Chief appeals for release of ‘bondage’ children in U/W Region

BY: Michael Quaye
The alleged camp
The alleged camp

The Chief of Yagha in the Upper West Region, Naa Namare Diedong II, has appealed to the Gender and Social Protection Ministry to help release and reintegrate the alleged ‘bondage’ children at the Synagogue of Mercy Church at Nambeg in the Jirapa municipality with their families.

"If intervention does not come from Accra, there is little hope of returning our children to us to go to school," he said.

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The chief’s plea followed claims by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) that they could not locate the more than 30 children who were alleged to have been abducted and sheltered in the church premises.

Doubts

A source has, however, told the Daily Graphic that some officials from the Social Welfare Department and other stakeholders such as the Police, Bureau of National Investigations and World Vision International, an NGO, have raised doubts about the alleged harbouring of children in the dilapidated church premises.


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"We have seen the church compound and we do not think anyone can be living there.

Besides, we don't know of any house in the neighbourhood that can shelter 30 children at a go," it added.

The source, however, admitted that the team did not visit the home of the pastor or any other church elder but drew conclusions from their observations and the responses of the pastor during interrogation.

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It said Pastor Ansongnuur admitted to having resigned from his teaching profession to concentrate on his pastoral calling.

Reaction

The chief, however, expressed surprise that even though parents insisted their children were under the control of the Synagogue of Mercy Church, the investigators were still doubting their claims.

Speaking through an interpreter, some of the parents listed names of children they believed were still in the custody of the church.

Frustrations

Naa Namare Diedong said community leaders and parents were beginning to lose hope because they still did not know the whereabouts of their children a week after the Daily Graphic had published the story.

"Some parents came to me and said there is something wrong with the whole investigation. It looks strange because we do not know what is happening," the chief said.

He said some officials from World Vision had paid him a visit and also interacted with some parents and promised to help trace the whereabouts of the children.

"That is all we can console ourselves with, otherwise it looks like we and the children do not matter at all," the chief further lamented.

Background

On Monday, October 22, 2018, the Daily Graphic published the story of 30 primary and junior high school students who had abandoned home and school to pitch camp at the Synagogue of Mercy Church.

Some members of the church, including minors, later that day chased a Metro TV reporter, Adams Musah, when he went to Nambeg to follow up on the story.

They were said to have later besieged the palace of the chief of Yagha and threatened him for his role in revealing the story.

At the time, the regional office of CHRAJ had directed the Jirapa municipal office to move in with police to arrest Pastor Charles Ansongnuur and take custody of the children.

The pastor proved evasive initially as the Daily Graphic learnt his 'disciples' claimed he had gone to school whenever he was unavailable to meet officials.
The turn of events has proven an interesting twist to the unfolding drama.