The Minister of Gender, Child and Social Protection, Mrs Cynthia Morrison, has said her Ministry has taken a second look at closing down witch camps in the northern part of the country, as they serve as a safe haven for people, mostly old women who are alleged to be witches.
Mrs Morrison’s comment comes on the back of the recent attack on a 60-year-old woman called Meri Ibrahim, who was accused of witchcraft at Sumpini in the Savanna Region.
She was beaten to a pulp and suffered gaping matchete wounds.
The victim, according to the police, has been assisted to seek health care while the suspects, five of them, are in custody, awaiting arraignment.
Reacting to this development and the question on when the Ministry will close down witch camps in the northern part of the country, Mrs Morrison told Benjamin Akakpo on the Executive Breakfast Show (EBS) on Class91.3FM that the camps will not be closed down but renamed as they serve as safe havens for alleged witches.
According to her, the people themselves say they will not leave the camps.
The minister explained: “The brutalities don’t happen in the camp, they happen in the communities, the people run to the camps for shelter. I asked them: ‘Are you ready to go back home?’ They are like: ‘No, we don’t want to go home.’”
“You need to know the history of all these things. They believe in the witches; somebody dreams and sees somebody in the dream and the next is that the chief will call on him/her, interrogate and they will do some rituals…once somebody says they saw you in their dreams and you can’t defend yourself, you are banned from the community and you go through this where they beat and torture you and all that, and, so, people who are smart, once they hear of that, they run away.
“Some run away for days before they themselves run to the camps. It is not somebody who takes them, some of them, too, their family members take them. Sometimes, the chiefs send them there because they believe when they get there, they will do some incantations to get the witchcraft powers out of them and they live there as a safe haven.”
On the issue of closing down the camps, Ms Morrison noted: “It is not enough to say: ‘I’m closing the camps’. Sitting in Accra, I was like: ‘We’ll close down the camps but the people themselves say if you close down, we ‘ll not go [home]’. And some of them, the camp is such that they live within the community, it is not an isolated camp…they live within the community, they go to the market, they farm for people just like any other person farms for people in that community and, so, it will be a difficult thing [to do]”
She continued: “The witch camps look like a safe haven for them, so, we are looking at getting them a better home, removing that name ‘witch camp’, looking at how to keep these women and men safe because they are telling us ‘we are not going to go back to our homes.’”
The Gender Minister proposed education as a solution to solving the problem of incessant attacks and belief in witches in that part of the country.
“How do we get this resolved? It’s education. The chief will tell you: ‘If you don’t believe in witches, we do believe they are there and we can’t live with them, so, they have to go,” the Minister stated.