Francis-Xavier Sosu, Member of Parliament for Madina
Francis-Xavier Sosu, Member of Parliament for Madina

Sosu petitions ECOWAS, others to urge Akufo-Addo assent anti-witchcraft bill into law

The Member of Parliament for Madina, Francis-Xavier Sosu has petitioned the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), United Nations, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and other bodies to call on President Akufo-Addo to assent to the anti-witchcraft bill.

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He has also called Amnesty International and other organisations for prompt action on the bill to safeguard vulnerable women from discriminatory practices and inhumane treatment.

The Bill was passed by Parliament on Thursday, July 27, 2023, providing protection for victims accused of witchcraft in Ghana. The Bill now awaits Presidential assent.

President Akufo-Addo cited potential financial implications on the country’s consolidated fund as the reason behind his decision not to sign the bill.

But, the MP who is a legal luminary is not accepting such an excuse, deeming it inappropriate for the President to raise such concerns months after the bill was passed into law by parliamentarians in Ghana on July 27, 2023.

He reiterated that he sees no financial charge accompanied by the passage of the bill, as claimed by the President.

"It is therefore my considered view that the President is in violation of Articles 106(7) and (8) of the Constitution, and grossly misinterpreted Article 108, as it only deals with the procedure of submission and admission of Private member’s Bills, considering that the Bills were rightly admitted by the person presiding, the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin," the MP stated.

According to him, the interpretation of Article 108 should not and does not include Bills that have been admitted, scrutinised, gone through various Parliamentary stages and passed unanimously by the House.

He therefore stated that the private Member’s Bills that have been submitted, admitted and passed by Parliament cannot be deemed to have violated Article 108. 

Below is the petition
28th March 2024
THE CHAIRMAN
COUNCIL OF STATE
REPUBLIC OF GHANA
ACCRA

Dear Sir,

PETITION BY HON. FRANCIS-XAVIER SOSU (ESQ), MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR MADINA CONSTITUENCY, REPUBLIC OF GHANA, ON REFUSAL BY H.E. NANA AKUFO ADDO, PRESIDENT OF GHANA, TO ASSENT THE CRIMINAL OFFENSES (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2023, PASSED BY GHANA’S PARLIAMENT TO PROSCRIBE WITCHCRAFT ACCUSATIONS IN GHANA

Introduction
I hope this petition finds you well, hearty, and in good spirits, as I write to draw your attention to the conduct of H. E. Nana Akufo Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, in respect on the above-mentioned Bill following passage by Parliament on 27th July 2023, and the refusal by the President to follow the constitutional due process relating to assent or refusal to assent to a Bill. 

Initiation and Admission of Anti-Witchcraft Bill
On 30th September 2021, the MP pointed out that he together with colleague MPs namely Honourable Hajia Ayii Ayamba, MP for Pusiga, and Honourable  Dr. Godfred Seidu Jasaw, 
MP for Wa East, initiated a private Member’s Bill to amend the Criminal and Other Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29).

According to him, this was to proscribe the declaration, accusation, naming or labelling of another person as a witch; to prohibit a person from employing or soliciting anyone to accuse, name, label, or declare another person as a witch, and to provide for related matters. 

He explained that this Private member’s Bill was in furtherance to an earlier effort by the 7th Parliament to introduce this law according to a Petition by the Sanneh Institute dated August 4 2019. 

"On 27th July 2021, our country, Ghana, woke up to the disturbing news that a ninety-two-year-old woman had been declared a witch in the community where she lives; had as a result of the declaration been subjected to whipping and died from the inhuman treatment. 

"The treatment meted out to Madam Akua Denteh in 21st century Ghana was brutal, and unacceptable and could not be allowed to pass without specific legislation to prohibit the practice and situations which give rise to such treatment," he added.

On the issue of the object of Anti-Witchcraft Bill, he elaborated that  object of the Anti-witchcraft Bill is to amend the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) to prohibit the practice by any person as a witch doctor or a witchfinder; to proscribe the declaration, accusation, naming or labelling of another person as a witch; and to provide for related matters. 

Date of Gazette and Laying of Anti-Witchcraft Accusations Bill

Following initiation, the Bill was gazetted on Wednesday, December 7 2022, and matured on Wednesday, December 21 2022. On 31st March 2023, the Bill was laid in Parliament and referred to the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for consideration and report back to the House. 

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Report of Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on Anti-Witchcraft Bill

On 27th May 2023, the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee met to consider the Bill.

 In attendance to assist the Committee in its deliberations were Sir Justice Dennis Adjei, Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ms Agnes Quartey-Papafio, Chief State Attorney at the Office of the Attorney General and her other Technical Officers; Mr Nene Ahoma Korda, Ghana Bar Association; ACP Benjamin Osei Addae, Ghana Police Service; Ms Mercy Larbi, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice; and CSP Edem Acquah of the Ghana Prisons Service, with representatives from Sanneh Institute, Actionaid Ghana, and Amnesty International. 

