Monday, February 15, 2016

Sad Story Of A Builsa Boy― Killed Like A Goat, Buried In Secret

You are about to read an awful story of a wasted young genius who recently was “killed” and “secretly buried” in the Builsa North District of the Upper East Region. 

*Early Troubles
Kweku Braimah, aged 15, was born to a poor single mother, Teini Braimah, at Wiaga-Sinyansa, a village within that district. Whilst the boy was still under five years, Teini, compelled by a sudden storm of crushing marital hard times, entrusted his care to her mother and left for Accra in search of relief for her baby and herself.  

Whilst away, her son was weaned on shepherding his uncle’s flock to the wild hills to graze. He took an obsessive liking to the field and as a result, even though he started schooling as early as expected, he was no longer as regular in class as expected. Teini returned to Wiaga-Sinyansa worried that her son had drifted too early. She shifted him to Yiisumsa, another village within Wiaga in the district where her husband’s parents lived, and returned to Accra. That was where the boy grew up.  

Kweku, no doubt, was a child prodigy. According to family sources, he never served any electrical apprenticeship anywhere but he possessed an overwhelming knack of bringing ‘dead’ electrical devices including mobile phones back to life naturally on his own. 

*A promising future derailed.
The village did not need a soothsayer to know that the young technical genius, barring any hindrance and provided he got the needed backing, was going to become an accomplished electrical engineer. But one huge obstacle somehow along the line reared its unsightly head to derail the young genius and, ultimately, to get rid of him. And perhaps, only his mother saw it. 

Family sources, after the boy’s cold-blooded death, revealed to me the Achilles’ heel in the young whiz kid. He was a very honest child… until, from nowhere, he developed a habit to steal. The habit began after his mother had left him in the care of his grandparents at Yiisumsa. 

He reportedly robbed neighbours in the village mostly of their monies and portable electrical gadgets. He initially used not to rob his own mother whenever he travelled to Accra to spend holidays with her until he allegedly stole one hundred and ten Ghana cedis from her purse, an act he later confessed to her. Gradually, the rising star became a pathetic kleptomaniac. And finally, he had to drop out of school because he had grown so infamous to a point where he felt unfit to remain in the classroom. 

Thereafter, reports about his thievery did not cease. His depressed mother is said to have consulted a pastor in Accra as to why her son had gone so errant. The boy, the oracle told the woman, was obsessed because he was possessed. The priest revealed that an old woman in the village, who had seen the boy’s bright future, spiritually had implanted the habit of pilfering in him to derail him. He prescribed exorcism and recommended an exorcist robed in a superior cassock in the parade of ‘God’s Generals’ to help drive the thieving demon away. She was making that arrangement when the worst happened.

*The last torture.
On the morning of Saturday 16th January, 2016, whilst Teini was in Accra, Kweku was reported to have stolen again. This time he, so they say, stole a wristwatch that belonged to his paternal uncle, Kweku David Achantuik, at Yiisumsa. But the boy denied. 
The scene of the accusation and denial was soon filled with a curious crowd. In a bid to extract confession, his uncle purportedly handed him over to the angry crowd to pound him. Allegedly led by one fire officer, a mob dragged him through the main market of the area and flogged him with all kinds of sticks and cables. Those who could not find any objects they could have used to whip him purportedly jabbed him around the ribs as some reportedly only accompanied the mob to snap and record the action with their phones. 

It was two hours of torture that left deep cuts on his whole body with all his fingers dripping with blood. And it is said that the mob, just to hear what verdict the traditional council would pronounce on the boy, hauled him before the Chief of Wiaga and his elders. The chief, Nab Akanfebanyueta Asiuk, reportedly was mad at the mob for taking the law into their own hands and was more concerned about how the bleeding teenager would be taken to the nearest health facility first before he might answer to the accusation leveled against him. The impatient multitude, deaf with rage, did not listen to the chief.

There is a pillar in the middle of a roundabout that connects the centre of Wiaga to the roads that lead to the community’s main market, the health centre and Fumbisi, the capital of the next-door Builsa South District. The pillar is painted in the colours of the country’s national flag with this inscription in Buli: “Won neak Ghana.” It means: “God bless Ghana.” The mob dragged the boy to that pillar and tied him against it for another two hours whilst the blood that oozed without a break from his body clotted and dried under the blazing gaze of a furious sun.

For some time, he sagged looking weak within the rope used in swaddling him to the pillar. The fluid that trickled from his swollen eyes was a mixture of tears and blood. Thick mucus, accompanied by streaks of blood, streamed out freely from his nostrils. 

