The practice of killing children believed to possess spirits in the Kasena-Nankana East and West areas of the Upper East Region has almost been abolished with the concoction men who often administer poisons to the children abandoning their practices.
Afrikids Ghana, a child-rights centered non-governmental organization has been doing some educational work in the areas for the past five years towards eliminating the spirit child phenomenon and says after extensive education, the concoction men have resolved to abandon their practices.
Poor antenatal care by pregnant women, resulting in the birth of children with serious disabilities was identified by Afrikids Ghana as a key contributory factor to the spirit child phenomenon in the Kasena-Nankana areas especially in Sirigu. Children born with various forms of disability were often tagged as spirits and ordered to be killed by medicine men. Therefore Afrikids Ghana took steps and educated these medicine men. David Pwalua, Programs Director of Afrikids Ghana said: “the concoction men are those we (Afrikids Ghana) consider the executioners because it is the concoction man who administers the poisonous substance for the child to drink and then pass on.” He added that they identified and brought these men together and began to sensitize them to understand that children born with disability are not spirits. This has led to the well-known concoction men in the area, abolishing their practices.
Atanga Akuzia, a former medicine man from Kandiga-Bembisi now sells locally-made tobacco in the Sirigu market to earn a living. He stopped practicing 5 years ago. Speaking in Nankam, his local dialect, he told me: “I stopped practicing when Afrikids came. I inherited the job of a concoction man from my late father who used to practice but I didn’t practice much until they (Afrikids) came”. He added that: “They thought me to understand that there are no spirit children and that those children are humans just like me. I thought about it and realized there was sense in what they told me so I stopped my practice. Since then, I have been referring parents who bring their children to me, to send them to Afrikids”. Atanga Akuzia said he has been at peace with himself since he stopped practicing. He confessed that: “I never really enjoyed what I was doing. I was only following tradition since I inherited the practice which was handed from our four fathers, down to my late father and then to me. Therefore I feel relieved, now that I have stopped”.
Aso-Eliyah Amaliba is another well-known concoction man in Sirigu who doesn’t believe in spirit children any longer and has abandoned his practice. When I asked him why he decided to stop his practice, he said: “the Afrikids people told me that I should stop it because the children are humans. I stopped practicing with the hope that the spirit children will harm their parents and I will be vindicated. However, nothing of that sort has happened since I stopped practicing”. “As a matter common sense, I saw this as prove that the children are really human beings and not spirits.” He added.
Afrikids Ghana has been able to identify all 30 recognized concoction men in the area and convinced them to stop practicing. An association of former concoction men was formed in 2006, starting with 10 members. Now all the 30 recognized concoction men are members of the association.
The group plays the role of helping Afrikids stop the spirit child phenomenon by turning away parents who bring their children to seek their services and directing such parents to go to Afrikids for scientific solutions to whatever problems their children may be facing.
The group’s secretary is Kongzeriba Ayambire. He is 32 years old and has never practiced with his inherited god of spirit children, known locally as dongo even though he said, he knows how it works. He told me that: “we (concoction men) have to come understand that we should not be repeating what our four fathers were doing out of ignorance”.
Women in the area, whose children were born with disabilities, have responded positively to the education of the former concoction men. They no longer go seeking the services of concoction men because there are none that will be willing to offer them any services (at least not within the Kasena-Nankana areas). Instead, the women bring their disabled children to Afrikids Ghana for scientific help.
Apaselise Nsobilla gave birth to her daughter, Angela, two years ago without complete limbs. She told me that the thought of taking Angela to a concoction man never crossed her mind because she loved her daughter dearly. She said: “I love my daughter very much because I carried her pregnancy for nine months. For the last two years I have been holding her very close to myself. I am not happy about her condition but she is a human being nonetheless”. “I cannot complain that I don’t deserve this because no one deserves this either. Only God knows why this has happened so I am keeping my child”. She added.
Apaselise is not the only loving mother in the area who has refused to link her child’s disability to a spirit and to surrender her to a medicine man to be killed by poisoning. There are several mothers like her and Afrikids Ghana is helping them give their children a fighting chance, by organizing physiotherapy sessions for the children once in a while.
Chiefs and elders of the Kasena-Nankana areas have come together to plan a grand durbar this year to publicly announce their resolve to stop the practice of killing alleged spirit children. Naba Henry Amenga-Etigo II, the chief of Kandiga, one of the popular villages known for their belief in this practice said: “we want to declare that spirit child is a thing of the past”. Formerly people did not know because they grew up to meet it but with the work that Afrikids has done here, things have changed”.
By: Albert Sore | A1radioonline.com | Ghana