Ministry intends to renovate witch camps – Cynthia Morrison

The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection plans to renovate witch camps to make it a safe haven for victims of witchcraft accusations.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, the sector minister, Cynthia Mamle Morrison, noted the fact that it may be difficult to stop violence against the elderly women.

In the short term, the minister said, “what we are looking at is giving these wonderful elderly women a safe haven. What we are going to do is renovate where they are.”

“A lot of them have refused to go home because of fear. Families have refused to accept them. And where the family even wants to accept them, the society says no.”

The sector minister maintains that the most important thing is to give the branded witches a better life.

Mrs Morrison observed that it is not so easy to just close the witch camps as is being suggested by majority of the populace.

“When we moved the team from Accra, the only thing we had in mind was to close the witch camp, but it is not as easy as it appears to be.

“When somebody is branded a witch, somebody else has to dream about the supposed witch and the person reports to the Chief.

“The Chief will now call the accused person and banish the person from the town. The chiefs, however, maintained that the directive has never been to lynch the accused persons,” she explained as she walked the journalists through how women accused of witchcraft end up at such camps.

Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, the running mate of former President John Dramani Mahama, on August 20 pledged that an NDC administration will close down all witch camps, particularly the Gambaga witch camp.

According to her, the presence of witch camps is a dent on the country’s image and democratic status, adding that the practice of tagging of people, especially the elderly as witches, and relegating them to camps, would no longer be tolerated.

But Mrs Morrison gave the assurance that the ministry intends to enact a law that bans people from lynching anybody.

The issue of witch hunters sprung up in the public domain after the gruesome murder of Akua Denteh, who was dragged and lynched in the full glare of the onlookers.

Witches’ camps in Ghana

According to a non-governmental organisation, ActionAid, there are six witch camps in Ghana. Spread out across the Northern Region, the six confirmed witch camps reside in Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo and Nabuli.

But some sources state the possibility of more camps, but these camps are more remote and there are not many records about them. Several of these camps date back to well over a century ago.

In 2014, the government created a plan to shut down the camps in an effort to stop the stigma and mistreatment of these women and reunite them with their communities.

The Ghanaian government began the shutdowns with the Bonyasi camp. However, activists feared that communities would refuse to re-accept these “witches” and the women would no longer have a home.

The government has since halted its plans to shut down the camps, as many of the accused witches fear returning to the communities that sent them away.

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