Supporting the Sanctuaries for Outcasts in Ghana

Posts tagged “Witchhunts

Witch-hunts in Northern Ghana

Witch-hunts are a current problem. During the last two decades tens of thousands had been murdered mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. This might already outnumber the devastative european witch-hunts during Rennaissance (1500-1600).  In many areas it is elderly women, but also men or children are accused of bringing death, draughts, crop-failure, unemployment, accidents or diseases by spiritual means.  People fear witchcraft and sorcery mainly from close relatives and neighbours – people they know and maybe even love. In general the belief in god and demons, spirits and witches is very, very strong throughout Ghana. This includes all religions, christians, muslims, traditionalists. One unsolved question is therefore: Why is it that almost everyone beliefs in spiritual powers but just some people decide to accuse others and even kill them?

In Northern Ghana eight settlements for witch-hunt victims exist. The two largest camps at Kukuo and Gnaani/Tindang shelter around 2000 refugees of both sexes, the other six shelter another 500 women. In Kukuo are women, who were accused as their hair turned grey. In Gushiegu, most of the women are Konkomba as are in Nabuli. In Kpatinga, Dagomba and Konkomba mix while in Gambaga most tribes from all over Northern Region are present. Many of the Konkomba were accused with a dream named as “proof”. In this “witch dream” a person sees itself attacked by the person later on accused as a witch. Many people regard this as proof or at least as a grounded suspicion. “No one can see what is in other peoples belly.”  Therefore no one can know if a person is NOT a witch. Once the accusation is there, only exile can be the result. No one puts hopes into police or judges, who won’t interfere with “family matters”. Some also fear their children to be killed by poison or sorcery, if they don’t give in to the accusation and leave home.

More than one third of the outcasts in Gushiegu suffered physical violence. Most had been attacked with whips made from fan-belts or thorns, cutlasses, sticks, knifes. One woman was tortured with a needle driven slowly into her finger. Others were scared away or left for good after an accusation.

Diese Frau wurde mit einer Machete auf den Kopf und in die Arme geschlagen.
This woman was struck with a cutlass on her head and showed us the scar.
Die Anführerin des Gushiegu Camp hatte einst Geld verliehen. Als sie ihr Geld zurückverlangte, beschuldigte der Schuldner sie der Hexerei. Ein Lynchmob schlug zu, mit knapper Not konnte sie ihr Leben retten.
The “Magazia” – a traditional female leader – was once prosperous and even lended money. When claimed her arrears, she was accused by the debtor. A mob started lynching her and she was almost dead when a relative rescued her.
In Gushiegu sind die Frauen frei, ihre Anklage abzulehnen und gegen das System der Hexenjagden aufzubegehren. In anderen Asylen gibt es Schreinpriester, die auf einem dauernden Geständnis beharren.
In Gushiegu the women are free to talk. This helps them to question their accusation and the system of  witchcraft-beliefs as a whole. Gushiegu can be counted as one of the free sanctuaries. Other camps are rather Ghettoes, put under the rule of a traditional chief or priest who demands exorcisms and confessions. Under this force, some women in these Ghettoes finally give in and accept an identity of being a “witch”. 
Insbesondere die Ältesten Frauen lehnen die Hexereivorstellungen ab, wenngleich manche trotzdem an die Zauberei der Männer glauben.
It is mostly the oldest women who refuse witchcraft beliefs. This tough old lady said, it is “all lies”, women don’t have special powers, men might have, as they perform rituals, but women have nothing at all.