Unbundling Kasoa murder

The horrendous story of the murder of a 10-year old boy, Ishmael Mensah, in Kasoa by two young boys has shocked many to the bone, and rightly so.

The shock permeates on three levels: the ages of the perpetrators (said to be 16 and 18), the manner in which he was killed (hit several times with cement blocks) and the purpose for which he was killed (money rituals, ostensibly).

How could these boys find it within themselves to actually kill a fellow human being, when some of us adults can never bring ourselves to slit even a goat or chicken’s throat?

It is impossible to imagine the terror and pain young Ishmael went through as life was crudely taken from him, and the agony that the members of his family have suffered for their loss.

Unbundling issues

This story has several angles and I think it is important to unbundle them and then deal with them separately in order to put our best foot forward.

Of course, primarily this is a criminal matter for the police, the Attorney-General and the courts to deal with to ensure that Ishmael’s family receives justice, and with it, hopefully closure of some sorts.

But even within the arena of criminal justice, there is the matter of the ages of the boys to deal with, as a child cannot be tried in the same system as an adult.

I understand there is some dispute over the boys’ ages, which is not surprising in our system where there is so much fluidity that allows all manner of escape routes.

In these matters, as indeed in defilement/rape matters, age is such a critical factor and hopefully it can be resolved soon.

Hard questions

Beyond the criminal justice system, I think when persons these young commit such crimes, the searchlight falls on the wider society to ask itself some hard questions, because it is frightening. Murder is murder and it is dastardly.

When an adult kills a child it is particularly painful. But when a child kills, it shocks to the marrow because naturally, we tend to cocoon children in a certain bubble of innocence and assume they cannot do certain things, never mind murder.

After all, was Jesus’ ‘suffer the little children to come to me…’ admonition not premised on children being so innocent and pure?

The law states, rightfully, that a minor cannot give sexual consent, vote, drink, join the military or even watch certain movies or programmes in furtherance of protecting this presumed innocence and purity.

When that innocence is breached, then there is something seriously amiss and society must look inwards and ask whether it has in anyway continued to such a breach, because children are as much influenced by their upbringing as they are by what they see around them as they grow up.

Television angle

Hot on the heels of the murder, there has been a public uproar over some of the content shown on some television channels, where all manner of charlatans promise ‘money-doubling’ (how I wish the miserable coins in my pocket would quadruple many times over and turn into pure gold!) and other benefits in return for rituals said to involve the need for body parts, among others.

This follows claims by the boys that they were motivated by a television channel programme making such promises.

Understandably calls have been made for these stations to be taken down.

There is no doubt in my mind that shutting these programmes down would make an immense difference.

After all, fundamentally these programmes are advertising services, and we all know the power of advertisements and product placement.

I abhor the programmes and quickly move to the next station when surfing channels.

But I think to talk about merely shutting down without more is simplistic and in my view a rather lazy way of addressing a problem that is as deep as it is complex.

Time bomb

Beyond the advertisements lie a much deeper and fundamental problem, which is a sort of youth hopelessness and despair that may eventually boil over into criminality, first at low levels, then up the ladder.

In an article on www.citiesalliance.org in July 2020, Felix Kariba asserts that almost 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making Africa the world’s youngest continent, this being attributable to high fertility and declining child mortality rates.

At the same time, he says 16 million young Africans are facing unemployment. On average, eleven million young people join the African labour market each year, yet the continent generates only 3.7 million jobs annually.

For many youths, the informal sector is the default rather than the exception. In Sub-Saharan Africa, informal employment as a percentage of total employment is 89 per cent and as a result, many youths lack access to social safety nets or any form of workers’ rights.

These figures represent the danger of social upheaval and even implosion as young, energetic yet restless people increasingly feel despondent about their future.

We are sitting on a time bomb of unimaginable proportions if this is not addressed, because a desperate, drifting young person is an easy recruit for all manner of unsavoury influences.

While some say the boys were motivated by greed for money, I agree more with Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, who wrote on his Facebook wall that ‘the boy born into abject poverty cannot be accused of greed, or motivated by greed.’

Of course, it still remains the case that societal obsession with wealth, however acquired, then creates a certain ‘gold standard’ that many aspire to.

To that extent, the blame lies more with what we have allowed than their aspiration to be rich even at that tender age.

By all means let us regulate what is shown on our television screens. But that is the easiest part. Beyond that, we must continue to invest in our children and young citizens by providing them with meaningful educational opportunities and skills to give them hope that they can participate fully in their society.

If we do not, we may one day bite more than we can chew.

As someone puts it, ‘when the poor no longer have anything to eat, they will eat the rich.’

 

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