WITCHCRAFT ACCUSATION IS VIOLENCE
By Serwaa Ampaafo
Briefly lets look into witchcraft accusation and witch camps, one of the many heinous crimes against women in Northern Ghana:
A WITCH CAMP is a settlement where women suspected of being witches can seek refuge, usually in order to avoid being lynched by neighbours. Witch camps exist solely in Ghana where there are about 5-7 of them, housing a total of around 1000 women.
Such camps can be found at Gambaga, Gnani, Bonyasi Gambaga, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Naabuli, all in Northern Ghana. Some of the camps are thought to have been set up over 100 years ago.
Many women in such camps are widows who have been accused of killing their husbands and some are also mentally ill -a little understood problem in Ghana. In one camp in Gambaga the women are given protection by the local chieftain and in return, pay him and work in his fields. Food and other basic human needs are insufficient or some times non-existent according to reports
Presently in Ghana, the word “witch” has a taken a powerful and a comfortable seat in the minds of many; making them believe witches dictate and determine most of their misfortunes. Every calamity that befalls a person out of ignorance, negligence, or accident is attributed to witches.
Medals for best churches are won by persons who can best call out and cast away the most powerful witches in our society. Our obsession with witchcraft has led fragile minds to become prey to Con-artist pose who as men and women of god.
Witches appear to be the greatest enemies of most people and for the Ghanaian the best way to ensure our safety, security and successes is to flush them out through abuse and other distasteful means. In some communities in Ghana, the creation of witch camps is one way of dealing with the witch problem.
WITCHES IN NORTHERN GHANA
In most parts of Northern Ghana, Anytime something bad happens to an individual or the community, the blame is usually shifted on the nearest available old woman. According to residents in these areas, a man could equally possess an evil spirit but can’t be used to cause as much havoc as that of women’s and so its the reason men are not accused of such.
Women accused of witchcraft are attacked and their belongings burnt to ashes. If she is lucky, she escapes and runs for her life and seek refuge in the witch camp. If the accused still wants to prove her innocence, she is given a trial in the chief’s palace of her new community.
A fowl, which is provided by the accused woman, is slaughtered and thrown to the ground. If the dying fowl lies face up, it means the accused woman is guilty and is officially declared a witch. The camp becomes her home where she undergoes other rituals for purification.
There are recorded cases of some suspected witches being released from the camps only for them to later return. Usually they return due to stigmatization and sometimes the unwillingness on the part of their relatives to accept them.
The government of Ghana has announced that it intends to close the camps and educate the population regarding the fact that witches do not exist. In 2014 the Minister for Gender and Social Protection took initiatives to disband and re-integrate inmates of the Bonyasi witch camp located in Central Gonja District but unfortunately are still in the news as a functioning institution.