At the end of December, I published the story of Shenka Kwame, one of the alleged witches at the Kukuo camp in Northern Ghana.
I included Shenka Kwame’s story and the stories of two other alleged witches in my article about Ghana for the Second Quarter 2014 issue of American Atheist magazine.
Below is Senetu Kojo’s story.
When we met Senetu Kojo, she was lying down inside her hut. Her cheeks and forehead were covered with an herbal remedy for her swollen face. The women in the camp are enrolled in the national health insurance program, so Senetu was able to go to a clinic for an illness she had been suffering. But because the drugs they gave her caused her face to swell and she never understood how the drugs were supposed to work, she abandoned them for an herbal remedy to treat the inflammation but not the illness that sent her to the clinic in the first place.
Senetu’s early adulthood was happy, even though there was some hardship. She had two children with one husband before he died. She then had five more with another husband, but only four survived. When he died, she went
to live with her brothers.
Things were peaceful for a time until one of the brothers started to compete with another man for the attention of a female neighbor. When the other man and the woman got sick, they blamed Senetu. Rather than exiling her violently, they tricked her into leaving the community by telling her
that her mother was sick.
The fact that her mother was in Kukuo likely had something to do with the accusation. She went to Kukuo and found her mother well, but her brothers’ community would not allow her to return at first, until an uncle who
was a military officer was able to sort out the situation. But when her brother’s rival died of the illness Senetu was accused of causing, she was attacked and sent back to Kukuo. By that time, her uncle had also died and could no longer help her.
Senetu’s granddaughter lives with her to help, but she has a disabled leg and is unable to fetch their water, so they sell firewood to pay someone to bring water to them. Their primary means of food are the stray ears of corn
overlooked by harvesters that her granddaughter finds in the fields. Because they can’t afford new thatch for their leaky roof and they can’t repair it themselves, they must stay awake on the nights that it rains so they can mop up the water.
It wasn’t until after her departure that each of her primary accusers, as well as her brother, died. Senetu points to this as evidence of her innocence. Nonetheless, she believes that witchcraft is real.