet at night to feast on the spiritual body of victims which are magically donated by one of their members in some kind of rotation. I find it curious that there still exists in certain African societies, belief systems that says, if you eat a piece of the flesh of your enemy, who you have just killed, the ghost of that person cannot come back to do you any harm. It is like, by eating the person's flesh, you inoculate yourself from him or her attacking you in spirit.

Proof of this barbaric behaviour emerged recently in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and the Ivory Coast, when they plunged into civil wars. I have seen on TV, rebel soldiers digging out the hearts of their opponents and eating them raw. The practice is widespread in Africa, and I have reasons to believe it is even present in Ghana. If people can swallow whole live frogs, what else they can't do? Just close your eyes for a moment and vision a live frog in your stomach. You would realize that it comes close to the size and palpitations of a freshly dug out heart. Can we then speculate that the so-called "frogs" that were alleged to have been swallowed by some Asomasi and his deputy; of which swallowing ritual the deputy refused, resulting in some bad blood and savage slaps between them, was a cover up for human hearts? Yep, it was the real deal, not any frog. Even Ghanaian movies are idolizing this shameful behaviour, and are perpetuating the falsehoods associated with witchcraft, witches and wizards. Let us get it straight, there is nothing like “sikaduro”, only lazy and primitive people would believe in that. And the so called witches and wizards are not people who have the ability to transition into spirits flying through the sky, but real life secret cannibalistic society members, such as those arrested above, who meet to feast on victims and practice human sacrifices. I do not for a moment believe they have magical powers; they are cannibals, period, and the earlier we recognise that, the better it would be for us to start designing means to uproot those barbaric behaviour from our midst. I even sometimes think Christianity, unintentionally, give room and credence to such beliefs. For, stop to think and reflect objectively about it; if I came to you and said I have an unblemished sacrificial human being, whose body, if we eat it, would bless us with prosperity and long life; my friend you would be in your elements to call the police on me. But then we do not bat an eye when we collect together and share the "flesh and blood" of Jesus in a communion. Ask yourself, why should we blame cannibals, when they do the same? They are not joking; they want to eat the real thing, not some bread and red wine. I know some people would accuse me of taking things literally. Wait a minute; this is me, putting on my academic cap, not my religious gown. Don't come and curse me with Yesu Mogya Nka Wanim admonitions; you would be committing a barbaric act.

Well, my friends, I am not talking of the mere pouring of libations when I talk about African traditional religion. I am talking of real people who would want you to believe they have some powers when we should be focusing on them as cannibals and criminals like the arrested persons in the introduction to this article. We can only uproot this barbaric behaviour from our midst by exposing them to sunshine. One area would be to take on our traditional abodes of idol worship. There should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the people who engage in this beastly behaviour are given comfort and blessings by the fetish priests and marabouts who are the gatekeepers of oracles and idols. What if, we did not have Kwaku Bonsam, Akonode, Kwaku Firi, Gadewu, Antoa Nyama, Kyenaman, Trokosi, Muslim hermits, etc, where would the minds so coloured darkly turn to for assistance to acquire power, wealth, success, good marriages, etc. These pagans are the harbingers of all the macabre practices in our midst. They underpin the institution of chieftaincy, ancestral worship (forget about the mere pouring of libations) and traditional religion, and they have to go. They are so retrogressive; I would stick my neck to say, their existence and practice also explains in large part Africans lacking behind in scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs. What are the odds that somebody would apply his brains to scientific research and studies, if all that you have to do is to contact Kwaku Bonsam, and he can make you fly through the sky on a broom stick or ace your examinations without much study at school? Very little and that would be unnecessary.

Fetishism and idol worship would have to go, they explain in large part our underdevelopment and tribalism. They also explain much, the political instability on the African continent, in that many a would-be military coup maker or rogue politician would consult these tin gods and hermits, who would provide him with charms and assurances of divine destiny to succeed in his diabolical plots. And I know I am treading on dangerous grounds here, given the sensitivity of the subject matter to most African Christians, but I would say, one could make the argument that “some” of our churches harbour certain believes that are not utterly different from their cousins who practice traditional religion, in that when you look critically at their over emphasis on the speaking of outer worldly tongues, and going into trances or mediums; they mimic the same things that obtains at fetish houses. The issue is poignantly even made more clearer when you listen to the claims of Kwaku Bonsam, the fetish priest, that certain Christian pastors consult him for powers with which they pursue their evangelism. On that score, one could clearly put his finger on some sort of mixed cropping of notions of traditional African religion and Christianity. The challenge is in keeping the two separate and not to infect and corrupt each other. Cheers.

Columnist: Bottah, Eric Kwasi