As the exhausted sun was about to retire to bed behind the wild hills of the Builsaland, the crushed youngster suddenly began to fight for his life in what some later suspected to be not just a sign of internal bleeding but also a clue of imminent death. At that point, those who beat him untied him. Then, they led him back― at a pace too much for him to contend with― to the one who handed him over to them.He had been punished several times before for things he allegedly stole. But this one was to be his last torture.   

*The boy died.
The enthusiasm in the pace of the crowd, as they dragged him back to where he would die, only showed that a mission had been accomplished to their satisfaction. 

If the boy was possessed by a demon to steal without fright, then the mob itself was possessed by a legion to murder without remorse.
Like Judas Iscariot who sold his virgin-born rabbi for 30 pieces of silver and remorsefully returned the money only when it was too late, the uncle who gave his nephew out to be tortured over a stolen wristwatch reportedly quivered at the gory spectacle when the unfamiliar crowd brought his nephew back to him. 

After the mob had left satisfied, Achantuik, for fear that the boy (who was still hysterically fighting alone and gasping) might stray out of sight and finally waddle into the sensitive long arms of the law, reportedly tied his hands and legs together on the compound. The rope was to strictly restrict his movement. He was so confined for two days. 

Around evening on Monday 18th of the same month, the boy’s condition rapidly grew so worse that the invisible Lucifer himself would tremble in his usual private and, with panicky eyes and in a baritone whisper to himself, deny involvement in what led to that unsightly climax. 

The terrifying development compelled Achantuik, who now carried overlapping beads of sweat on his forehead, to rake through the area jet-footed for urgent assistance. Eventually, he rushed to a chemical store in the community where one Peter Abolek allegedly prescribed a drug to stabilise the boy. 

Achantuik returned sheepishly to the house at night with Peter and the latter purportedly injected a drug into the restless lad. The said injection did not help it. The boy died that same night, with his red-dotted eyes partially opened and his tongue, drenched in blood and starchy saliva, almost half out. So ended a sudden struggle that lasted forty-eight hours in that hidden corner of the district.

“They tied him down like a goat. They tied the legs and tied the hands together before they [injected] him. And he died with the rope like a goat. And he died outside, not even inside the yard,” Eric Kwesi Ateng, a fuming relative to the boy, told me in a recorded interview at Sandema, capital of the Builsa North District.

*The “secret” burial.
Peter left. Shortly after, Achantuik informed his own parents― who also are the boy’s grandparents― that their grandson had passed away. 

The boy was buried that night in a muffled ceremony held in a flash under an ominous stare of the solitary moon and the unmarried stars. The following day, a contingent of elders from Achantuik’s family travelled a distance to inform a group of elders in Teini’s family that their grandson suddenly developed high fever, died after he was injected to stabilise him and that he had been buried the previous night. 

The elders mourned. But in reply, they asked that the police be informed of the boy’s death to avoid any criminal charges in the future considering the circumstances (the public torture and the administration of drug) under which he died. The visitors were not comfortable with that suggestion. But their hosts were resolute in their position. They insisted it would be a wise thing to bring the police into the picture without delay because someone among those who saw how it all happened would someday leak the information to the security agencies and the law would come after all those involved at a blind force that would leave behind far-reaching ripples. 

Subsequently, the elders broke the bad news to Teini on the telephone. She left Accra immediately. And soon after her arrival the following day, she headed for the police station to report the case and to demand exhumation apparently in a quest for truth and justice. She suspected her son died as a result of the beating he suffered or the drug administered on him and not in any way associated with the reported high fever. Family sources told me the boy never showed any high fever syndrome throughout his life.

Sources from the same family also have told me the boy’s body is not in the grave where those behind his midnight burial claim to have laid him to rest. The handlers of his burial are pointing at a heap of sand capped with a clay pot around the yard where he died as the site of his resting place. But some sources have affirmed their belief that the body is in a shallow grave by a river called Kalenbele not far from his grandparents’ house at Yiisumsa inside Wiaga. So, why would his undertakers direct the gravediggers to a riverbank? 

As Eric puts it: “They have a local belief that when they bury the boy at that same house (where he was tortured to death), there would be a lot of confusion [in that house]. Even [as a result of] a small fight, one of them has to pass away. So far as it’s the beating that [has] caused the death, if you even slap your colleague in the house, the person might also die. That is why they [didn’t] want to bury the boy at the house [but] buried him at the riverside.”      

