UN and Witch hunts in Ghana

Thu, 21 Nov 2013 Source: Igwe, Leo

By Leo Igwe

The United Nations should use the visit to Ghana

of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Ms Gulnara

Shahinian to shine international light on the menace of witch hunting in the

country and in other parts of sub Saharan Africa. Ms Gulnara Shahinian is scheduled

to visit Ghana from 22 to 29 November 2013.

The aim

of her visit is to ‘assess the situation on the ground with regard to

slavery-like practices’ in the country. According to a press release from her

office, Ms Shahinian will, during her

stay in Ghana, “explore strategies to address the current challenges in ending

such practices, including the use of the worst forms of child-labour in a

number of economic sectors, and other forms of contemporary slavery that are

often less visible such as domestic servitude, and those emerging from harmful

traditional practices,” Unfortunately, there was no mention of the harmful

traditional practice of witch hunting in Ghana and the plight of accused persons,

women, children and others internally

displaced due to witchcraft accusation in this west African nation. The UN

should break the silence on witchcraft related abuse in Ghana now!

Witchcraft is a way many people in contemporary

Africa interpret misfortune. And Witch hunting is still observed and ‘respected’

as a tradition in Ghana. Most victims of witch persecution lack protection

under the law in Ghana. When it comes to issues concerning witchcraft,

tradition trumps human rights. Suspected witches are attacked, killed or

expelled from their communities.

The UN Special Rapporteur should use her visit

to promote the campaign to end witch hunting in Ghana. The witch hunting situation

in Ghana is unique because the country has ‘safe spaces’ where alleged witches

take refuge. These places are called “witch” camps. They are not official

refugee camps. The ‘witch camps are makeshift shelters and part of the

traditional mechanism for managing and containing witchcraft accusations.

I urge the UN Special Rapporteur on

Contemporary Forms of Slavery to pay a visit to any of the ‘witch’ camps in

Kukuo, Gambaga, Gnani, Gushegu, Naboli, Kpatinga or Bonyase in Northern Region.

She should explore ways of getting the UN involved in providing humanitarian

assistance to victims of witchcraft accusation. In fact the UN special

rapporteur should get the UN to adopt these camps as refugee camps or camps for

internally displaced persons. Witchcraft is a traditional belief. And witch

hunting is a traditional practice of expelling and trying by ordeal persons

suspected of engaging in harmful occult practices. It is one of the issues Ms Gulnara

Shahinian should raise during her visit. The UN Special Rapporteur should

discuss with all stakeholders strategies of ending this obnoxious practice in

Ghana. The UN should help make witch hunting history in Africa!

Columnist: Igwe, Leo