1, 2, 3... 1
( A young woman recounts three separate events on three separate days , marked 1, 2 and 3. )
Its 11:45pm. I am home alone. The lights are off. And I am terrified. I keep hearing noises
coming from the locked kitchen and of the two candles I found stashed in the forgotten spaces of our pantry, one is but an inch of wick in a puddle of wax that dies before I can even re-strike the match. I am 28 years old and I want to call to my parents: To let them know that my sixth sense is tickling my seventh so if there is any chance of them returning to Accra tonight, I would be most grateful. But Vodafone, my cellular provider, remains adamant that “the person I am trying to call is unavailable. Please hang up, or try again later…”
It is 12 in the afternoon and I am scrolling through Facebook. This is where I get my Ghana
news: My own carefully, cultivated echo chamber. Today, a young soldier has been killed - no-
lynched to death: That’s what I’m able to infer from the numerous messages of condolence on my newsfeed. It’ll take me exactly two weeks to read the actual article. But as of 60 seconds ago, I know there’s a video circulating and popular opinion has voted against watching it. A local celebrity pleads with me to show some decency, “How would you feel if you knew the whole world was watching your husband being beaten to death ? We Ghanaians should be ashamed,” she concludes, tearfully, on my screen. I adjust my emotions with a slathering of guilt, then scroll on.
It is 2 am and I am driving home from a beach concert : M.anifest. I’m tipsy with alcohol and
privilege. On autopilot, I turn left onto Cantonments and immediately regret my decision. This is the Ghana International School road. It has speed bumps. And the last thing I want to do is slow down unnecessarily on a dark and deserted road at 2am in the morning. A man steps out from the shadows, flagging me down with a torchlight. I take my foot off the accelerator but leave the brake pedal well alone. Then I see the gun and throw the car into reverse. I will not be a Facebook update on the morning’s feed. He begins to run and his camouflage uniform catches the light. Only then do I stop.
My mother asks if I’ve seen the video of the young soldier being lynched. Head high, I begin to low key lecture her on why I think it’s inappropriate for anyone to watch the video, “How would you feel if you knew the whole world was watching your —“ She ignores me and bulldozes on. “Yaba it is terrible!” she says “ Honestly, I’m happy the army is holding the village hostage. I’d normally not approve but this is not the time for due process.”
The second candle goes out. Or did someone … an intruder ….in the kitchen …put it out? I lie
in bed, wide awake.
The uniformed officer wraps harshly against my window. “Why were you running!” It’s more an accusation than a question. So, from the safety of my rolled up window, I defend myself. “It’s dark, you have a gun. You don’t have any of those orange plastic things, there is no police car, no police sign and to be honest ... I’m still not 100% sure that you are not an armed robber in wolf’s clothing." I don’t say that last bit. He demands to see my license. I fish it out from the compartment under the driver’s arm rest. Whiles I fish, his torch beam dances across my thighs.
“They say he went jogging in civilian clothes with his service weapon. He got lost, asked a
young woman for directions but when she saw the weapon, she cried “thief” and the people
attacked” I’m still not sure about the sequence of events that took place between asking for
directions and the woman sounding the alarm because I still haven’t read the actual article.
When I tell my mother “they say” it’s exactly what I mean: spots of information gleaned and
meshed together by an assortment of status updates from people I haven’t spoken to in the last 10 years. Was he even asking for directions or did I make that up ? I ignore my doubt and
deliver my version of events with utmost confidence. I really should read the article.
“Ey, small girl big car,” the police man says. He’s calmed down now. “It’s for my father,” I quickly add: For some reason, I feel it is crucial that he knows I have one of those. But it doesn’t stop
him, “ Give me your number so we can talk eh.” “I’m married,” I lie. “You’re lying” he says.
If there is an intruder in the kitchen, how do I get out? My room is at the end of the corridor and there is no way to exit the building without exposing myself. More importantly, if I manage to get out, who will help me? Ours is a residential road, lined with tall houses barricaded behind taller walls. Even if I scream, will anyone hear? Will anyone come? Will anyone act?
“They took cement blocks oo! They took cement blocks and hit him continuously!” My mother says. Despite my warnings, she watched the video “When he tried to escape by stealing a motorbike, they took it as a confirmation of his guilt and beat him some more.”
Maybe I can make it to the police barrier down the road
The officer shines his torch at my thighs again
“Monsters!” my mother says.
I smile nervously at the man in uniform. It is dark, I’m uncomfortable and I want him to let me go. “I can’t give you my number” I say “ Why not?” he asks.
If there are intruders in my house — my fear has multiplied the number — I’ll need a weapon.
But the knives are in the kitchen. I do have the box of keys though! I’ll sprint out through the
front door and barricade myself inside my car.
"Even after he was dead, they set him on fire!" my mother continues
Then I’ll mow them down.
"Yaba! Can you imagine?!"
Back and forth, I will drive until they are beyond dead.
"Why didn’t they call the police?" My mother asks incredulously.
The officer looks me dead in the thigh and says, “ Don’t you know policemen fuck the best?”
It’s 3 am and I’m fantasizing about mowing armed men down. From my fear, a steely violence has been born and in my darkness it is such a comfort.
Then the lights come back on.
I breathe out relieved. I get up and check the kitchen. I check the garage and I check all the bedrooms. There are no intruders. I am alone. Now, I can finally sleep. I turn the air-conditioner on and nestle deeply under the covers of my bed. Beneath its comforting hum, I hear a fifty foot truck rumble to a stop outside on the street. It doesn’t bother me. With the lights on, I feel safe. Men jump out and something heavy is offloaded. I’ve never felt safer. The men slip into my neighbour’s house and in the warm embrace of the golden street lights, they rob him. But through it all, I sleep soundly because the lights are back on and that makes all the difference.
On Monday 29th May 2017 Captain Maxwell Mahama was lynched by residents of Dekyira -Obuasi in the Central Region. The young soldier had gone for a walk in civilian clothing with his service pistol. According to Ghana Police Service, he stopped, bought snails and when the seller saw the pistol, she and others assumed he was an armed robber. The captain departed and the seller informed her Assembly Man who in turn organized members of the community to accost the soldier.
By 10 am, Captain Maxwell Mahama was dead, his body butchered.