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Posted on Friday, 19 December 2014 17:57

Ghana shuts down witches' camp

By Dasmani Laary

Alleged witches gather in Kukuo village, Northern Ghana Photo©Jane Hahn/ActionAidThe government of Ghana, in a historical move, has closed down one of the many witches' camps at Bonyasi, a community in Central Gonja District in the northern part of the country, housing suspected witches for years without trial.

Some 55 women aged between 48 and 90 years, who have been accused of witchcraft and banished from various communities to live in the Bonyasi witches' camp for years, have since been reunited with their families.

It is unacceptable for human beings to undergo dehumanised process on assumption that they were witches

The camp's closure is the first step towards disbanding the about six witches' camps in the Northern Region, where nearly 1,000 women, mostly widows are detained.

Officials say there are also about 500 children living alongside the detained so-called witches in the various camps, with no opportunity to access education.

Most of the women have lived in the camp for several years with their children and grandchildren who were perpetually banished and with no access to education, chairman of reintegration committee for the alleged witches, Dr Hussein Zakari said.

It will be the start of a new life altogether for both the women and the children, who now have the opportunity to go to school.

United States Ambassador to Ghana, Gene Cretz, has praised the move leading to the closure, saying, "while closing the Bonyasi camp is a laudable achievement, it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that those leaving the camp can return and thrive in their home communities in safety and dignity."

But more still remains, as the government ought to act against the rest, particularly, the Gambaga witch camp and also work to remove humiliating traditional practices like female genital mutilation, early and forced marriages and widowhood rites that amount to serious human rights violations.

The government, however, says the other alleged witches' camps across the country had also been identified and all the necessary preparations were underway to close the camps and reunite the alleged witches there with their families and communities.

"It is unacceptable for human beings to undergo dehumanised process on assumption that they were witches without establishing proof of guilt," said top government official, Nana Oye Lithur.

The government will continue to dialogue with traditional leaders and stakeholders to disband the remaining camps, she added.

The women had fled discrimination, threats or even mob justice after being accused of witchcraft and blamed for 'crimes' such as causing sickness, droughts or fires, cursing a neighbour or even just appearing in someone's dream.

Those who reach the witch camps are the lucky ones since women have been murdered after accusations of witchcraft.



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