Ghana: lynching of 90-year-old woman suspected of witchcraft (2020 article)

Recently, Ghana was shocked by the Kasoa ritual murder case. It’s not common knowledge that ritual murders are no exception in Ghanaian society. Also belief in witchcraft is widespread in this West African country which nevertheless has a very positive reputation as one of Africa’s most advanced countries, rapidly developing.

Yesterday I posted a general article on sorcery and the belief in witchcraft and I announced a heartbreaking, breathtaking incident which occurred in Ghana last year. 

The lynching of Akua Denteh, a 90-year old woman in the Savannah region, in central Ghana, who was accused of being a witch caused national-wide outrage. It happened at Kafaba near Salaga in the East Gonja Municipality of the Savannah region, on July 23, 2020. After a local priestess, Sherina Mohammed alias Alhajia Filina (40), had accused the nonagenarian of witchcraft, a mob attacked the old, frail woman. Two women slapped, kicked and caned her with a whip, the horror was filmed by by-standers who did not intervene to stop the insane and atrocious cruelty which led to the death of this mother of nine children. The horror-movie was widespread on social media, but I find the video too gruesome and repulsive to show here.  

The lynching of Madam Akua Denteh was not a unique incident, however. On more occasions I have reported on the cruel treatment of children and adult people who are being accused of witchcraft. See my postings dated April 14, 2020, Ghana: women accused of witchcraft find refuge in outpost run by sisters, and November 30 of the same year, Ghana Pentecostals come to the defense of accused witches as well as ‘AfriKids: Ghana’s haven for ‘spirit’ children marked for murder‘ (June 23, 2018).  

In 2018, an investigation by the famous journalist and film maker Anas Aremeyaw Anas resulted in worldwide attention for the plight of so-called ‘spirit children’. Anas investigated the murder of Ghanaian children who were accused to be possessed by evil spirits. See my June 4, 2018 posting Spirit Child: Ritual Killings in Ghana. It feels wry knowing that reportedly already in 2013 Ghanaians put a ban on the killing of ‘spirit children‘.

And now, in 2020, the cruel and inhumane treatment of people – mostly women and children but also men are occasionally targeted – accused of witchcraft has resulted in yet another innocent victim of superstition. Will it end here? 

The police acted swiftly and apprehended the priestess as well as the culprits who tortured and murdered Akua Denteh. However, the recent Kasoa murder case shows that superstition has far from vanished from Ghanaian society. The war against superstition, belief in witchcraft and ritualistic killings is far from over.
(webmaster FVDK)

Lynching of 90-year-old Ghanaian woman suspected of witchcraft scars national conscience

Published: July 28, 2020
By: Face2Face – Nii Ntreh | Associate Editor

A 90-year-old Ghanaian woman in the north of the country was lynched to death last week by a mob who had been convinced that frail and diminutive Akua Denteh was a witch.

According to local sources, Denteh was accused by a popular traditional priestess in the Savannah region of the country, who traced the misery and misfortune of a few people as well as the community to the nonagenarian. This followed a long-held suspicion by some youth in the community.

The ensuing mob justice after the priestess’ confirmation was as swift as it was merciless.

A viral video of the lynching shows a small crowd that had circled the helpless old woman as she sat in the dirt. In the middle of the circle, those who were perhaps more incensed with Denteh’s alleged witchery – two visibly irate women in particular – beat her up, one of them, with a whip.

The video is only forty-five seconds long and does not include footage of what has been reported as the commitment of more people to beat Denteh up. But since the video came to light and drew the response of the police, many of the onlookers as well as those seen assaulting the old woman, have reportedly fled into hiding.

Ghana‘s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has called the incident a “tragic act” that has “disfigured” the country’s image. A former head of state Jerry Rawlings has also called for a quick resolution to a “cruel and barbaric lynching”.

Social media platforms too, Facebook and Twitter specifically, have been awash with statements from individuals and organizations condemning Denteh’s murder. But perhaps, the sentiments of civil society, however well-intentioned, are at best, anodynic and polite.

2015 Global Attitudes Survey by the Pew Research Center found that about 90% of Ghanaians described themselves as religious, belonging to the Christianity, Islam, variants of the Eastern religions or traditional African faiths. But the belief in witchcraft, not argued by the Pew survey, is very rife regardless of one’s faith.

The pervasiveness of belief in witchcraft in Ghana can be seen through the popularity of the biggest movies produced by the country’s hugely-successful Kumawood (Kumasi Hollywood) industry. Since the 1980s too, Ghana has witnessed the astronomic proliferation of evangelical churches that market themselves as “solution centers” to spiritual problems.

