The city of Kumasi in Ghana was rocked this week by the tragic suicide of 35-year-old mason Kwame Owusu. According to reports, Owusu helped finance the education of a young woman he hoped to marry. However, after graduating, the woman refused his marriage proposal, claiming he was beneath her social standing.
Owusu had not only paid for the woman’s schooling but also entrusted her with 15,000 cedis (around $2,500 USD). When he asked for the money back so he could use it to start a business, she refused to return it. Distraught over the rejection and theft, Owusu took his own life.
This sad story reveals the darker side of relations between Ghana’s working class and middle/upper class. Many praise the generosity of patrons who sponsor less fortunate youth through school. But sometimes strings are attached, with patrons expecting marriage or favors in return. The story of Kwame Owusu is a cautionary tale about what can happen when cross-class relationships take advantage of the poor.
While the details are still emerging, Owusu’s death underscores the need for clearer boundaries and expectations in patron-client relationships in Ghana. It also points to long-standing class and gender divides that make rejection and humiliation more likely when affection crosses social strata. May Owusu’s tragic death lead to reflection on how we can build a more just society for all Ghanaians.