Fifty-five inmates of the Bonyase Witches Camp in the Northern Region have gained their freedom from the servitude and social ostracism they have endured for years, following the closure of the Bonyase Witches Camp in the Central Gonja District.
After a ceremony which signified the closure of the camp, the alleged witches were also reunited with their families as part of their reintegration into their respective communities.
An initiative of the Ministries of Gender, Children and Social Protection, and Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs and ActionAid, Ghana, the closure of the Bonyase Witches Camp is part of efforts to disband witches camps in the country.
ActionAid is also supporting the alleged witches to go into income-generating activities as a way of assisting them to regain their livelihood.
The disbandment of the Bonyase camp only became possible after the traditional priestess in charge of the camp, Ashietu Kishenaba, had performed certain rituals which included the slaughtering of a chicken.
There are six witches camps across the Northern Region with the oldest being the Gambaga Witches Camp in the East Mamprusi District, said to have existed for about a century.
The other camps are the Gyani, Noobuli, Kukuo, Kpatinga and Bonyase in the Yendi Municipality, Gushegu, Nanumba North and Central Gonja Districts respectively.
Ninety per cent of the inmates of these camps are women - some of whom are above 70 years and live in the camps with their children and grandchildren.
Reintegration into communities
Speaking at the ceremony, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, said the successful closure of the Bonyase Witches Camp was the beginning of measures by the government and its collaborators to disband witches camps in the country.
She commended the stakeholders whose efforts had led to the freedom of the inmates and the closure of the camp.
Nana Oye Lithur said the inmates, who are already benefiting from the Livelihood Empowerment Programme (LEAP) and National Health Insurance, would be assisted to embark on income-generating activities.
The Country Director of ActionAid, Mr Sumaila Abdul Rahman, said the organisation's position had been against the violation of the human rights of the inmates of the camps and therefore decided to collaborate with other agencies to end the practice.
He pledged that ActionAid, as a human rights organisation, would continue to work with all other organisations aimed at protecting the rights of all in the society.
The chief of the area said in Central Gonja, no woman had been accused of witchcraft, and added that the witches at Bonyase were all from other parts of the traditional area who came to seek refuge at the camp.
He gave the assurance that the traditional authorities would ensure that no one was admitted into the camp after the closure.
However, people will be allowed to visit the camp as the traditonal priestess renders services which include the administration of concoctions.
On behalf of the government, Nana Oye Lithur later presented a tricycle and a corn mill to the fetish priestess of the camp, to generate income for her after the disbandment of the camp.