Some of these churches are referred to as prayer camps where people are supposed to be delivered of demonic possessions. Apart from churches, some animistic believers in northern Ghana, not far from where Denteh was murdered, have witch camps, where older women are held on accusations of witchcraft, sometimes until their death.

The most famous of these camps, the Gambaga witch camp, has been studied by social scientists across the world.

However, much in the fashion of the Comtean sociological perspective, many educated Ghanaians seem to think that belief in witchcraft and hardcore spirituality is in the nature of the uneducated poor.

With what is already known about Ghanaian society, the lynching of Denteh seems like the ugly manifestation of serious neglected underlying tensions.

Source: Lynching of 90-year-old Ghanaian woman suspected of witchcraft scars national conscience

Related article:

90-year-old woman accused of witchcraft lynched at Kafaba near Salaga
    

The police have mounted a search for one Tanko and his accomplices who allegedly masterminded the lynching of a 90-year-old woman at Kafaba near Salaga in the Savannah Region on the accusation that she was a witch.

The incident happened on Thursday, July 23, 2020 in the East Gonja Municipality.

The old woman whose body has since been deposited at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) mortuary has been identified as Akua Denteh.

The Savannah Regional Police Commander, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP), Mr Enoch Adutwum Bediako told Graphic Online that some more police officers have been detailed to the area to effect the arrest of the suspects who subjected the victim to severe beatings which led to her death.

What happened?

DCOP Bediako told Graphic Online that at about 4pm on Thursday, July 23, 2020, Mahama Salami aged 60 years of Mempeasem, a suburb of Salaga reported to the police that he had received information at 11 am from his sister, Mahama Memuna that his mother, Akua Denteh aged 90 had been accused of being a witch.

This was because a certain fetish priest in the area had said so.

DCOP Bediako said based on that the old woman was subjected to severe beatings by Tanko and his accomplices until she became unconscious and died.

He said when the matter was reported to the Salaga Police they proceeded to the scene at Kafaba, which is about 21 kilometres from Salaga and saw the lifeless body of the victim.

He said an inspection conducted on the body of the victim revealed a cut on the forehead and bruises on the right arm.

After processing the scene as part of investigations, the body was sent to the TTH mortuary for preservation.

DCOP Bediako said the police are on the heels of those who perpetrated the act for the law to deal with them.

The issue of witchcraft allegations, especially against old women are widespread in the northern part of Ghana.

Source: 90-year-old woman accused of witchcraft lynched at Kafaba near Salaga

Related article: suspects grabbed

Kafaba ‘Witch’ Killer Grabbed After Trying To Escape To Yeji

KILLED! Akua Denteh, The 90-year-old woman being assaulted by the suspects, GRABBED! Latifah Bumaye

Published: August 1, 2020
By: Modern Ghana – 

A key suspect in the lynching of Akua Denteh, a 90-year-old woman, over allegation of witchcraft at Kafaba in the Gonja East Municipality of the Savannah Region, has been grabbed by the police after she tried to escape from the area.

Latifah Bumaye, believed to be an associate of the ringleader, Hajia Filipina, was picked up at Kejewu Bator, a fishing community under the Abrumase Police within the Salaga Division at East Gonja, while going to Yeji. 

According to police sources, they heard about the hideout of the suspect and dispatched detectives to Kejewu Bator where she was picked up and escorted back to the Salaga Divisional Command. 

DAILY GUIDE understands that she is being processed to be sent to the Regional Police Command in Damongo for further action. 

The suspect is believed to be one of the two ladies seen in the viral video lynching the 90-year-old woman because they claimed she was a witch. 

She is believed to be the woman in the video menacingly whipping the old lady with a long whip which she brandished. Meanwhile, the chief suspect, Filipina, is yet to be apprehended. 

More Suspects

Five people, who are believed to have participated in the lynching which has since sparked national outrage, have been remanded in police custody by a district court at Bole. 

They pleaded not guilty and the court, presided over by Andrew Prince Cudjoe, remanded them until August 20. 

The suspects – Haruna Aness, 34; Issaka Tanko, 35; Shaibu Murtala, 29; Sulemana Ali, 35; and Issaka Sachebu, 32, have been charged with conspiracy and murder. 

The Chief of Kafaba, Seidu Yahaya, under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred, has also been granted police inquiry bail. 

The police placed a GH¢2,000 reward for anybody that would help in the arrest of the suspects; and yesterday, a benevolent individual placed a GH¢5,000 reward for anybody who could assist the police to arrest Filipina.

Source: Kafaba ‘Witch’ Killer Grabbed After Trying To Escape To Yeji

Another article:

Kafaba: Bole District Court Remands Woman ‘Killer’

Published: August 3, 2020
By: Modern Ghana

The accused person was provisionally charged with murder. 

