The 1992 Constitution of Ghana, specifically chapter five, amongst others, guarantee the right to life and dignity of all its citizens. This was not to be however for Madam Akua Denteh, a 90-year old inhabitant of Kafaba in the Savannah Region of Ghana.
The enactments within the constitution could not save her as she was lynched to death by an angry mob. Her crime? A soothsayer had declared her a witch. Akua Denteh was beaten to a pulp with her plea for mercy not heeded to.
She wept pleading innocence of the charges leveled against her but the soothsayer-turned-lawyer-and-judge refused to consider her plea and declared her guilty. She died at the hands of her tormentors, at the full glare of a large crowd.
The law enforcers were nowhere in sight. Neither was the leadership of the community. No member of the community helped. Definitely not the numerous bystanders who cheered on or had their phones out to take a snapshot and or video of the ordeal. Akua was left to her fate. The 90-year old grandmother was to save herself. She was to, by herself, while on the ground, ensure that the enactments of the constitution applied to her too.
This story sadly is not new. Women being made to suffer this fate, and worse, is a phenomenon that permeates the very fibre of the Ghanaian society. There are witch camps in parts of the country where women branded as witches run to for shelter for fear of losing their lives.The law enforcers seem helpless.
The laws protecting these women seem useless. The rights and dignity of these women are seen as a ‘nuisance’ amidst their greater offence ‘witchcraft’. It does not matter that the crime alleged cannot be substantiated. What matters is that a trusted soothsayer had said so and that is or should be enough.
What of the rights that promotes equality before the law? That an individual is innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction? The right to an attorney? All these rights and much more as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana (Article 19), the highest law of the land are but great write ups. For what is its use if the purpose for which it was enacted cannot be achieved? Protect its citizenry!
Madam Akua Denteh is dead and gone, may her soul rest in peace. Who will be next? For indeed, there will be a next, either in shape or form, unless the laws of Ghana are enforced irrespective of gender, age, creed or status. Until then…
God bless our homeland Ghana, and make our nation great and strong!