*Five arrested, three standing trial.
Moments after Teini had lodged her report, the police stormed Wiaga.They captured Achantuik (who is said to have ordered the beating and bought the drug), Peter (who reportedly administered the drug) and the grandparents of the slain boy (who supposedly endorsed the rushed burial) at separate locations. But another key suspect (name withheld for investigation purposes) fled during the police raid on the area. 

Marcellinus Ayoung, the fire officer who allegedly spearheaded the mob justice, was arrested later. 

Police are pressing holding charges against the suspects― holding charges because the Builsa District Police Command says only the Attorney-General’s Department, based on the docket and the evidence filed against the suspects, can determine the final charges to be presented in a court of competent jurisdiction on the murder case. 

The grandparents were taken into custody for their alleged involvement in the hasty burial of the boy in what the police refer to as hindrance of inquest. Whilst Peter was apprehended for murder as “neither an unqualified nurse nor a dispenser”, Marcellinus was nabbed for causing harm and Achantuik busted for both causing harm and for abetment of crime. 

The two oldies were granted police bail almost immediately because their role was a misdemeanor. On Monday 1st February, 2016, Marcellinus was granted bail by the District Magistrate Court at Sandema with Peter and Achantuik remanded into police custody to reappear in court together with Marcellinus on Monday 15th February, 2016.   

*Selective justice?
Some observers and families are in growing doubt that justice will be served because of the fingerprints of some political titans they claim already are trying to twist the arms of the law, to pervert the course of justice, in favour of one particular suspect― Marcellinus.
It is reported that the police initially, due to political meddling, were dragging their feet to arrest Marcellinus until a group of enraged youth of the district was about to convene a news conference to petition the Inspector General of Police (IGP). That planned public protest is said to have inspired the Builsa District Police Command with fear, hence the arrest of the fire officer without further feet dragging.

But the public satisfaction that greeted the last arrest was brief. Marcellinus’s debut at the magistrate court on the murder matter saw him walk out of police net to his house on bail that same day. Angry residents do not understand why Marcellinus, who led the beating that weakened the boy until he became hysterical, was released on bail to walk about freely, whilst Achantuik, who bought the drug administered on the deceased, and Peter, whose alleged role only came into the picture at a point the boy was already crushed by a scale of torture reportedly fronted by Marcellinus, are still in police custody on the orders of that same court. 

An Artists Impression of How The Boy Was Killed
They see Marcellinus as the prime suspect responsible for the boy’s death because it was his wholesale beating that prompted a needless injection. If he had not beaten in the first place, injection would not have been applied. And if Peter and Achantuik do not deserve to walk freely for now, why should Marcellinus still be in office uniform, as free as air? As long as the fireman is seen as a root of the problem, he should be the object of focus (among the suspects captured so far) in ‘uprooting’ (not ‘axing’) the whole ‘tree’ in the murder case brought before the court. 

This is where residents are beginning to fret seriously, saying they only foresee a concerted delivery of a legal hearing travelling on a bumpy road fogged by politically induced favouritism and ending not in what they expect of the rule of law but in a planned miscarriage of justice.     

“If they didn’t beat the boy, he wouldn’t feel any pain [let alone to talk of] drug matter. The one who has been set free is really a worry to many people. Even me, I’m worried. You cannot count the number of people [who] beat the boy. It is the leader of the beating group that would be able to tell A or B is among. And he is the one they have set free. That is what is worrying the people. People are mad about it. The thing happened in public,” an angry resident, Jacob Akanbong, poured out his grief.

A number of those who want Marcellinus charged for murder and put behind bars, as Achantuik and Peter, also have questioned if the district magistrate court, where the firefighter has been released on bail, has jurisdiction to grant bail on a murder charge.  

When I visited the Builsa District Police Command, the District Commander, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Kwame Nimo, explained that Marcellinus was on bail because the holding charge “for him now is causing harm and causing harm is a bailable offence”.

He added: “So, in the discretion of the court, the court granted him bail for him to be appearing before court anytime that he is needed or anytime the case is called. So, it’s not the case that he has been left off the hook and roaming in town whilst others are in custody.”

*So, who killed Kweku?
Two theories as to what killed the boy are before court. Did he die from torture or as a result of lethal injection? Be it the beating or the drug― the answer does not lie in the tongues of the three suspects standing trial for his death. The answer is in the grave, six feet deep down, where his body is. The preserved truth lies somewhere inside that decomposed body for only a pathologist to spot and tell. 

