Daily Guide, Tuesday, Ebo Bruce-Quansah, April 01, 2008
IT IS not surprising to hear communities in Upper East region accusing poor widows and old women of being witches, but to charge a one month old baby, Mercy Ayene, with witchcraft and subsequently abandon her in a dark room expecting her to die, is a crime and a clear example of wickedness.
The mother of the girl, Zoyen Teiya, who resided in Asunge-Zanerigu in the Talensi-Nabdam district, was herself accused of being a witch when she was in Primary Four.
The stigmatization and discrimination by her mates compelled her to move from school to school, all of which refused her admission. She continued to suffer discrimination and isolation together with her family members until she finally dropped out of school at the basic level.
At 22, Zoyen Teiya was impregnated by a man who later abandoned her when he was told that his lover was a witch, thereby leaving the pregnant woman with no support for almost a year, while she continued to suffer stigmatization, periodic communal attacks and isolation as her punishment for allegedly killing some community members.
After her delivery, the discrimination and periodic communal attacks persisted and were even extended to her baby, Mercy Ayene.
Out of frustration and pain, Zoyen Teiya died when Mercy was just one month old. The baby was then left in the care of an uncle. The grandmother of Mercy Ayene had earlier been tortured to death by the community members, also for being a “witch”.
After the death of Zoyen Teiya, the next step in the plan of the community members was to determine the status of the baby, which became difficult because the uncle was giving her attention.
The members therefore directed their anger and charges of witchcraft to the uncle, and subjected him to severe beatings to confess that he was also a wizard, which he did to save his life.
By this, he lost his respect in the community and could therefore not associate himself with the baby, since she was still considered a witch.
Whoever carried little Mercy Ayene in the house or community was shunned and hooted at by community members and even immediate neighbours.
DAILY GUIDE investigations revealed that in the Asunge Zanerigu community, people fear to kill babies whether perceived to be witches or not, because they believe that taking the life of a baby could provoke the wrath of God.
For this and other reasons, little Mercy Ayene’s life was spared by community members but she was however left unattended to, so that she could die of hunger.
Laadi Ayene, Founder of Mama Laadi’s Foster Home, who is currently taking care of Mercy Ayene at the foster home, in an interview with DAILY GUIDE, said she heard some women talking about the ordeal of the baby and her relatives and decided to follow up.
“People have been killed because they were accused of being witches and wizards and the incident is still ongoing and no action seems to be taken to curb these atrocities. Some of the cases have been reported to the Police and nothing visible seems to be happening to those who have killed innocent people in the name of cleaning their community of witches and wizards,” she said.
Mercy Ayene, whose original name is no more in use, has taken on a new name and identity. She is now 1 year and three months old.