The case prosecutor, chief inspector Abdulai B. Awuni, pleaded with the court to remand the accused person for further investigation. 

The judge granted the request of the police prosecutor and demanded the accused be remanded into police custody to reappear in court on August 20, 2020. 

The charge was read and explained to the accused person but her plea was not taken. 

More Suspects

Five people, who are believed to have participated in the lynching which has since sparked national outrage, have been remanded in police custody by a district court at Bole. 

They pleaded not guilty and the court, presided over by Andrew Prince Cudjoe, remanded them until August 20. 

The suspects – Haruna Aness, 34; Issaka Tanko, 35; Shaibu Murtala, 29; Sulemana Ali, 35; and Issaka Sachebu, 32, have been charged with conspiracy and murder. 

The Chief of Kafaba, Seidu Yahaya, under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred, has also been granted police inquiry bail. 

The police placed a GH¢2,000 reward for anybody that would help in the arrest of the suspects; and yesterday, a benevolent individual placed a GH¢5,000 reward for anybody who could assist the police to arrest Filipina. 

Madam Akua Denteh was lynched at Kafaba in the East Gonja Municipality in the Savannah Region. 

The woman was openly beaten to death by Hajia Filipina,the soothsayer with support from a mob in the community. 

The main suspect, Hajia Filipina, as at the time of filing this report was still on the run.

Source: Kafaba: Bole District Court Remands Woman ‘Killer’

More articles:

Kafaba Killing: Woman ‘Killer’ To Face Court Today

Published: August 3, 2020
By: Modern Ghana

One of the key suspects in the lynching of 90-year-old Akua Denteh at Kafaba will be arraigned today, August 3.

Latifah Bumaye was arrested last week at Kejewu Bator, a fishing community along the Volta lake. 

She was seen in a viral video continuously hitting the deceased with an object. 

The deceased, Akua Denteh a fortnight ago was tortured after she was accused of being a witch. 

The Savannah Regional Police earlier arrested five persons who are also linked to the incident. 

They have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and have been remanded in police custody to reappear before the court on August 20. 

Speaking to Citi News, Savannah Regional Police Commander, DCOP Enoch Adutwum Bediako said investigations are still ongoing. 

“She was arrested on Monday at Kejewu, a small community along the Volta lake. All she keeps saying is that she doesn’t know what was happening to her. Our investigations are still ongoing but we will put her before court today to seek remand as investigations continue. She has not been able to tell us where the priestess (another suspect) is.” 

Five suspects charged with conspiracy to commit murder

Earlier, five suspects arrested by the Police in connection with the lynching of Akua Denteh have been formally charged with conspiracy to commit murder. 

They are however currently on remand in police custody after making their first appearance in court on Thursday, July 30. 

Kafaba chief granted bail

Meanwhile, the Kafaba chief, Zackaria Yahaya who was earlier arrested has been granted bail. 

According to the police, the five other suspects in their statements indicated that the chief did not play any role in the development as he even asked them to send the priestess away when they went to introduce her to him before the lynching incident. 

“The youth did not agree with the chief and went on to do what they did and this unfortunate thing happened… All the five said the chief didn’t agree with what they were doing and therefore he was not part of what they were doing. Based on that, we have to grant the chief bail pending further investigations…He spent the night there because we got the suspects the following day,” DCOP Bediako said.

Source: Kafaba Killing: Woman ‘Killer’ To Face Court Today

Another:

Kafaba Lynching: I Was Possessed – Woman ‘Killer’ Reveals In Court

Published: August 3, 2020
By: Modern Ghana

A key suspect in the lynching of Akua Denteh, a 90-year-old woman at Kafaba in the East Gonja Municipality of the Savannah Region, over allegation of witchcraft, has spoken for the first time since her arrest last Friday.

Latifa Bumaye, 33, claimed she was ‘possessed’ and did not realize she was participating in the lynching of Akua Denteh. 

She claimed she went to wash her clothes at the river bank with her sister when the spirit entered her, adding “I saw the incident on television and I wondered if I was really the one who tortured her like that.” 

Besides, she claimed that the woman who had passed on is her grandmother, a position rejected by the family of Akua Denteh. 

Latifah believed to be an associate of the ringleader, Hajia Filipina, was picked up at Kejewu Bator, a fishing community under Abrumase Police Station within the Salaga Division in the East Gonja, whilst going to Yeji on Friday. 

She is believed to be the woman in the video menacingly whipping the old lady with a long whip. Meanwhile, the chief suspect, Hajia Filipina, is yet to be apprehended. 

According to sources, Latifa is expected to be sent to the Regional Police Command in Damongo to be processed for court on Monday. 

More Suspects

Five people, who are believed to have participated in the lynching which has since sparked national outrage, have been remanded in police custody by a district court at Bole. 

