Jerry Rawlings on Ghana's Enlightment Campaign

Published on 5th March 2012

A book reflecting Ghana's witchcraft reality

Suddenly, ex-President Jerry Rawlings has had epiphany about the on-going Ghanaian/African enlightenment movement. Face-to-face with some lethal cultural inhibitions that have been demeaning Ghanaians’/Africans’ humanity, Rawlings, in the manner of Archimedes and Isaac Newton, exclaimed: “I need an explanation.” Rawlings’ realization that certain destructive aspects of the Ghanaian/African culture should be refined is the result of significant labour – with Ghanaian journalists in the forefront. It is going to be a long, tough campaign.

For long, some spiritualists have alleged that children and old women are responsible for adversities. In the process, they have subjected the women and children to bizarre torture, trauma, death or banishment.

The inhuman spiritualists have been exploiting and manipulating Ghanaians/Africans. Such counter-productive spiritual beliefs are so worrisome that coach Goran Stevanovic of  Ghana’s national soccer club, the Black Stars, attributes the team’s failure to win the just ended African Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea to some players using witchcraft against their team-mates. That’s the famed African Pull-Him-Down syndrome at work, undermining cooperation, skills and organization. As the national soccer team, the Black Stars, recent failure has revealed, witchcraft or juju is a national problem.

Rawlings comes from the Volta region, where high incidences of the destructive juju practices have partly stifled the regions’ progress. Most investors scared of the juju practices avoid the region. Rawlings, as military Head of State, banned the dreaded trokyosi, a cultural practice in certain parts of the Volta region, where teenage virgin girls are enslaved to shrines for sins committed by their parents or guardians.

Rawlings’ epiphany came when he read the Accra-based state-owned Ghanaian Times story of a 6-year-old house-maid who was imperilled by a 29-year-old woman, Jennifer Mensah, who was told by a spiritualist that the girl was possessed by demons and should be exorcised. But for the police who rescued the 6-year-old, the child would have been either tortured to death or traumatised. The 6-year-old’s ordeal struck Rawlings, creating a sudden realization of the inhumanity emanating from such erroneous beliefs within the Ghanaian/African culture.

With his old age, immense gravitas and having ruled Ghana for almost 20 years, Rawlings has seen the values that wheel Ghanaians’/Africans’ development process. He is a perfect helping hand to the on-going Ghanaian/African enlightenment undertaking that need more positive noise and grandstanding.

By yelling: “I need an explanation” about how a 6-year-old can be accused of being demonic and responsible for a 29-year-old’s earthly challenges, Rawlings has pragmatically given essence to the enlightenment movement. Rawlings has asked Ghanaians and Africans to “think”! Like Archimedes and Isaac Newton, Rawlings has "found the last piece of the puzzle and now sees the whole picture" in the grand attempts to free Ghanaians and Africans from erroneous cultural beliefs that have entangled their free will. 

Rawlings’ deeper involvement in the enlightenment campaigns is going to be his second revolution, which is painstakingly more mental than physical. In his 20 years of political revolution, Rawlings didn’t get the enlightenment bug. The inhibitions within the Ghanaian culture entangled his innovative struggles, making the revolutionary struggles largely empty, in the final analysis. His ruling National Democratic Congress, founded on high anti-corruption ideals, is today embroiled in a US$40 million corruption scandal that may see the NDC lose the December 7, 2012 general elections.

The enlightenment movement has helped awaken Rawlings to the need to use his rich revolutionary background to help boost the enlightenment campaigns. As much as everyone knows, Rawlings is a good campaigner for genuine cause.

Rawlings sees those exploiting the gullible masses’ spiritual insecurities as “crooks,” assuming to themselves enthralling spiritual designations such as “Prophets,” “Head Pastors,” “Apostles,” and “Evangelists” to exploit the naiveté of those who have “branded their grandmothers, mothers and children of other relations witches and consigned them to physical torture, under the pretext of exorcism.” Lurking in the background are the much-feared juju-marabou spiritualists who have ancient hold over the superstitious masses, especially the elites.

Rawlings will be an admirer of Scott Berkun’s The Myths of Innovation that argues that “our sub consciousness can play a significant part in delivering the solution” that will refine the absurd parts of our cultural values. Once again, it is going to be a dyspeptic enterprise. Let no one kid us, for most of the unhelpful traditional values have been there hundreds of years and they won’t just go away. But as the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche explains in On the Genealogy of Morality, Rawlings has all the room to contemplate unobtrusively on the intersection between the enlightenment movement and the Ghanaian/African culture.

Rawlings’ agonisingly question, “Why don’t these villains who identify only old women and children as witches extend their services to the men fold? “Why are there no wizards’ camps but always witches camps? I need an explanation from these so-called men of God who often put the Bible under their armpits pretending to be serving God, and saving souls … Why should their falsehood tend to mesmerize us? Don’t we think?”

The average African’s thinking is largely entangled in his/her culture.  All the same, the seeds for an eventual African enlightenment revolution are on the move. The Nigerians say, “One generation plants a tree - the next one enjoys the shade.” Realistically, it has always been like that, for all human progress.

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong,

Ottawa, Canada.


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