Ghana: witchcraft accusations put lives at risk

15.03.17

(Gender-based discrimination / Tradition, Culture, Religion)

Many elderly women in northern Ghana have fled their homes to live in so-called witch camps. They have been accused of witchcraft and fear being killed.

“How can someone like me be sitting in her house and you come to tell me I have spiritual powers?” laments sixty-year-old Hajia Barichisu. She is one of the many women accused of practicing witchcraft in Poloyafong district in the city of Tamale in northern Ghana. She was targeted by those fighting against the practice. They wanted her to confess but her children refused to bring her out. Gunfire then erupted. “I don’t know anything. I only recite my Quran every day. It is only God that will judge us all,” Barichisu said.

For the past three months, assaults on people accused of witchcraft have increased. Many of them have been physically harmed. This has forced some to seek refugee at a local chief’s residence while others fled to the so-called witch camps where they felt safe.

Local resident Mohammed Abankwa told DW that accusations of witchcraft had become rampant. Beatings and threats of being lynched had also increased. “It is a sad thing,” he said.

In most African countries, it is common for people to take the law into their own hands, especially against those seen as deviating from social norms. Human rights organizations in Ghana have called for everybody to be treated with dignity, but their calls have gone largely unheard.

In 2014 the government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and its partners, started a move to close down all witch camps in the country. However, only one out of six camps has been officially closed so far because the reintegration committee is experiencing difficulties in convincing citizens to accept the women back into their communities. This has raised doubts as to whether the authority and its partners will be able to put an end to the problem for good

Read the full article from Deutsche Welle.