They pleaded not guilty and the court, presided over by Andrew Prince Cudjoe, remanded them until August 20. 

The suspects – Haruna Aness, 34; Issaka Tanko, 35; Shaibu Murtala, 29; Sulemana Ali, 35; and Issaka Sachebu, 32, – have been charged with conspiracy and murder. 

The Chief of Kafaba, Seidu Yahaya, under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred, had also been granted police inquiry bail. 

The police placed a GH¢2,000 reward for anybody that would help in the arrest of the suspects and also a benevolent individual placed a GH¢5,000 reward for anybody who could assist the police to arrest Filipina. 

According to police sources, they heard about the hideout of the suspect and dispatched detectives to Kejewu Bator where she was picked up and escorted back to the Salaga Divisional Command. 

DAILY GUIDE understands that she is being processed to be sent to the Regional Police Command in Damongo for further action.

Source: Kafaba Lynching: I Was Possessed – Woman ‘Killer’ Reveals In Court

To conclude:

Police arrest priestess in Kafaba lynching of 90-year-old

Published: August 4, 2020
By: Ghana News Agency (GNA)

Accra, Aug. 4, GNA – The Ghana Police Tuesday said they have arrested the fetish priestess who allegedly accused Madam Akua Denteh of Kafaba, in the Savannah Region, of witchcraft, resulting in the lynching of the 90-year-old.

Superintendent Sheilla Kessie Abayie-Buckman, Director, Police Public Affairs Directorate, said Sherina Mohammed alias Alhajia Filina, 40, was arrested on Monday, August 3, 2020, at her hide-out at Yeji.

Superintendent Abayie-Buckman on the Ghana Police Facebook platform said, the suspect was, consequently, in Police custody assisting with investigations.

Hajia Filina is said to be among some other persons identified as Sanjo, Teacher Aliu, Bumaye, Ashley and Manafo, who allegedly beat the nonagenarian on Thursday, July 23, resulting in her unconsciousness and death later.

They have already arrested five more persons who allegedly admitted to having invited the priestess to Kafaba where the incident occurred.

They are Haruna Aness – 34, Issifa Tanko- 35, Shaibu Muntala – 29, Sulemana Ali -35 and Issifa Zakyibo -32.

Their action has attracted nationwide condemnation and calls for swift justice and punishment of the perpetrators.

The police in the Savannah Region initially arrested the chief of Kafaba, Zackaria Yahaya, for his alleged role in the incident.

They have been arrested to face prosecution.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who described the action as “barbaric” also called for action and justice to be served.

A few days after the incident, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr James Oppong-Boanuh, dispatched homicide experts to the Savannah Region to hunt for the murderers.

The IGP also placed a GH¢ 2,000.00 bounty on their heads, adding that any person with credible information should either contact the Savannah Police or call 0275000156.

Sanjo was said to have hosted Hajia Filina, the priestess who declared the victim, a witch.

Source: Police arrest priestess in Kafaba lynching of 90-year-old

And:

High priestess involved in murder of 90-year-old woman to appear in court on August 5

The priestess (soothsayer), Sherina Mohammed alias Alhajia, aged 40, was arrested at her hideout at Yeji in the Bono East region by police in Salaga.

Published: August 5, 2020 (Last Updated on August 9, 2020)
By: MyGH.Online

The Savannah Regional police command says the Priestess (Soothsayer), in the Kafaba murder case, will appear in court on Wednesday, August 5, 2020.

This was after Sherina Mohammed alias Alhajia, aged 40, was arrested at her hideout at Yeji in the Bono East region by police in Salaga.

Her arrest brings the number of suspects in police custody to seven with the exception of the Kafaba chief, Zackaria Yahaya who is currently on bail.

JoyNews’ Isaac Nonya who has been following the incident reports that the police had earlier sent the suspect to Salaga to be interrogated before being brought to Damongo.

According to sources, the alleged priestess had also admitted being the one in the video which went viral.

On July 23, 90-year-old, Akua Denteh was seen being slapped, kicked and caned after the traditional priestess accused her of being a witch.

The severe beating the woman was subjected to by her accuser and two other women resulted in her death.

After the video went viral, there was massive outrage with many demanding the immediate arrest and prosecution of all the perpetrators.

From the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, to various civil society groups, the security services have been urged to fish out the culprits who went into hiding after the act.

On Monday, the first key suspect in the lynching was arrested and remanded by the Bole Magistrate Court. 

Latifa Bumaye, 25, was smoked out of her hideout at Kejewu Botor a suburb of the East Gonja Municipality, following continuous surveillance by the Homicide Unit of the Ghana Police Service.