The mood in court, which is a clear reflection of the general atmosphere in the district, unmistakably suggests that the body will be exhumed for a pathologist to pronounce who really ended the teenager’s life. For now, the freedom of those involved in the alleged murder is dangling perilously in the balance. The court, after the pathologist has spoken, will decide who from the courtroom goes home and who proceeds to jail. 

Now, ahead of the widely anticipated exhumation, those who buried the boy in a hurry are said to be sitting on oversize hooks. Angry relatives who say Achantuik and his company of elders have thrown dunes in the eyes of the police by pointing at a wrong grave for the exhumation-bent law enforcers also are saying their side has come under pressure to put to rest the debate about the spot the boy has been laid to rest. 

“People have told us where they have shown the police is not the actual grave where they buried the boy. The boy has been buried near a river. What they showed to the police is just like a camouflaged grave,” Eric Kwesi Ateng, an inconsolable in-law to the family of the 15-year-old boy, revealed.   

The District Police Commander, who already has disclosed plans to have the body exhumed and examined by a pathologist, sounded cocksure during my interview with him that the grave the boy’s grandparents showed to the police is where the boy’s body is.

“The grandparents who ordered the burial of the boy took us to the burial place and showed us. So, we believe that is the place of the burial of the boy. And I don’t think they could have taken us to any wrong place because eventually the body is going to be exhumed and we expect to find a body of the age of such a person,” DSP Nimo stated. 

If the grave already shown to the police turns out to be an empty spot feigned as a tomb with a mere heap of sand, it would confirm the suspicion that the boy did not die of high fever as his mother was told. If the body in the grave hauled to pathologist’s slab turns out to be that of someone else and not that of the boy, the discovery would expose a group of people who think it was the torture and not the injection that killed the boy. And if the grave the police are heading towards with pickaxe and shovel is actually where the wanted body is, it would mean Achantuik and his party of elders believe they are innocent of the charges being held against them. 

*Torn between freedom and justice
The court will sit again on Monday 15th February, this year, in an emotive case featuring one of Ghana’s most eagle-eyed and exceptional lawyers, Thomas Alonsi, who carries on his shoulders the hopes of Kweku David Achantuik and Peter Abolek. 

For now, relatives of the boy who want the body disinterred keep saying pressure is mounting on them to put a stop to the push for exhumation before the police start digging the grave to unearth the answer. So great is the pressure that I found it difficult to hear from Teini herself when I tried to interview her. 

She has been torn between protecting her in-laws and calling for justice for her son and for that matter demanding for exhumation of the body of her son. The day I went round the district to comb for facts was the day she was scheduled to travel back to Accra to prepare for the next sitting in court at Sandema on Monday February 15, this year. I met her at the O.A Travel and Tour bus station at Sandema. She cautiously told a friend of mine who is fluent in Buli (the local language of the area) that she was under overpowering pressure from the elders not to vent her flaming agony anymore to the outside world beyond the law court to where she already had dragged the ‘highly combustible’ matter. 

She did not speak to me. I tried but she would not. But what she could have said in audible words was written in bold letters on her face. Her face looked lifeless like a solitary grave as the bus moved slowly out of the station towards Accra. Her moist eyes blinked contemplatively as she gazed absentmindedly at the cloudless sky through the inch-thick glass of the bus. As the journey began, she appeared to have switched her thought to a latent conflict about her preferred next destination, which was not Accra― but freedom or justice? 

Is the future destination of the just-started case in court going to spell freedom for her in-law who is being hunted by the law, or justice for the baby she breastfed fifteen years ago but was slain like a goat fifteen years later?

She knows she cannot eat her cake and have it as she is sharply torn between freedom and justice. If she wants freedom for Achantuik, her in-law, then, she may have to forget her demand for justice for Kweku, her son. And if she insists her son must get justice, then, she may have to gird herself for the taunting memories that it is because she brought in the law that her in-law, her slain son’s uncle, is no longer a freeman even if his freedom is curtailed for a year.

Even though the red O.A Travel and Tour bus was packed with companionable passengers, the grieving mother appeared to be a lone traveler somewhere on a self-driven bus, taken deep by sorrow on a lonely, endless road. I was overcome by grief as the bus vanished gradually from sight. And it was only when tears crept into my eyes and were about to seep away like waterfalls I realised I left home without a handkerchief. This is just the beginning of the matter. To be continued.....

By Edward Adeti

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