Although there are some conflicting accounts, the main facts of the case are not in dispute. It is important to emphasize that the following have been agreed to by the accused themselves (a number of sources are listed at the bottom of this post):
- On November 20 Pastor Samuel Fletcher Sagoe accused Ama Ahima of being a witch.
- Sagoe gathered together a group of six people (including other members of his family) to "deliver" Ahima, that is to conduct an exorcism. Alternatively, this has been described as an effort to forcibly make Ahima "confess" through torture.
- The exorcism (and/or attempt to extract a confession) proceeded for several hours, until Ahima was doused in kerosene and set on fire.
- At this point a neighbor intervened and Ahima was taken to the hospital, where she died the following day.
At first glance, this might seem to be an impossible attempt at full-bore Orwellian propaganda. After all, the accusation that Ahima was a witch was made by a Christian Pastor. The subsequent attempt to exorcise Ahima and/or force her to confess is in line with longstanding Christian traditional practice. Ahima's execution by burning is also part of Christian tradition with respect to the punishment of witches, heretics and others accused of being in league with Satan.
But there is, already in-place and ready to go at a moment's notice, a highly successful formula for damage control in situations like this.
- First and foremost it is insisted loudly and repeatedly that this kind of horrific violence is the sad result of the inherent ignorance and irrationality of Africans themselves.
- Then the role of Christianity is explained away by insisting that real Christians would never do anything like this, therefore what was at work was not real Christianity, but rather Christianity tainted by African ignorance and superstition.
- If further obfuscation is required it is then implied broadly, or, if necessary, explicitly asserted, that the Christians involved were "Pentecostalists" or "Evangelicals" and, therefore, not representative of modern, enlightened, well-behaved, "mainstream" Christianity.
Therefore the whole presentation, while primarily constructed out of the above three elements, is embedded within a master narrative whose theme is not the spreading of the Christian gospel to the Heathen, but rather the noble upliftment of ignorant savages out of their native state of mental enthrallment, in which their their poor deluded psyches are darkened by magical thinking, up, up to the bright new day of Modern Western Reason.
When properly "spun" like this, a glaring example of Christian mob violence, such as the murder of Ama Ahima, is turned into evidence that Africans are in need of more missionaries, more NGO's, more "aid", etc, and that this will be the case until such a time, if ever such a time should come, that Africans are finally capable of thinking properly for themselves.
to be continued ....
Here are some of the media sources concerning this incident:
- Ghana Shocked by Witch Burning (David Amanor, BBC, November 26)
- Human Burning Case In Court (Rose Hayford Darko, Daily Graphic, November 28)
- My Mum Is Not A Witch (Della Russell Ocloo, Daily Graphic, November 29)
- 72-year-old grandmother burned alive in Ghana for being a ‘witch’ (Daily Mail, November 29)
- Ghanaian Woman Burned To Death For Being A 'Witch' (David Smith, Guardian, November 29)
- Ghana "Witch" Killing Points to a Broader Culture of Fear and Superstition (by Clair McDougal, Huffington Post, December 2)
- Autopsy Delays Burnt Woman's Case (Accra Mail, December 2)
- Don't Condemn Old Women As Witches (Vicky Wireko, Modern Ghana, December 9)
- Setting Ablazeof 72 Year-Old Woman Case Adjourned to Dec 23 (Della Russell Ocloo, Modern Ghana, December 22)
- Why are 'witches' still being burned alive in Ghana? (Cameron Duodo, Guardian, December 31)