Source: High priestess involved in murder of 90-year-old woman to appear in court on August 5

Last but not least, two related articles:

Kafaba killing: Son Shares Unfulfilled Wish Of Murdered 90-Year-Old Woman

Published: August 1, 2020
By: Modern Ghana

The last son of the 90 year-old woman who was beaten to death at Kafaba has shared her last unfulfilled wish saying “My mother’s last wish was to see my children before she will pass away.”

Mr Mahama Saaka, who is 36-years-old and teacher at Salaga T.I Ahmadiyya Senior High School, who recounted this, said he was yet to have a child and unfortunately his mother had to die this way without seeing his children. 

He recounted this when the Ghana News Agency (GNA) visited the family of the murdered old woman at Salaga in the East Gonja Municipality of the Savannah Region to gauge their mood after the sad incident. 

Madam Akua Mariama Denteh, 90 years-old, was on Thursday, July 23, beaten to death at Kafaba by some residents and a spiritualist, who accused her of witchcraft and behind certain strange happenings in the area including; limiting the progress of the town. 

Madam Denteh had nine children, and three died leaving two males and four females, a number of them as teachers and 21 grandchildren. 

The spiritualist was brought to the town by some youth of the area to fish out alleged witches in the area, working against the progress of the town. 

The spiritualist mentioned Madam Denteh as a witch, which she denied but her denial was not accepted and was subjected to beatings. 

The incident was captured on video, and had since gone viral on social media. 

The deceased has since been buried.

So far, the Police arrested Yenufunu Yahaya Seidu (V), a Chief at Kafaba, who had been granted police enquiry bail, and six others in connection with the incident. 

The incident has attracted condemnation from civil society organisations, politicians, gender and human rights activists across the country. 

GNA gathered that, when Madam Denteh was beaten and succumbed to the torture, the spiritualist identified 17 other women in the area as being witches and some of them were also subjected to beatings whilst others, who were connected to powerful people in the area, were spared from beatings. 

Mr Saaka said “It had been my greatest desire to fulfil my mother’s wish but I’m shattered now, I don’t know what to do.” 

He told the GNA that “Since the incident happened and I took my Mum to the morgue, I have not been myself, I’m sick internally, I can’t even cry. She wanted to see my children before she will pass. That is the promise she gave to me, but the unfortunate incident has crushed everything.” 

He said “I don’t believe that my own community; they will do this thing. I’m very, very surprised because I grew up there. We are very sad. We don’t know what to do.” 

He called for justice to be served “So that my Mum will be used as an example to protect all other elderly women.” 

Mr Mahama Sallam, 60 year-old third child and surviving first son of the deceased, said what happened was unacceptable, attributing it to ignorance saying “We leave everything in the hands of God.” 

GNA also visited the spot, where the old woman was beaten at Kafaba, and it was a compound of a house, whose owner had since fled the town. 

The road from Salaga to Kafaba is in a deplorable state and it takes about an hour and a half to reach Kafaba from Salaga using a four-wheeled vehicle. 

There is no Police Post at Kafaba, which presupposes that unless a good Samaritan in the town intervenes, any unlawful act could be meted out to any citizen in the area. 

Yenufunu Yahaya Seidu (V), a Chief at Kafaba, who was arrested and granted bail in connection with the incident, told the GNA at Kafaba that some youth of the area informed him of their decision to invite the spiritualist to fish out witches in the area to ensure the progress of the town. 

He said lawless acts in the area could be prevented, if there was a Police Station in the area and appealed for one in the area to ensure law and order.

Source: Kafaba killing: Son Shares Unfulfilled Wish Of Murdered 90-Year-Old Woman

And hail to the journalist who first reported on the lynching of 90-year old Akua Denteh:

Kafaba Killing Reportage Has Boosted My Popularity – TV3 Journalist

Christopher Mensah Amoako was the first journalist who reported on the gruesome lynching of the 90-year old Akua Denteh. 

Published: August 3, 2020
By: Modern Ghana

TV3’s Savannah Regional correspondent Christopher Mensah Amoako has opened up on how he became the only journalist in the country to have first reported on the gruesome Kafaba killing, indicating the reportage has soared his popularity in the region.

Speaking on ‘Talk To Solomon’ (a YouTube based talk show) hosted by journalist and writer Solomon Mensah, Mr. Amoako said: “On that fateful Thursday, July 23, 2020, I was on my way to East Gonja [in the Savannah Region] when I had a video sent to me via WhatsApp. When I downloaded it, I heard them speak both Gonja and Twi so I realised the tape could not be an imported one from any other African country.” 

Christopher Amoako said, he did further checks to ascertain the authenticity of the video and after rigorous background checks confirmed it was not fake. 

“I quickly called the one who sent me the video not to share with anyone. Then, after about two hours, I also had a call from the son of the deceased telling me about the incident,” he noted. 

