Belief in witchcraft is pervasive in Ghana, with those accused often banished and sometimes even killed.
Many of these witches are believed to possess inherent supernatural powers that are used to create evil or misfortune. Sicknesses, the inability to have children, accidents, the loss or destruction of property, droughts, floods and fires are among the misfortunes blamed on witches.
While witchcraft belief is widespread across Africa and other parts of the world, only Ghana has established “witch camps”.
Over 500 people, mainly elderly women and children, live in five such camps in the north of the country, according to Amnesty International.
Denied the opportunity to defend themselves, they are chased into these camps where they live in appalling conditions where food and running water is scarce.
While the government has taken steps to address such issues, including disbanding witch camps alleged to exploit and subject inhabitants to squalid living conditions, these actions have had unintended consequences.
Questions have arisen about the effectiveness of Ghana’s 2020 law, which seeks to criminalise the practice of declaring, accusing, naming, or labelling people as witches. This comes after concerted efforts by numerous stakeholders to combat the ongoing social menace of witchcraft accusations, which primarily target the poor, older, and widowed women.
However, despite the protective legislation, the recent killing in Janga underscores the looming threat of violence and death for those accused of witchcraft, casting doubt on the law’s efficacy in preventing such atrocities.
Many women have been sent to an early grave due to witchcraft accusations.
- 60-Year-Old Woman Shot Dead Over Witchcraft Accusations
A 60-year-old woman, Azaratu Poanaa Musah, was shot dead by two young men in Janga, in the West Mamprusi Municipality, for allegedly trying to bewitch a resident in the community.
The unfortunate incident occurred on September 24, 2023.
According to reports, the men who shot Azaratu were sons of the putative target of the supposed bewitchment attempt.
The daughter of the deceased, Asana Musah, said she was in the room with her siblings when the assailants came into their house and started firing warning shots.
“They were two. One gave a warning shot and brought my mother out [from the room] and shot her,” Asana recalled.
“They said my mother was a witch. Today [24 September], they killed my mother, but it was yesterday [23 September] that they came to the house and said my mother was going to kill their father, so because of that, they will also kill my mother,” she added.
- 60-Year-Old Woman Lynched Over Witchcraft Accusation
In August 2023, a 60-year-old woman, Konjit Duut, was lynched at Bunbuna in the Yunyoo Nasuani district of the North East Region over accusations of being a witch.
According to the family, the deceased was reportedly summoned by some residents in the neighbourhood after one of them claimed to have dreamt of her attempting to harm him.
The family further disclosed that the deceased was murdered on her way to report the accusation against her to her family in the next village.
- Mma Rukaya beaten to death over witchcraft accusations
In December 2021, an elderly woman died in Nalerigu in the North East Region, after she was beaten over suspicions of witchcraft.
The deceased, identified as Mma Rukaya, moved to the area from Janga, in the same region, because of similar accusations.
A resident of Nalerigu, Jonathan Nabila, said, “Those who beat up the woman claimed she was a witch from Janga.”
“They beat her there [at Janga] then she came to Nalerigu and settled here two years ago. The youth followed up and came here to Nalierigu and beat her to death,” he added.
According to him, her assailants beat her with sticks and canes.
“After they beat her, she collapsed. She wasn’t even taken to the hospital when she passed away,” Mr. Nabila added.
- 60-Year-Old Woman Nearly Killed Over Witchcraft Allegations
A 60-year-old woman, Amina Mahama, escaped death by whisker after an attack by residents of Nakpali, a farming community in the Zabzugu District.
The residents burnt the woman’s house to ashes and would have been killed but for the intervention of the police.
An eyewitness Musah Shani said a branch of a baobab tree fell on a young man, Sulemana Issah, in the community killing him instantly.
The residents accused the woman of being the cause of the unfortunate incident and torched her house on Tuesday, April 19, 2021.
- Alleged Witch: Bloodied Woman With Machete Wounds Escape Lynching
A woman believed to be in her 50s was wounded badly, barely escaping lynching at her home.
The unfortunate incident happened in August 2020.
Maria Ibrahim was attacked at Sumpini in the West Gonja District of the Savanna Region on Saturday after members of the community accused her of practicing witchcraft.
Maria sustained deep wounds on her hands, face, and skull with her dress soaked in blood after a group of people attacked her with machetes, knives, and sticks.
The woman was home with her children and sick husband when her attackers raided her.
- The lynching of Akua Denteh
On Thursday, 23 July 2020, a 90-year-old woman, Madam Akua Denteh was beaten to death in broad daylight at Kafaba near Salaga, a well-known slave market in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Salaga and Kafaba are in the East Gonja Municipality of the newly created Savannah Region carved out of the Northern Region.
A fetish priestess declared Madam Akua Denteh the witch responsible for the burning of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) youth shed.
The priestess also accused the old woman of being responsible for the irregular rainfall at Kafaba. She, therefore, recommended the lynching of Madam Akua Denteh.
- 72-year-old grandmother burnt alive
In November 2010, a 72-year-old lady, Ama Hemmah, was burnt to death in Tema on suspicion of being a witch.
This dastardly act was done by a group of five adults – one of whom is believed to be a pastor.
Ama Hemmah suffered horrific injuries when she was set up by the mob, who claimed that she admitted to being a witch before drenching her in kerosene and setting her alight.
She was rushed to Tema General Hospital but died within 24 hours.