Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ghana's "Witch Camps" Disbanding

On the issue of witchcraft persecutions many parts of Africa are still struggling to pull themselves into the 21st Century. One of these is the nation of Ghana, which for years has operated what are essentially concentration camps for accused witches. Most of the unfortunates who have been sent to the camps are simply the same poor or elderly women on whom suspicion generally falls across Africa, India, and other parts of the world in which such accusations are common. In a positive development, the government of Ghana is finally taking steps to disband these camps and release the prisoners housed there.

Government will soon disband all witches camps in the country. That’s according to Chief Psychiatrist Dr. Akwasi Osei.

He says the practice of confining elderly women who are banned from their communities to such camps infringes on their human rights.

His comments come on the heels of similar calls by Deputy Women and Children’s Affairs Minister Hawa Gariba.

The minister, who toured the Nyani “Witches” camp near Yendi in the Northern Region recently, described the camps as a national disaster.

Chief Psychiatrist Dr. Akwasi Osei told Joy News a national conference will be convened next week to address the issue.

He said there were about six witches camps spanning across the three northern region where mainly poor, old, desolate, sometimes childless women are held in the name of witchcraft.

“Never have you seen a man …being accused of [witchcraft] and being sent there; never have you seen a young lady, beautiful, resourceful being accused; it is always the defenseless, vulnerable woman and when they go there…there are literally ostracised from the society and they are starved, they go through a whole lot of things including child labour,” he stated.

Of course, those in charge of the running the camps are opposed to this move, but fortunately it sounds like the government has mostly made up its mind to shut them down.

But managers of some of these camps have urged government to be cautious in their approach to disbanding the camps.

Alhassan Sayibu, who manages the Nyani camp told Joy News the focus should be on educating communities against the practice.

Because, naturally, all of these accused witches are of course magical practitioners, at least in the eyes of camp officials. The truth is that witchcraft accusations have a lot more to do with blame heaped upon individuals who have low status in their communities following misfortunes that generally have nothing to do with paranormal forces.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One problem with disbanding the camps is that it does not remove the underlying problem, namely that the accusations continue.

I went to a talk that showed a clip from a documentary made about the camps. There are a few men in the camps and it's not only older women who are there. It also does not help the TV in Ghana is dominated by American bible bashers in the South and Iranian influence in the North.

Here are my notes from the lecture: