Last updated: 20 april, 2009 - 10:56 GMT


West African Journeys - Part One

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Award-winning journalist Sorious Samura takes a trip through four neighbouring countries in West Africa. In each country he meets up with someone who takes him on a journey.

A child survivor in Northern Ghana

This child, saved by his mother, survived an attempted killing.

The journeys are all different. Some are momentous and life-changing passages, whilst others are quotidian trips undertaken every day to eke out a living.

By following on the footsteps of his hosts, Sorious hears stories which open a window into the challenges, complexities and contradictions of life in modern West Africa.

Programme one begins in Northern Ghana, with the story of one man and his efforts to stop the widespread killing of babies and children in northern Ghana. Cletus Anaaya has made it his life's work to bring an end to the phenomenon known as Spirit Children.

Spirit Children are children who are considered by many people not to be human; they are thought to be evil spirits and their fate is decided by their parents, the soothsayers and the concoction men who often become their executioners.

Cletus works with a local charity called Afrikids and his job takes him all over this region to meet with soothsayers and concoction men to try to persuade them to stop killing children, but as Sorious discovers, it's a tough job; the tradition is deeply engrained in society.

Cletus takes Sorious to meet his old school master who teaches a class of 8 to 12-year-olds under a tree. When Sorious asks the class what should be done with Spirit Children most of class agrees that they should be killed.

A concoction man in Northern Ghana

A concoction man in Northern Ghana

All the people involved in the death of one three year old boy talk candidly to Sorious. The father describes how the child couldn't walk and he began to suspect that he was a Spirit Child. The father consulted the soothsayer who Sorious and Cletus meet.

Finally Sorious confronts the concoction man who killed the child. He tells Sorious that he had to give the child three doses of his concoction before he died. Sorious accuses him of murder but the concoction man says that since the child was not human what he did can not be murder.

Cletus takes Sorious on a mission to convince another concoction man to try and persuade him not to take part in the killings. It becomes another shocking encounter. Cletus offers to compensate the concoction man for any income he may lose if he agrees to stop 'treating' Spirit Children.

The concoction man is taken aback by the offer; he can not believe that he is being asked to stop killing these children. He tells Cletus that they must be killed because if they are allowed to live they will kill members of their own family.

First broadcast on 20 April 2009.

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