The Savannah Regional correspondent for the Media General group revealed that he first “harboured fear in breaking the news. But now, that fear has long gone. Today, everywhere I pass, I get people pointing fingers at me that, ‘that’s the journalist who first broke the news to the nation’”. 

Christopher Amoako said he together with the people of the Savannah Region and the nation as a whole look forward to a swift justice served by the law courts on the murder. 

A 90-year old woman Akua Denteh was lynched on July 23 by a section of the Kafaba community after a soothsayer pronounced her a witch. 

The Savannah Regional Police Command has since apprehended some suspects including 32-year old Latifa Bumaye believed to have played a key role in the lynching. 

Find below Christopher’s full interview:

To watch and listen the interview, click here and scroll down the page. Picture is a screenshot.

‘Sorcery’ still a motive for torture, killing in 21st century

It seems appropriate to start this introduction to the following article with a warning because of its graphic contents. Sorcery accusation-related violence (SARV) is sometimes too gruesome to tell or to read. I’ve read a lot of articles on ritual murders in recent years and ‘ve seen many pictures, yet my stomach was turning when I read the following report on sorcery accusation-related violence. It describes horrible acts of mobs or sometimes individuals which take place not only in Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa, but in countries and regions all over the world. Common characteristics are that people are ill-informed, not or poorly educated, and have limited opportunities and no perspectives for improvement of one’s lives, in combination with a weak rule of law and often a lack of political will, as one well-informed interviewee rightly stated (see below).

The article mentions a few countries in Africa, notably Central African Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, but it does no require much imagination to add other African countries. The belief in witchcraft is widespread on the continent. This is not to say that everybody in Africa believes in witchcraft but the number of superstitious people and people who believe in witchcraft (juju, muti, money rituals) cannot be counted, that’s for sure.

It hurts me deeply to read about sorcery accusation-related violence. The majority of the victims are women and children, notably girls, but sometimes also boys and men are accused of witchcraft and sorcery. On March 20 this year, I posted an article on a gruesome incident which happened in Liberia where a school expelled a K-1 pupil for alleged witchcraft. In July 2020, a 90-year old woman accused of sorcery was lynched by a mob in Ghana. The gruesome torture and killing caused a nationwide outcry. More details in tomorrow’s posting.  
(webmaster FVDK)

In July 2020, a 90-year-old woman was lynched after a traditional priest accused her of being a witch. The deceased, Akua Denteh was slapped, kicked and caned at Kafaba near Salaga in the East Gonja Municipality of the Savannah Region, Ghana.
The picture is a screenshot from the video showing two women assaulting the old lady, a horrific and repulsive scene which is too disgusting to show or to watch (FVDK).  

‘Sorcery’ still a motive for torture, killing in 21st century

Published: April 28, 2021
By: CGTN – Sim Sim Wissgott

Two women were attacked and tortured in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby on Sunday, accused of witchcraft. They were interrogated and burned with hot irons to get them to admit to killing a woman who had died earlier in the week, local media reports said.

One managed to escape and alert the police. But this was not an isolated incident in the Pacific island nation.

Local media reported in February that six women had been accused of sorcery. Police managed to free two women in July after they were held and tortured for four days, accused of killing a villager a week earlier by removing his heart.

Attacks like these are so widespread that Papua New Guinea (PNG) actually has a term and acronym for them: sorcery accusation-related violence, or SARV.

While authorities and politicians regularly condemn these as “barbaric acts” and “uncivilized” behavior, SARV continues.

This type of violence is not limited to PNG either. Accusations of sorcery remain a very real threat in many communities around the world and claim dozens – if not hundreds – of lives every year.

‘Ash and powder’

A 53-year-old widow was bludgeoned to death in India’s northeastern Assam state on Saturday in an apparent “witch-hunting” killing.

Other sorcery-related killings in recent months have included a 70-year-old man in eastern Jharkhand state who reportedly practiced exorcism and sold herbal medicines; a family of five, accused of black magic after several people in their village fell ill and died; and a middle-aged man who was beheaded “on suspicion of sorcery” in neighboring Odisha state in December.

Another elderly man in Odisha was killed last month after villagers accused him of witchcraft.

“The deceased used to throw ash and some powder in front of the houses of villagers which raised doubts that he was practicing some witchcraft. In a fit of rage, some youths of the village killed him with stone and hammer and fled the spot after dumping his body in the bushes near the canal,” a police officer told local media.

Reports have emerged in recent months from South Africa, Nigeria, and Nepal of people being beaten, tortured or killed on suspicion of witchcraft. Countries like Tanzania and Ghana have also been fighting SARV for years.

