“I guess one of the ways that karma works is that it finds out what you are most afraid of and then makes that happen eventually”.
~ Cheech Marin ~
“Court Rise!” The bailiff announced. “Judge Rebecca Alikpa presiding”, he continued as I walked grudgingly into the courtroom and signaled the attendants to take their seats. I was gloomy and cold on that sunny Friday afternoon. I was disillusioned by my work as a judge in Ghana because it was at the time of this account that Anas Aremeyaw Anas released his investigative report on the judges’ bribery scandal. The news gave me the creeps. It made me feel that I had chosen the wrong profession. We who were supposed to be the custodians of the law and the perpetrators of justice were rather shamelessly breaking it and unfairly tilting the balance of justice.
I decided to be a judge at age 15. My resolve to end up in a career that was both oddly abhorred and revered in the Ghanaian society was because of an event that occurred a year before. As painful as the event of the previous year was, especially when I have to recount it, there is no easy way of saying it. So, here it is: I was raped by my home extra classes teacher. Mr. Manu was a man I trusted; my parents trusted him and in fact, our whole neighbourhood trusted him. Due to his excellent pedagogical skills and abilities, he was engaged by over six families in the neighbourhood to teach their wards.
When I wrote my Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE), I was confident that I had done well and I had Mr. Manu to thank for it. With the completion of Junior High School, our contract with Mr. Manu was terminated but he continued to visit my home. He would spend the time between when he closed from school and when my parents got back from work with me. It was fun as he shared stories about Senior High School with me. He made me super excited about going to school in the next few months.
On the day he did it, I was having a catnap in the sitting room and did not know he had come into the house. While I slept, I felt a ticklish sensation in my body but I ignored it until I felt a hardness in my inside. When I came to my senses about what was happening, it was too late. I struggled to prevent him from further satisfying himself but he was stronger. After what seemed like an eternity of excruciating pain for me, he stood up and bolted out of the house. I was overwhelmed by the experience and because of the pain I was in I could not scream. I only cried as I watched him vanish out of the room.
Mr. Manu was traced, captured and remanded in police custody. Before a trial date could be set, my parents and I were invited to a lawyer’s office. The lawyer who we found later to be Mr. Manu’s uncle told my parents, in contradiction to my account, that I seduced the older man into sleeping with me. He told my not so literate parents that we did not have a case as I did not have any witnesses to corroborate my story. He suggested that we settled the case with a settlement of 25,000 old Ghana cedis. My parents rejected the offer and as we were leaving the office the lawyer asked to see my father in camera. Till date, I do not know what he told my dad but when my father came out, he told us to take the deal and forget the case. The little me was surprised at, hurt by and disappointed by my father’s decision but there was not much I could do about it.
Shortly after, I found out that I was pregnant. I almost died out of that realization. The years after that were those of pain and regrets at each decision I made or was forced to make. The greatest of the pains I went through were the stigma of the society and the abortion I had. The consolation I had and which carried me through all the years was the resolve to be a judge.
Having finally become one in 2014, it was usually bliss when I put bad men in their place. I was very fulfilled when I judged my first case and it happened to be a rape case too. I figured I had the closure I needed and was beginning to forget my childhood traumatic experience until the Anas investigation. I felt sorry for all the victims who suffered for the wickedness of lawyers and the greed of judges.
“Case Number…”, the case was read. It was another rape case. It worsened my mood immediately. I raised my head to look at the sad faces of the family of the victimized child. Then I turned over to look the accused. I made him out immediately. My heart skipped a beat.
“Sir? … Mr. Manu?” The words fell from my mouth.
He looked at me with a sorry and surprised facial expression combined. He would never pass for a pedophile and rapist by the look on his face. He had the face of a saint but the heart of Satan himself. My heart was raging with anger yet deep within there was a certain sense of joy. I enjoyed, even more, the look on his face as he tried to figure out who I was.
In what seemed like the coming upon of the Holy Spirit on a possessed witch in Bishop Obinim’s church, Mr. Manu screamed, “Jesus!” when he recognized me. He began to physically convulse and went on his two knees and started crying. He begged amidst the tears and repeatedly said, “Forgive me”. The whole courtroom was confused now as to what was happening. Mr. Manu, who knew his doom had come, was uncontrollable as his lawyer tried to calm him down.
With the broadest smile ever on my face, I struck my gavel thrice and called for order in the courtroom. The case was already decided in my head. My mind was made up. Reasonable doubt and all the other legal rules and terms meant nothing to me at that point. What was about to go down in the courtroom was a mere procedure. Karma was about to pay Mr. Manu back for his wickedness; full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.
“Prosecutor, proceed please”, I requested in my most honeyed voice.