Last Wednesday in Ghana, Africa, soldiers at the Dog Training Academy in the Accra suburb of North Dzorwulu were shocked to find an elderly naked woman lying on the ground between two piles of stones within the military compound at 7:00 AM. Without any signs of forced entry and no conceivable answer among the soldiers as to how she had entered the secure facility, authorities were at a loss.
The woman was frail and too weak to walk. She identified herself as Buokuor Fiadzigbe from Sokpoe Sogakope in the Volta Region, though she lived with relatives in Accra between the suburbs of Maamobi and Nima. As for how she got there, Buokuor told the soldiers she was “a witch” who had been flying with a troop of 15 other witches from Nima to an undisclosed location the night before she was found.
And oh, what happened then was rich!
The wind began to twitch. The flight path took a switch.
Then down came the old naked witch on a jagged rocky pitch…
Officers carried the woman to the road outside the security wall and alerted the Airport Police Station, but because of the connection to witchcraft, the police refused to get involved with the situation. People threw stones at her and beat her. The Red Cross arrived on the scene to find the woman covered in bruises; they dressed her and brought her to the police station, but officers again refused to help find her family or file her information in a report. They went to Accra Psychiatric Hospital and again were refused since, according to the staff, the woman was not mentally ill. “The days of the Good Samaritan are over,” medical assistant Achnoo Kofi Warlasi told the Red Cross and reporters from The Chronicle. “Those were Bible [sic] days, now we are in Ghana. There is nothing I can do to help. Take her elsewhere.” From there, the Red Cross took Buokuor to Maamobi Polyclinic, but doctors at the clinic also refused any help, stating that they needed paperwork from the police before they would treat her.
At Kotobabi Police Station, the Red Cross tried to obtain the necessary papers, but police officers turned them away yet again. Angered that they brought an old, feeble, alleged witch to the station, one officer snapped that they should just take her back to where they found her by the road.
This past weekend, the secret of her identity came out from a college student in New York City. She’s not a witch; she’s an old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. In an editorial written for The Chronicle, Selasi Fiadzigbe–the woman’s grandson–told how Buokuor was a generous, loving woman whose influence was responsible for him striving in school and becoming an Engineering undergrad at Manhattan College. He went on to denounce the people who treated Buokuor as if she were some flying pestilence:
Is it a crime to be old in Ghana? Is it a sin to develop Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Has my Ghana changed this much? Considering how much I brag about the land of my birth, I don’t want to tell my friends here that it is people in Ghana that would attack an innocent, lost old lady.
I thought Ghana was the most peaceful country in Africa. I hate for my friends to see my Ghana as a land of barbaric, ignorant people who would attack a sick old woman. No! I detest having my American friends see Ghana as a place where there is no compassion and love, where the days of the Good Samaritan are over. My heart is heavy and my hope in the human spirit is battered.
In recent years, the witchcraft panic and hysteria in Ghana and other African countries has made the Salem Witch Trials seem small, mild, and not that bad. Across northern Ghana, six “witch camps” have been established as safe havens for women accused of witchcraft. Until recently, witchcraft was a criminal offense in Ivory Coast and Central African Republic. Accused witches and voodoo practitioners in Nigeria and Congo have been beaten, tortured, murdered, or exiled. Efforts are being made throughout Africa by organizations and skeptic activists to undo the superstitious fears and violent treatments of anyone suspected of being a witch started by early Christian missionaries during colonialism.