In the midst of a festival celebrating a tribal exodus, a river in Ghana turned blood red, causing a dispute between local chieftains, who dismissed the significance of the shocking phenomenon, and religious leaders who insisted on exorcising demons from the cursed waters. The festival, commemorating a story with several parallels to the Biblical account of the Hebrews’ miraculous escape from Egypt, is the focus of tensions between Christians and the local culture.
Residents of Koforidua, the regional capital in Southern Ghana, were shocked when they woke up and discovered the waters of the Nsukwao River had turned blood-red in the early hours of October 7.
According to witnesses, the colorless water was running normally until at 5 AM when it turned blood red in the space of just a few minutes. At the time, the cause of the strange phenomenon was unclear. Kumikasa, a local news service reported that some locals believe butchers poured a large quantity of blood from animals slaughtered into the river.
One resident said, “The really weird thing is that we have always been able to catch fish and can even drink sometimes because it’s just normally so good. Nobody has any idea how it could have ended up being polluted because there are no factories that dump anything in the water here.”
A local religious conflict arose in the wake of the phenomenon. Dr. Lawrence Tetteh and Bishop Yaw Adu, local Evangelical leaders, quickly rushed to the scene with other Christians to offer prayers. They attributed the change in color to the “wrath of God that had visited the people of Koforidua because of their sins”.
Upon arrival at the blood red river, Dr. Tetteh said, “We cast out every demon. We say Koforidua shall be peaceful. There will not be bloodshed; there will not be anything evil. The people of Koforidua will be blessed.”
He added, “As we see this thing in the river, the river is looking like blood. Whatever it is and wherever it comes from, we bless it…, Amen!”
Bishop Yaw Adu stated his belief that God had “turned the water into blood” because “the traditional authorities placed a ban on crusades (Christian celebrations) in the town as a result of the ongoing Akwantukese festival.”
The Akwantukese festival, celebrated to mark the epic journey of the Gyaman people from Juaben in the Ashanti Region of Ghana some 135 years ago, has several similarities to the Biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt. The Gyamans migrated from their original home in Akwamu near the Volta River Volta due to harsh family feud, reminiscent of the fraternal discord that led to Biblical Joseph being taken to Egypt as a slave as a precursor to the Exodus of the Hebrews. Similar to the Hebrew Exodus, the Gyamans wandered in the wilderness, sojourning in several places before finally arriving at Koforidua. The celebrations began on August 24th but the main event was held last Friday, less than one week after the river turned red.
The festival has been the source of tension between Christians and the local culture. During the month-long celebrations, Christian celebrations and services are restricted to church premises and funerals.
The Krontihene (honorific of sub-chief/local leader) of New Juaben, Baffuor Tutu Boateng Nyantakyi, reacted strongly to the Evangelical response, holding an emergency press briefing. He dismissed the pastors’ claims as deceptive and baseless.
“The incident has nothing to do with miracles,” the Krontihene told the press. “It is a criminal offense and the traditional council wants the police to arrest the suspect.”
He claimed a nearby dye manufacturer based in Tema with a connecting stream was responsible for the shocking change in the appearance of the river. As yet, there have been no arrests in connection with these claims of industrial pollution.
“I have personally gone round and realized this is not blood. The Nsukwa River has not turned into blood; it is just color from somebody doing his tie-and-dye,” the Krontihene stated, relating to the underlying tensions between the local culture and the Christians. “It has nothing to do with the Akwantukesie that we are going to celebrate. It has nothing to do with human blood; it has nothing to do with goat blood.”