There are no definite figures on how many people fall victim to SARV every year around the world. In many cases, the crimes go unreported as victims fear retribution.

The problem is significant enough that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights held an experts’ conference in 2017 to discuss ways “to end harmful practices related to witchcraft.”

There were 372 anti-sorcery attacks reported between 2013 and 2016 in PNG, according to UK charity Oxfam. In India’s Assam state, a dozen are killed every year, according to local media.

Mob mentality

Although men can be targeted, victims of witchcraft-related violence tend overwhelmingly to be women and girls.

As a result, the issue is often paired with women’s rights and gender equality. Victims are generally among the most vulnerable members of the community. Mob mentality, lack of education and poor policing are also contributing factors.

“Sorcery-related violence stems from poor education, lack of awareness, limited opportunities coupled with deteriorating capacity for law and order and a lack of political will,” PNG’s Oro Province Governor Gari Juffa told The Guardian last year.

There have been reports of people accused of being witches after a member of their community fainted, suffered an epileptic fit, or died without warning.

A woman and her daughter were accused of sorcery in PNG earlier this month and were tortured by relatives after the woman’s husband died of COVID-19 .

Attacks are often brutal, with victims hacked to death, maimed, gang-raped, slashed with knives, burned with hot irons or hit with rocks, leaving them horribly scarred – physically and mentally – for life.

Relatives can also be targeted by association: in the case of the family of five killed in Jharkhand state in February, a middle-aged couple was suspected of witchcraft, but their son, daughter-in-law and five-year-old grandson were also murdered.

Children of alleged witches are especially seen as a threat, human rights campaigners say.

The perpetrators rarely act alone but attack their victims in groups: in the latest case on Sunday in PNG, the two women were attacked and tortured by up to 20 men.

Police often say the attackers’ identities are known to them but communities and survivors may be reluctant to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement, meaning many perpetrators get away with their crime. 

Taking action

Some progress has been seen. The Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act was passed in India in 2015, making it a crime to accuse anyone of sorcery. 

The Catholic Church’s Pontifical Mission Societies declared last year August 10 as World Day against Witch Hunts.

PNG repealed its 1971 Sorcery Act in 2013, which sanctioned sorcery-related violence. At the same time, it drafted a Sorcery National Action Plan to raise awareness about the issue and find ways to combat it.

The country even has a hotline now for anyone who may be the target of sorcery accusations. 

The latest cases however have prompted concerns that sorcery-related violence may be once again spreading. While such cases are usually found in the more remote regions of PNG, last weekend’s attack occurred in the capital.

While action plans and strategies have been drafted, funding and effective implementation are still wanting, local officials say.

Source: ‘Sorcery’ still a motive for torture, killing in 21st century

Africa Map

Liberia: woman dies after reportedly taking ‘sassywood’ to clear her innocence from witchcraft allegations

In Liberia, superstition is widespread. On more than one occasion I have written about this phenomenon in the West African country, Africa’s oldest republic, founded in 1847. The most recent occasion was on July 5, 2020 after a girl had been terribly tortured by her siblings who accused her of witchcraft. At the end of July another case which had actually happened in the preceding month was reported.

This time it was linked to an old ritual, trial by ordeal or ‘sassywood ordeal’ as it is called in Liberia. The Liberian government has outlawed the ‘sassywood or sasswood ordeal‘ many, many years ago, but It enacted a law that was never enforced – for various reasons. In 2009 seven people, accused of witchcraft in River Gee County, in the south of the country, died of whom two died from drinking the poison.

On Monday June 27, Sarah Togba, a woman in Gaye Town, in Grand Gedeh County, died after she ‘voluntarily’ took a ‘sassywood’ to prove her innocence after she had been accused of witchcraft causing the death of several persons. I fear that she will not be the last victim of this age-old practice of trial by ordeal, in fact a kind of mob justice. Still in the 21st century the rule of law is not applied in Liberia (webmaster FVDK).   

Liberia: Woman Dies after Reportedly Taking ‘Sassywood’ to Clear her Innocence from Witchcraft Allegations

Published: July 27, 2020
By: Front Page Africa – Lennart Dodoo 

GRAND GEDEH – A woman in Gaye town, Gbarzon District 3 in Grand Gedeh County met her untimely death on Monday, June 27 after she voluntarily took a ‘sassywood’ (trial by ordeal) to prove her innocence of allegations that she has been involved with witchcraft activities and had orchestrated the death of several persons.

Sarah Togba, according to reports gathered by FrontPageAfrica, was accused along with 13 others of being responsible for the death of one Zean Lolee Sayee who died recently in the country. He was 58 years old.

An eyewitness, Albert Thoudou, told FrontPageAfrica that Sayee’s children, during the funeral rites, confessed to being witches and claimed they knew who caused the death of their father. Sarah and 13 others were mentioned, according to the eyewitness.

