We stakeholders of the alleged witches camps in the northern region of Ghana having met in Tamale at Radach Memorial Lodge on the 29th and 30th December 2011, and deliberated on the existence of the alleged witches camps, have resolved to put before Government through the Deputy Minister of Women and Children Affairs, our observations and position on the matter of the disbandment of the camps.
We seek to inform government that the camps as they exist today were not purposefully established as dungeon to punish and dehumanize people alleged to be witches. Rather, the rulers of the three kingdoms in whose jurisdiction these camps exist, acting in their capacity as traditional government long before our dear nation Ghana was established, to provide protection and safe havens for people alleged to be witches, kept them under the protection of some selected priests/ess. This practice resulted in the camps as they exist today and the priests still continue to receive and protect assaulted, abused and banished women alleged to be witches into the camps even in modern Ghana. The priests with support from the Chiefs and Kings provide the basic needs of the women under difficult situations. Notwithstanding, the living conditions of these women are still dehumanising and unacceptable.
The women and their dependents do not have productive resources and therefore suffer severe food insecurity, live in congested, dilapidated mud huts and lack access to very many lifeline facilities such as potable water sources and health facilities. Their dependents under such conditions find it difficult to study both at home and in school, as they endure marginalization and stigmatisation.
The conference detests the inaction to arrest the continuous abuse and banishing of women as alleged witches from the communities into the camps, and the horrendous living conditions in the camps on the part of governments.
The conference views the recent pronouncement of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs on Government’s intention to disband the alleged witches’ camps in 2012 with mixed feelings; while appreciating the good intention to disband the camps to the extent that a statement was made in the 2012 budget statement to that effect, we at the same time have our reservations about the manner the disbandment could be done. We dread an approach that has a potential to endanger the lives of the women even as the camps are disbanded.
Following the reservations expressed, we demand that government should approach the disbandment in the following manner;
• In the interim Government must meet the immediate needs like food, shelter, water and health of the camps’ inmates as often done for people in distressed conditions.
• Government must establish a specific programme with definite budget, accompanied with a roadmap to the disbandment.
• The roadmap must be developed in consultation with all stakeholders including the alleged witches, Religious and Traditional leaders, Priests, CSOs and the communities of origin of the alleged witches.
• Government must also put in place a specific, pragmatic and operational legal regime that will halt fresh witchcraft allegations and ensure the safe reintegration of the women and their dependants into any community of their choice.
• The programme must provide for psycho-social and economic empowerment components that will guarantee some peace of mind and economic independence for the women and their dependants in whatever communities into which they are reintegrated.
We wish to express our gratitude to all, including ActionAid Ghana, who have stood with and supported us in this struggle to secure lives of dignity for alleged witches, their children and grandchildren.
We entreat government to attach a high level of attention to our concerns as contained in this communiqué as we will be following up on issues raised herein.