“Case number 566/7 The state vrs Akosua Twumasi.” The clerk called out.
Many people started hurling abuses at her until the clerk shouted “Order in Court!” as the gavel of the judge pounded loudly on his desk. I just looked at the weak and feeble woman in handcuffs who was being pushed into the witness stand to be interrogated. She swore by the Bible to tell the truth and nothing but the truth but was sneered at by most people who were there, like me, to witness proceedings. The court was filled to the brim. Her case was read out by the prosecuting counsel. According to him, Madam Akosua Twumasi poisoned her daughter and cruelly killed her. After, she walked straight to the police station to report herself. When the police got to the scene, the poor girl was lying in bed, in the pool of her vomitted blood, dead. She was an autistic girl with multiple seizures according to the attending doctor. He ended that, how a girl who knew nothing was cruelly murdered by her own mother is beyond thinking and asked the court to seek justice for the poor departed soul.
Madam Twumasi was asked about her counsel, she asked that she be allowed to speak for herself. In tears, she spoke.
“I did kill my daughter and I believe no one here has the right to judge me. I believe no one has the right to insult or sneer at me. I believe no one has the right to arrest me. That is my thought.” The judge asked her to explain before she was slapped with contempt of the court.
“Your Honour, this would be long but pardon me. I was born an orphan, with no one to help me through life. The state provided me with nothing because even the education that many thought was free, was expensive to me. I couldn’t feed myself so dropped out. I won’t bore you with that story of my life. I fell in love with my husband of three years when he was in secondary school. With my fried plantain, I took care of part of his expenses till he completed his schooling, became a teacher and married me. When we had our child, she was the most beautiful girl Nsakaw had seen and word went round that I had given birth to a mermaid or an angel. She grew up to six months and fell ill. She convulsed without stopping. We took her to many hospitals and tried everything but the sickness worsened and she became a completely dependent girl as she grew. She could neither talk nor walk. At two years old, we all realized there was no hope of a recovery but I trusted God to change that fate.
I heard from a friend that my husband was getting married to another lady when my daughter was barely two and a half years old. Lo and behold, it was true. Whereas I was traditionally married to him, he legally wedded another woman. With my child strapped at my back, I looked on as they recited their vows but could not say anything. That was a man who slept in my bed the previous night. He never returned to our home, and never bothered to send me a pesewa. With my daughter strapped on my back, I sold iced water at the market but no one bothered to buy from me. I heard a rumour that I was a witch and my witchcraft caused the sickness of my daughter. Another rumour had it that I insulted an elderly woman when I was pregnant and so my daughter’s illness is as a result of that. My Lord, I never did any such things. Many people here in Nsakaw shunned my company so I relied on a piece of land my mother left me, to farm and feed. You should have seen the girl on my back as I cleared portions to plant. Sometimes, when the going got tough, I sat by the mosque in town to beg for alms.
During all that time, the law was not seen. When my daughter was seizing and biting her tongue, when blood oozed from her bite, when her drooling bathed me to the disgust of all, the law was no where to be found. I carried on for seven years. Seven whole years hoping for a miracle, going hungry to see her fed, travelling miles to have her tended to by scamming herbalists and spiritualists, having to pay pastors who promised the fastest healing ever, none of that worked. And what was worse? The hospitals provided for by government collected such huge amounts for medications prescribed for the girl that I ended up not going there anymore. How could I have afforded that? How do you think a mother feels seeing her child suffer shame? How do you think a mother feels seeing her child suffer deprivation? How do you think a mother feels seeing herself and her child at the pointed ends of fingers whose sole aim is to make them objects of ridicule? How does it feel to feel so alone in a world whose hands are never there to help when need be but its mouth is ready to butcher at the slightest mistake?
I am sorry to say that you have no right to harm a hair on my pride. Why must I be arrested? Because I reported myself for the crime? What about the millions of people you all know who kill their disabled children without reporting? It’s a hush hush affair but you know and I know that it happens. Even those with cleft palates are killed mercilessly. You hear and I hear but you protect them with “no evidence”. How many people in this court room did not tell me that my child is an evil spirit? Snake? Punishment from the gods? How many of you didn’t suggest that I take her to be turned into a python and join our ancestors because she could devour me at night? How many of you gave me one word of encouragement? How many of you bought me pure water when I was thirsty and carried her on my back under the scorching sun? How many of you even looked with sympathy? Yet you sit here sneering like perfect gods and goddesses.
I am a victim of circumstance! That victim whose conscience is clear because I killed my daughter not because of all the suggestions you gave but because I wanted to gift her peace. Peace to live free of illnesses, peace to sleep and rest, free of seizures, free from your scornful eyes, free from societal rumours that spread fast without a wiring. Free from poverty, from pain from a father who never for once turned back to look at her but sits in this court looking at me like some form of evil executioner. I gifted her that freedom. I know you will ask why I didn’t report her father. Will I have had peace in this community where only witches take their men to court? This community which only sees the little dust on a female while overlooking the stinking shit on males? Will I have survived in this ostriched community where the man is always right?
Your Honour, do let the law whip me if you must, but think it through if the law has that right to bother me when it has not gained the fear of the people to live rightly. No, do not jail me my Lord, sentence me to death rather. That is the only thing that can give your mind rest and clear your conscience. And why not? Because you did protect me from malice, shame and fed me, yet still I took the life of an angel. I sacked my lawyer. Well, how can the state who battles me give me a lawyer? How can that lawyer ask me to plead guilty even before hearing my full statement? I need no one to defend me. You can sentence me now Your Honour! But I dare say I am not repentant. Given the chance, I will do it over and over again. Jail is a much better place than seeing the suffering of one you would sacrifice your life for. I would have killed myself afterwards but needed to be heard for those who are yet to experience this pain. I have nothing more to say your Honour. Thank you.”
The whole court was silent. No one moved for what seemed like eternity. Those who were busy insulting and casting aspersions and insinuations at her could no longer look at her. Two women seated by me suddenly started fighting. They accused each other of starting rumours and shunning her company. The judge’s head was bowed. He could no longer look at her and could not talk. I knew he would have the worst time sentencing her, but sentence he must. The clerk just blinked tears. The whole jury shed tears. The judge signalled the clerk and in a minute, he tearfully announced, “This case is adjourned to next month, October 9, 2018.” The prosecutor never for once, raised his head after that. How people vanished from the court was a mystery. I just sat there, my sweat drowning my clothes as she was led by the police to their van. He who created a woman to be strong, too strong in love, surely cursed us. We deserved everything but that burdensome gift.
Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia © Feb. 3, 2018.
Photo Credit: Pinterest on Google Pics.