He explained to FrontPageAfrica that some of those accused verbally denied the allegation, but Sarah who has on many occasions been accused of being a witch, opted to clear her name by voluntarily taking the “sasssywood”.

“By our tradition here, we have a tree in the bush we call the sassywood tree, if you shew the bark of that tree and you’re innocent, nothing will happen to you and if you’re guilty you’ll die. Sarah went into the bush and people saw her coming back with the sassywwod tree in her mouth. But she suddenly fell and died on the spot,” Thoudou explained.

He added, “I witnessed the incident, she was not forced by the elders. She decided to do it herself. She has always been accused of being a witch, so, maybe, she wanted to clear her name once and for all.”

According to him, four of the accused admitted to the allegation prior to Sarah opting for trial by ordeal. The eyewitness further disclosed that six others are on the standby to prove their innocence.

Meanwhile, he disclosed that the children of the deceased who leveled the witchcraft allegation and also claimed to be witches and wizards have cautioned that unless some traditional rites are performed in the town, six other persons would die in similar fashion their father died.

Source: Liberia: Woman Dies after Reportedly Taking ‘Sassywood’ to Clear her Innocence from Witchcraft Allegations

Liberia: adolescent girl tortured, accused of witchcraft

I’ve hesitated to include the article below on this blog – partly because of the gruesome nature of the described act, partly because of the graphic description of the treatment, obviously a form of torture, which family members inflicted upon a girl they accused of witchcraft and being responsible for the death of an uncle.

Eventually I decided to reproduce the article here and to share it with a larger audience. The reason why I choose to do so is because witchcraft lies at the bottom of their repulsive behavior. This site is focusing on superstition and everything which relates to it in a criminal way: ritualistic acts, ritual murders, ‘money rituals’ (Nigeria), muti murders (in Southern Africa), and – indeed – witchcraft. The fact that the ultimate victim, a young and innocent girl, was maltreated and tortured was another reason for drawing attention to this incident. Unfortunately, rape is a daily crime in Liberia and most perpetrators get away with their crimes. In Liberia, impunity seems to be the rule, and not the rule of law.

Therefore, again a warning: the following article contains graphic details of a form of torture (webmaster FVDK).

Liberia: Adolescent Girl Sodomized After Being Thrown Out for Witchcraft

Published: July 3, 2020
By: FrontPage Africa 

MONROVIA – A girl believed in her late teens has been sexually assaulted in her anus after she was thrown out of her family in Omega Tower Community on accusation on her being witchcraft.

According to a source close to the family, the incident occurred on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 night when she was asleep.

The girl (name withheld) was discovered early Wednesday morning lying helpless on the main road that links Montserrado to Margibi, crying for rescue.

Some community members felt pity for her, took her from the street, gave her food and water. They at the same time called the Women and Children Division of the Liberia National Police to take the survivor to hospital for treatment.

Her current condition has left community members blaming her family for neglecting her and throwing her out of the house after alleging that she confessed killing her 25 years old uncle (name withheld) in May of this year after a brief period of illness.           

A family source interviewed by this paper narrated that after the death of the uncle, the survivor and her partners were tortured and beaten badly on grounds that they are responsible for his death. This, according to the source, caused her mother and father to escape with her other siblings leaving her at the mercy of the family.

“During the night when her uncle died,” the eyewitness said, “that child was beaten by his family and a man who claimed to be a big man in the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) at which time they broke one of her legs.”

“After all the torture, they still threw her out of the house, they forgot to even take into consideration the danger it poses to her health, not only the aspect of rape.”  

“I do not know why people find pleasure in accusing innocent children of the act of witchcraft when, in fact, there is no way they can prove their accusations,” the eyewitness said in pity.

The eyewitness said after the death of the survivor’s uncle the family members brought a native doctor who said that girl and her partners were responsible for his death.

“After the native doctor was brought here, the family said that the girl confessed that she and her partners killed her uncle because he means them with food,” the eyewitness said.

The eyewitness expressed deep frustration in said aptitude adding that “I do not know who the man that did such a wicked act to a child in such condition.”

According to the eyewitness, the LNP Children Division was able to take the child to the hospital.

“What we are praying for now is not just the treatment of the child but an investigation being done to bring the perpetrator to justice and even the family because they were the ones who exposed her to such danger.”            

In Liberia, rape has become the order of the day with few out of many girls who have suffered such horrible acts from their male counterparts are lucky to get the needed justice.

With many perpetrators understanding that the justice system is very weak, they go ahead to sexually abused girls and walk in the street with impunity.

Source: Liberia: Adolescent Girl Sodomized After Being Thrown Out for Witchcraft