Time to shut down all witches’ camps is now

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Mrs Cynthia Morrison, has declared that there will be no more ‘witches’ camps in the country.

Consequently, she said, the government had initiated a process to shut down such facilities nationwide.

The decision by the government to shut down the camps is as a result of the murder of a 90-year-old woman, Akua Denteh at Kafaba near Salaga, in the Savannah Region on July 23, 2020, after she was accused of being a witch.

Although, this is not the first time such a heinous crime is being committed in that part of the country, notoriously known for such activities, the lynching of the 90- year-old woman has ignited public outrage, with some calling for severe punishment for the culprits.

The anger of the public is not ending with action against the perpetrators of the heinous crime; they have extended to the infamous witch camps dotted in different parts of the northern regions.

A witch camp, common in the Northern part of the country, is a settlement where old women alleged to be possessing supernatural powers for harming people are kept after they have been banished from their communities.

For a long time many people have called for the closure of such camps in the country but so far that has not materialised until now.

But with the murder of Akua Denteh, there appears to be a renewed effort on the part of the government and stakeholder to close down such camps in the country and in furtherance of such agenda, an emergency meeting has been held with stakeholders on the protection of such vulnerable persons.

They included religious and traditional leaders, law enforcement agencies and development partners including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) of the United Nations (UN).

Others were the UN population Fund (UNFPA), ActionAid, the Ghana Police Service, Judicial Service, National Peace Council (NPC), Christian Council of Ghana and other Civil Society Organisations.

The meeting among others discussed the modalities to adopt in closing down the camps and to integrate the inmates back into the society.

Although at the end of the meeting no specific timelines for the shutdown was given, it was agreed that consultation with traditional and religious as well as other stakeholders in the Northern Region towards the development of a roadmap, would be intensified the week after August 14.

“We are going to transform the witches camp and turn them into safe havens for our deprived mothers who are  branded as witches and have no place to go back to because their relatives refuse to accept them”, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, was quoted as saying.

Although the Ghanaian Times commends the government and its stakeholders for the initiative, we hold the view that these camps should have been dismantled many years ago.

It is inhuman for the country to continue to tolerate the setting up of such camps; be it shrines, churches or witch camps, to subject innocent and vulnerable people to such levels of inhumane treatment.

We fully support the closure of such camps and any further steps that would be taken to stop all forms of gender-based violence and violation of human rights which is ongoing in different parts of the country.

The lynching of Akua Denteh though heartbreaking and condemnable provides us a unique opportunity to take the bold decision to close down all such places, liberate all the women who have been branded witches and indeed say ‘no more witches camps’.

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