Efua’s mother, Mulie is from Senegal while her father is a Ghanaian. Appiah’s grandmother is from Senegal too; that appeared to create some bond between the two of them, except the fact that she could not have a male child. Her parent’s counsel was simple: “In Africa, you have to endure the pains and anguish of marriage”.. Her parents told her to return to her shame. They actually accompanied her back to her husband’s home. Her mother told her “several times I would have issues with my husband, your father. My parents would come back here to beg him with bushmeat. That is the tradition. You don’t leave your husband’s home no matter the tribulations. Stay back, no one will marry you if you leave!”
On returning home, Appiah had recovered and the second wife has settled the home raging quarrel being the originator. Theresa had convinced her husband that Efua was the cause of all their tribulations. She claimed she had met a native doctor who told her and the only way out was to send Efua packing. Appiah quickly bought the fake story. Theresa and Appiah gave her one condition: Efua must take responsibility for all the woes of the family. Appiah’s finance had taken a nose dive and the family was finding things difficult. Theresa said this could only be resolved if she was taken to the native shrine in Kunjo, a small ancestral village in Senegal. She had to swear that she was not a witch and that she was not attempting to kill her husband.
The journey from Ghana to Senegal was three days in a stretch by road. Melancholy took over Efua as she sat at the back of the rickety bus. She had lost appetite for most part of the journey and simply settled on water and cashew nuts. She cried all the way to the village which had very little houses. Small French speaking children prattled away on the loamy soil surrounded by a sea of coconut trees. An old man in his 80s came out of the hut. He had piercing dark green eyes and a ghostly voice. “I have no time for bureaucracy”. He said in a voice that was soft yet struck like lightening.
“You will swim through the River of Death tonight at midnight. If you are innocent, you will survive. If you are a witch, the crocodile will eat you up. Many witches have died here. If you are not sure of yourself, never you attempt to swim. That will be your end.”
Efua’s Mother, Mulie had told her stories of the famous crocodile of Kunjo, where married women accused of tormenting their husbands were taken and made to swim through the river that was host to two brutal crocodiles. Efua was taken to a small hut where she would stay until midnight when the team would go down into the river for the biggest encounter with death. Theresa and Appiah were lodged in a small apartment. Efua and her little daughter were hauled into the make shift shelter, in the chilly, cold night. Anita cried asking “Mummy, mummy why? Where are we?”. The old man came to the hut a few minutes before midnight, chanting some incantations. Efua was dragged like a goat down to the stream despite Anita’s screams and cries. Her father barked at her saying “shut up, witch daughter!”
(There was) Kofi, the next younger brother to Appiah accompanied them. Kofi had a special hatred for Efua on account of a previous relationship that existed between him and Theresa which she knew about but decided not to tell her husband. Both Theresa and Kofi attended the same primary and secondary school in Congo and both spoke French which they often used to undermine Efua whenever Kofi was on a visit. “Today is her end.” Kofi whispered to Theresa and they crawled through the bushy path to the River. They were already at the bank of the river before Efua realized there was another woman brought by a family. The woman had also been accused of witchcraft by her husband.
The woman was to come first. The old man chanted her incantation in the local dialect of Wolof. He called on the first woman asking her to jump into the river. No one could see the crocodiles, but beneath the river, the two crocodile lay underneath, swimming. The woman shouted, attempting to free herself from the stranglehold of two hefty men that suddenly emerged from the dark. They pushed her and hauled her into the river.
“If you are a witch, you end up in the belly of the crocodile. If you are not, you swim in the river.”
The woman shouted again, “My God! I don’t know how to swim, I don’t know how to swim…..” Don’t worry, the gods will help you swim across only if you are not a witch.” The woman shouted again, “please, pleaseee, okay, i’m a witttt…….” She was hauled inside the river. Like a whirlwind, the rumbling movement of the crocodiles could be heard. Her husband shouted “if you are a witch, die, die, so that I can be free, so that my finances can grow, so that I can have a male child.” The rumbling of the sea continued. Silence. Silence. For about five minutes, the whole place was dead except the old man who was chanting incantations and staring at the sky. After about ten minutes, an old man brought out the woman from the bank of the river at the other side. Half naked, she was gasping for breath. “Rabu, your wife is not a witch. She sailed through.”
Now it was the turn of Efua. The two men grabbed her. The crocodiles suddenly emerged from the dept of the river and surged towards the temple where Efua and the others stood. “Yes, it’s over. She is a witch. See the glee of the crocodiles”, said Kofi as he surged forward. In his brute excitement, he slipped from the plank and fell into the river. He could be heard shouting ‘help, help, heee’ as the crocodiles mauled him and tore him into pieces.
In confusion, the others scampered, each running in different direction for their dear lives. Efua took her daughter and fled the scene, running and shouting “God, God, God.”
Damilola Fasuba is a 20 year old writer who lives in Lagos.