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Archives 2006

African Healers and AIDS

Mosaic Edition 2006.

Healer There are lots of myth and superstition surrounding the power of witch doctors in Africa.

No place is the myth surrounding the efficacy of witch craft more prevalent than on the soccer pitch. There was the story of a good goalkeeper who allowed six goals in the first half of a Boys' Club Football League in Lagos only to blame the dismal performance on the presence of a witchdoctor brought to the field by the opposing team. Ani as he was called told the story of how the football turned into grasshoppers. The second day after the 10 nil defeat, a friend confirmed that Ani nicknamed “the cat” because of his ability to dive and deflect volleys smoked so much marijuana before the cup tournament. It was true he saw grasshoppers. He was hallucinating when he should have been catching the football.

Still on football, there was the story of Idi. Idi was the striker of Railways Football Club. There is the myth that this guy with a protruded backside rubs magical portions on his clean shaved head in order to get a goal with a header. In a very tough game, Idi headed the only winning goal in the dying minutes of the game and dropped dead. Those on the field who also claim to have the clairvoyant ability of a witchdoctor confirmed seeing the ball turn into concrete before Idi headed the ball.

Africa is replete with superstitions, myths and powers of witch doctors and witches. There is however a thin line between the traditional healer who uses the power for positive healing and the witch doctor who uses the power negatively to curse and alter the state of events. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2002 had to ban “team advisers” otherwise known as witch doctors during the prestigious Nations Cup.

There was the story of Nigeria banning the Kenyan’s team witchdoctor from attending a world cup qualifier for France ’98. The juju man had seen Kenya unbeaten since his employment for about nine months. His team however went down in 3-0 defeat following his prohibition from attending the game.

Enough of the trivialities and let us move to something more serious. As I was attending the 2006 International Conference on HIV/AIDS in Toronto, I heard the traditional beat of Africa and the chants and choruses of the traditional healer. That was my first contact with the drums and unique chants of the healer – witchdoctor outside Africa.

The group at the Global Village was representing Prometra International. The elaborate attention created a buzz around their kiosk as people drew nearer to listen to the message. After a short prayer and traditional opening rituals performed in conjunction with the Canadian Natives, the President of Promethra International, Medical Doctor and Scientist Dr Erick Gbadossou of Senegal said it was time for the world to think of solving the HIV/AIDS problem facing Africa by involving African traditional healing method.

He stated that the Prometra International in partnership with the World health Organization (WHO) was looking at various methods of scorching the pandemic AIDS crises through a localized method that would fit the environment, lifestyle and belief system of the people.

Prometra International is operating clinics in many African countries with Chapter offices in Spain, France, USA Haiti the Caribbean. The organization’s approach is to use Africans trained in Western Medicine and Science to assist the group in delivery of the localized management and care for HIV/AIDS. The organization claims that its success in incorporating African Traditional Medicine with modern medicine is seen in the rapid expansion of its clinics and growth of chapters to twenty-two worldwide.

The organization has also been at the forefront of the recognition of this alternative health care delivery. The effort paid off with the WHO’s recognition of the African Traditional Medicine Day.

Dr Gbadossou told the Mosaic Edition in an interview that the organization had recorded tremendous success with the clinic in Senegal calling on those who still have doubts to visit.

The scientific community is no doubt not ready to yield ground to the advocates of treating AIDS with traditional medicine. The whole debate was elevated when the president of South Africa Thambo Mbeki said he did not believe that HIV causes AIDS. The President relied on the work of Two American Scientists who deny that HIV causes AIDS. Mr. Mbeki believes that the pandemic is an African catastrophe and using western solution to the problem was wrong. He was even quoted as blaming AIDS on the conspiracy of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to assist the big pharmaceutical companies perpetuate the connection between HIV and AIDs for profit.

The story of the pandemic cannot be told without also looking at the myths and falsehood surrounding the disease. One of such horrible myths is the belief that having sex with a virgin will cure the disease. This bone headed lethargic belief has fanned the pandemic as those infected unconscionably run after innocent virgins to ‘cure’ their infection.

The argument for traditional healing approach is that the knowledge of traditional healers should not be ignored in finding a cure to HIV/AIDS. The proponents believe that the healers still serve as the primary care giver in many rural areas. Involving these healers in educational programs alone will make the message get to the grass roots where people could not have access to television advertisements.

The traditional healers according to the proponents can also help deflate the unfounded ‘cure’ those infected look for in sex with a virgin. With regards to the treatment and medication through the traditional healing method, the jury is still out. Some infected with the virus have found remedy in traditional herbs, which have helped contain the disease. The critics of this approach said the efficacy of such treatment could not be scientifically determined. The problem of subjecting the healing method of Traditional medicine to the scrutiny of conventional medicine has to be solved.

(Mosaic Edition, Edward Akinwunmi)

Canada Day interview with Mayor Wayne Redekop of Fort Erie

June 2006 Mosaic Edition.

“My message to all of us as we celebrate Canada Day is that we should celebrate the freedom and democracy that made Canada the greatest country in the world.” The Mayor of Fort Erie Wayne Redekop said this in an exclusive Canada Day interview.

The Mayor of the border town of Fort Erie told the Mosaic Edition that the ability of Canada to understand world issues was borne out of the better understanding of new comers from all parts of the world who have settled in Canada. He said this understanding had made Canada to have tremendous opportunity to influence major world decisions.

Mayor Redekop called on new Canadians to look for opportunities to develop friendships and relationships and try to adopt Canada’s way of living as much as possible while maintaining aspects of their own culture. “Canada is a great place to be, we are the most tolerant country in the world and we recognize the value of diversity,” he maintained. “We do not have to be the same.This is the difference between the melting pot and the mosaic.” 

Mayor Redekop whose immigrant background is over 90 years stated that Canada has a lot of goodwill towards new comers. On criticism of Canada’s immigration policy south of the border, Mayor Redekop said the border between the USA and Canada is very secure and had been secure for over two hundred years. He appreciated the efforts of President George Bush to look outward in fostering international trade but condemned the actions of highly placed government officials in the US who constantly accuse Canada of lax border and immigration policies.

He noted that the 911 bombers did not come through Canada but gained access to the US through US borders. He said that the US border authorities had been doing a good job in dealing with their problems but Canada should not be constantly accused of lax borders. Mayor Redekop opined that 92% of border crossings are low risk or no risk to Canada or the US adding that the 8% high risk should be identified and dealt with. Mayor Redekop said the passport requirement for travel has a tendency to impact the economic activities of both countries. “Any document that would be used for border crossing should be easily obtainable and cheap.”

On crossing the border by refugees from the United States, Major Redekop stated that the Safe Third Country Agreement had reduced the number of refugees crossing the border. He noted that the unintended consequence of the law was that young children are still crossing the border unaccompanied by adults because they can gain access. “It is a terrible and disturbing set of events but the Multicultural Centre and the Casa El Notre are working with the Vive La Casa in Buffalo to make sure people are not shuffled through the system.” The Peace Bridge Authority has also spent $42m in plaza improvement, which included specific facility to welcome new comers. He stated that this would allow for faster processing of documents. 

Mayor Redekop has not announced his re-election bid for the November mayoral race. 

(Mosaic Edition, Edward Akinwunmi)

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