When we become our own “witches”
Perhaps one word all Sierra Leoneans know regardless of social and economic status, educational background or religious belief is the word WITCH, the mention of which may send chills down the spine.
Belief in witchcraft continues to be present today in some societies and accusations of being involved in witchcraft are the triggers of mob violence and sometimes the lynching of the suspect to death. In particular, poor old women in villages are easily labeled as witches.
It is, however, interesting to note that the name witch is not a Sierra Leonean word. It has its roots in the now developed world where drastic measures, including executions, were carried out ages ago to deal with witches. Historians trace the persecution of those suspected of witchcraft to as early as Exodus 22:18 which talks about “never let a witch to live”. The witchcraft-trial craze that later swept across Europe is the genesis of the phrase witch-hunt.
Today, most politicians use the phrase witch-hunt for anything and everything. “This is a witch-hunt,” goes the cry. Whether a witch or wizard is in Europe, Africa or other parts of the world, witches are believed to be a source of misfortunes such as sickness, bareness, bad luck, accidents and sudden death.
Depending on whether someone is a witch or wizard, hails from a family of witches, or is from a witchcraft-infested village, witches are people that are generally feared. In Sierra Leone, there is something even called “san ten witch”. It is an expression used to describe a blatant reprehensible action done in broad daylight.
Recent developments in Sierra Leone are sometimes either full of intrigues or rooted in abject absurdity. Over the years, the All People’s Congress (APC) contended with serious corruption issues. However, whenever some action was taken against those involved in corrupt practices, it was deemed as being a witch hunt. During the tenure of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) from 1996 to 2007, whenever action was taken against rogue government officials or business people, it was viewed as witch hunting.
Perhaps, the reason people view any attempt to deal with crooks as a witch hunt is as a result of the general perception that most people who serve in government are after all daylight “witches and wizards”. While these people do not become owls, snakes, and other creatures as agents of Satan in order to harm others, “san ten witch” is when those who find themselves in offices with the mandate to make a meaningful contribution actually end up doing things that inflict pain and suffering on the masses.
In the wake of our recent presidential elections, reports abound of massive looting and empty coffers. Some people may have embezzled so much that they will never finish it even if they were to live 100 lives. Sadly, whenever there is any talk of accountability, some compatriots scream, “this is a witch-hunt”! If I may ask, are we really serious about change?
Let me make this analogy. If we consider Sierra Leone as our personal homes, where we sleep after each day of hard work, will members of the family allow individuals to steal what belongs to all without any sense of accountability? You see, whenever something absolutely unacceptable happens in a home and no action is taken, be sure that you have just opened the door to impunity like a recurring decimal. In Sierra Leone, we call it “buff case”. Now imagine if the thieves in the home are among those complaining that the home is dysfunctional. Is this not insanity? This madness has to stop. It should not be lost on us that whenever new rules are introduced or enforced in the home for the good of all, there will naturally be some opposition. Generally speaking, the same thieves and their accomplices will oppose change. This was former President Ernest Bai Koroma’s dilemma. The ramifications? He became a disappointment and people just wanted him to leave State House.
In my last article “Talking about Bio’s commitment and reputational risk”, I applauded President Bio for reiterating that he will be committed to his vision. President Koroma may have come to power with a vision. But did he remain committed? The fallout of lack of commitment and accountability was the Hajj disgrace, the looting of donor funds and other repugnant deals.
In our contemporary world, the word witch-hunt is used to say that something that is being done is actually an attempt to find and punish a particular group of people often because they belong to another political party and not because they have actually done anything wrong. But how do you call a situation where is abundant evidence of wrongdoing?
It is worth noting that those who were serving in various offices were not just APC supporters. There were also members of other political parties, including the SLPP, the People’s Movement for Democratic Change etc. Everybody should be accountable.
While it is true that Sierra Leoneans are a very religious people, it should be noted that we have no shortage of stories of people who would like to be revered as holy men and women of God but who get themselves involved in shameless activities that will make Satan look like a saint. There are also a lot of fake religious entities these days some of which even use witchcraft and wizardry to produce so-called miracles to fool gullible miracle-searching people
By the way, without sounding preachy, the word witch is not a vain word. While some people may have the evil power of transforming into all kinds of creatures to cause harm, the best way to deal with them is to consciously endeavour to do what is right and use the Word of God which is a double-edged sword. By so doing, no matter how hard the enemy will fight you, they will not succeed.
In my view, the principles that apply in the spiritual world are the same in the physical. In the spiritual world, obey the Word of God. Confess your sins and make a change today. Do not be a hypocrite! Do what God says and the enemy will not come near you. In the physical world, be law abiding and remain incorruptible and you will have nothing to fear. It is ridiculous that sometimes even when something just requires common sense, we blame it on witchcraft or call it witch hunting. As I see it, we are our own “witches”.
In conclusion, fifty-seven years after our country gained independence, it is my fervent hope that Sierra Leoneans will make a change today and become committed to the development agenda of the country regardless of whether you are in APC, SLPP, NGC, C4C etc. Let us collectively say no to “witches” and impunity. Take care!
By Sulaiman Momodu, (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Note: Sulaiman Momodu is former editor of the Concord Times newspaper and reported for the BBC during the Sierra Leone civil war. He is currently based in Geneva, Switzerland
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