"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!