Saturday, January 3, 2009

1998-Ghana- Dead man talking

"Mom, there is a dead man in front of our gate."

Katrina was not quite ten when she woke me up to tell me about the dead man in front of our gate. She mentioned it casually, as if she was mentioning there were flowers growing outside our window. It took me a moment to focus.

So it wasn't a nightmare...it really happened!

The naked man lay crumpled on the pathway in front of our house. I ran back in the house to get a blanket to cover him.

"No, no you must not put the blanket on him. This is a police case."

The police didn't come for more than 6 hours. No one was allowed to touch the body. The body cried out to all who were willing to listen, "Why did you allow this to happen?"

So it wasn't a bad dream...it really happened!

It all started the day before. We arrived back from town to find the neighborhood in an uproar. A thief broke into one of the houses but they left some of the goods behind a wall. The idea must have been to come back at dark to retrieve the loot. An impromptu neighborhood committee agreed to lay in wait for the thieves. At around 6 pm the two unsuspecting fellows crept over the wall only to be ambushed. One of the men managed to escape; his friend was not so lucky.

How does one recreate the scene? I was alerted to what was going on by shrieks and blood curdling, gleeful chanting. I ran to the gate to see what was going on outside and discovered throngs of people. There was an odd feeling in the air. I knew something wasn't right and I questioned those nearest me as to what was going on.

"We are going to beat the thief!"

That night the crowd was the judge, the jury and the executioner all rolled up in one. Daniel tried to go out and stop them but they were so 'high' on a thirst for blood that they wouldn't listen to reason. One minute Daniel was there in the midst of the people and the next minute the mob swallowed him up. Pushing through a wall of people, I found him slumped over on the ground. Someone hit him. I'm sure they didn't mean to it was just the frenzy of the moment. Dragging him back towards the gate, I thought we would never make it. We made it.

We were advised to go in our house.

"You do not understand, this is Ghana. This is our way!"

Maybe if we had a gun, or a water hose, or something to disrupt the crowd things would have turned out differently. We had nothing. We begged. We pleaded. Our voices were drowned out by the chanting and the cheering. Mob mentality took over and reason was pushed into the dark corners of the night.

This is not a dream...it really happened.

The sun rose, the birds chirped, my children skipped out the front gate stumbling over the dead man. His skull sunken in from the many rocks hurled at him. His body screamed at me, "Couldn't you have tried harder?" I had no words.

I stood vigil with my blanket in hand. The police arrived. They questioned people but no one knew what happened. The loud chanters and the screamers from the night before were silent. They had no words.

It really happened!

The body was tossed into a land rover. The police drove down the bumpy road with the body bouncing around in the back. I watched the vehicle fade away in the distance.

I will never let it happen again!

7 comments:

  1. Oh my, so terrible........this scene is so chilling...the darkness, the 'high sprits', the frenzy.....so cold blooded.

    U cdn't have done much...its really a miracle ur husband wasn't harmed. At such times, its better to pratice caution coz there's no reasoning with that kind of crowd....I'm talking with a degree of familiarity coz I myself have withnessed something like this in my country during a crisis.

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  2. You are correct- w/ the mob mentality there is not much one can do. Do you have a blog entry about your experience? (you mentioned you witnessed something like this)

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  3. i dont know how you found the strength to deal with this incident. i would be quite disturbed and haunted by it.
    i have seen some instances of 'mob mentality' ....some more violent than others. when we the riots a couple of years back, it took me the longest time to get over those incidents.

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  4. oh my god. Anjuli, you DO have lots of tales. It must have been a frightful moment for you.

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  5. "N" I know exactly what you mean about being 'haunted' by such things- I think if not for God- sometimes I would feel overwhelmed.

    "A"- ha ha- there are times I wish I didn't have so many tales- but then just think if I didn't have all these tales, I wouldn't also have the 'growing experiences'- which ultimately have made me a stronger person.

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  6. Nope I havent blogged abt it...actually ur incident reminded me of tht....
    There was an issue abt the river Cavery which was located in Karnataka & supplied water to Tamil Nadu. It was an issue which caused disturbances in the backward areas....ie the people of Karnataka were attacking people of Tamil Nadu.
    I was in college then & was waiting at the Main Bus Stand to take the connecting bus home. All of a sudden a mob came out of nowhere & started pelting stones at the buses, shattering the glass panes & setting them alight.
    People starting running helter-skelter creating more confusion. As there were no chances of any buses running tht day I remember walking home[8kms] in fear.

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  7. What a scary experience. The entire 'mob' thing is so unsettling- just so much power is generated and often it is used for negative rather than positive purposes. So glad you got away unharmed.

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