Some Background

Matt emailed this update out last week, so I thought I’d post a slightly edited (an occasionally annotated) version here, too. Things are quite calm here now. The funeral is planned for Friday, but until then, the hospital is fully functioning again.

We went to “greet” the family of the pharmacist last Monday, almost like visitation at home. All the missionaries and volunteers rode to their house and sat down with the extended family on benches outside briefly while they informed the family inside and one of the missionaries just expressed our sorrow and our prayers for them and then we went inside to greet his sisters and two wives. (So, that might shock some people, but multiple wives are not too uncommon, even among Christians like this family, though Christians who have more than one wife are usually excluded from being deacons as the Bible mandates. If you have more than one it’s usually two, unless you’re the chief, in which case you may have to take many because of politics.)

Yes, the compound is safe, but still we take precautions. Our house is already concrete walls with two-inch sandstone pavers on the outside and burglar bars, heavy hog wire and mosquito screen on the windows. We have locked our doors at night ever since we came, not because thievery is frequent but because it’s just better for everybody. (We don’t have anything significant to steal, but if somebody did steal something from us, the police would be very hard on them. “Many a thief is saved by a locked door,” I think Jefferson said.) We also have a night watchman and watchmen at the gates of the compound. For now there are also police and military throughout the town and at the hospital.

As I am my father’s son and a Boy Scout, we packed an emergency bag in case we needed to leave suddenly. This seems very, very unlikely–even ridiculous–but hey, that’s what being prepared means. It contains a pocket knife, lighter, granola bars, water, extra clothes, and … an obscure novel by an up-and-coming Asian writer. (How can we survive without good literature, she says! I promise to pass this on to the Scoutmasters for January’s Survival Campout.) [Note from Megan: The God of Small Things is not an obscure novel.]

Things are beginning to get closer to normal, enough so that the workers met again today and have decided to resume work as normal. They will somehow attempt to keep it lighter for this and because our volume has tremendously increased. Before October, the hospital record was 9000 patients in clinic. In September they changed from the traditional three-day Monday/Wednesday/Friday clinic that they’ve had for years and years to five-day clinic every week. They were hoping it would shorten clinic days so that instead of clinic from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., we could have clinic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. Instead we saw 16,000 patients in October, with days still lasting to 6pm and everyone exhausted, and now the man who juggled the pharmacy and the billing is lost, and everyone else is recovering slowly.

Rumors are many. I’ll try to synthesize what I’ve heard. The real reason this particular man was picked is hard to know, but some of the basic tribal conflict stems from the days of the slave raiders when the Mamprusi tribe were the most powerful in this region (and still are). They sent warriors to a distant village of the Kusasi to protect them, and in return that village came under the rule of a Mamprusi chief until this day.

In the early 2000s, fighting broke out in that village over the chieftaincy as the local Kusasi people didn’t want to be under Mamprusi rule any more. I have no idea what kind of implications this has when there is a stable modern democratic republic overlaying these tribal kingdoms, but the traditional governing system still has a great deal of domestic power. This fighting has continued waxing and waning but has been confined to that disputed village.

Our town is the seat of the paramount chief of the Mamprusi meaning he’s not just chief of this town but king over all the other Mamprusi chiefs who are over individual villages.

Our pharmacist was by birth a Kusasi though raised here practically as a Mamprusi, with no connection to the disputed village, but for some time had received anonymous threats and accusing murmurs through the grapevine that he was aiding the Kusasi by bring munitions up from Accra. As pharmacist, he frequently went there to buy hospital medications. He had a wife and kids all in school in Accra and had run for the national legislature. All of these things gave him pretty good reason to be there, so most people (him especially) thought these accusations were ridiculous, like late-night-radio conspiracy theories. This seems to be the pretext to last tThursday’s tragedy, and in many ways looks like somebody is trying accumulate rationale and support to get rid of someone they hate.

They have arrested a couple of accomplices, though it’s not entirely clear they’ve arrested the one directly responsible or if the agitators are all locally based or if they are being emboldened by others from the disputed village. Several more people were arrested or taken for questioning. But there has been no more violence.

It seems that the older and wiser of the Mamprusi have revealed the tragic irony that the grandfather of the man who they believe committed the murder was a Kusasi, so while he thought he was a Mamprusi, he was really a Kusasi, and now he is probably repulsive to all and hero to none. His house has since been burned down.

Some others in the hospital have left town either because of their ancestry or because a few have received threats, too. So the police and military backup remain on alert, and workers who want are ferried to and from work with a soldier riding on the back of their moto, toting a rifle across his chest.

They’ve decided to restart clinic with armed protection at the gates and in the outpatient department, but we’ll be going back to the old Monday/Wednesday/Friday clinic schedule. Today’s clinic was light but by next week, I’m sure it’ll be full.

So your prayers are effective, things have improved in 24 hours that I thought would take weeks! And for that we praise God.

Please continue to pray for the hospital and the situation here.

The funeral is next Friday so pray all will be peaceful and for the family’s continued comfort and protection.

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