Moving for the passage of the Bill on the floor of Parliament, according to him, the MP for Asante Akim Central Constituency and Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Hon. Kwame Anyimadu-Antwi, said “Mr Speaker, I will have to thank the sponsors of this Bill, it is one of the inhuman treatments that we do as a country. 

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"And I am grateful that the Committee unanimously agreed on the report, and I am happy that the House has also unanimously agreed with us that witchcraft accusations and witch doctors and witch-finders as we find in our Criminal Code must be done away with.” 

Subsequently, on Thursday, July 27 2023, the MP indicated that the Bills were read on the floor of Parliament for the second and third times and passed by the House. However, it is sad to note that after the passage of the Anti-Witchcraft Bill, five (5) persons have been killed as we await presidential assent.  

Visit to witches’ camps and conditions at Camps

Between Saturday, May 27 2022 and Monday, May 29 2022, he disclosed that he toured various witch camps – specifically five (5) witch camps in Northern Ghana to assess the situation faced by alleged witches as well as the conditions in existence at the camps.

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"I was saddened that as a society, we had allowed such violations to persist for many years. Most of them were being abused, tortured, and raped by witch doctors who violated their rights to life and dignity. 

"One would have thought that during the tenure of a President touted as a human rights lawyer, these situations and occurrences would have become a thing of the past, but NO; the President only seems to be interested in eroding the gains made so far under the 1992 Constitution – what a legacy? Moreso, from a President of a Party that prides itself on safeguarding human rights, individual liberties and personal freedoms. It is no wonder Ghana keeps declining on the World Democracy and Human Development Indices, as the fruits of democracy are not being guaranteed in these respects.   
 
This year’s UPR: Ghana referred to the Bill when it was not yet passed 

Also, at the 42nd session of the Universal Peer Review (UPR) held this year in Geneva, Switzerland, the Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, referred both the death penalty and witchcraft accusations Bills that were before Parliament at the time to stress home Ghana’s commitment and efforts at protecting and preserving rights of persons. 

It therefore did not come as a surprise that following the passage of the Bills by Parliament, Ghana gained membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on Tuesday, October 10 2023.    

Continuous violation of the 1992 Constitution and International Laws and Treaties 

The current state of affairs and non-passage of the Bill further violates Article 15 of the 1992 Constitution and various international laws and treaties such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights; the African Charter on Human Peoples’ Rights, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention on Elimination of All Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), among others.   

President’s Referral to Article 108 Untenable 

However, despite the above, he noted that the Article 108 which details the Settlement of Financial Matters, and for which the President refers to as the basis for his decline or refusal to assent to the Bill states that “Parliament shall not, unless the Bill is introduced or the motion is introduced by, or on behalf of, the President-proceed upon a bill including an amendment to a bill, that, in the opinion of the person presiding, makes provision for any of the following- the imposition of taxation or the alteration of taxation otherwise than by reduction; or the imposition of a charge on the Consolidated Fund or other public funds of Ghana or the alteration of any such charge otherwise than by reduction; or
the payment, issue or withdrawal from the Consolidated Fund or other public funds of Ghana of any moneys not charged on the Consolidated Fund or any or any increase in the amount of that payment, issue or withdrawal; or the composition or remission of any debt due to the Government of Ghana; or 
proceed upon a motion, including an amendment to a motion, the effect of which, in the opinion of the person presiding, would be to make provision for any of the purposes specified in paragraph (a) of this article.  
It is my respectful view that the provisions of Article 108 concerning Bills passed by Parliament, specifically, private member’s Bills, lie with the person presiding, and relate to the procedure for admission of such Bills; and not Bills that have been scrutinized and passed by the House. 

This is further reemphasized and clarified after a thorough examination of Article 106 of the Constitution, specifically clauses 7-12 which provide as follows: “(7) Where a bill passed by Parliament is presented to the President for assent, he shall signify, within seven days after the presentation, to the Speaker that he assents to the bill or that he refuses to assent to the bill, unless the bill has been referred by the President to the Council of State under article 90 of this Constitution.

(8) Where the President refuses to assent to a bill, he shall, within fourteen days after the refusal – state in a memorandum to the Speaker any specific provisions of the bill which in his opinion should be reconsidered by Parliament, including his recommendations for amendments if any; or inform the Speaker that he has referred the bill to the Council of State for consideration and comment under article 90 of this Constitution.

(9) Parliament shall reconsider a bill taking into account the comments made by the President or the Council of State, as the case may be, under clause (8) of this article. 
(10) Where a bill reconsidered under clause (9) of this article is passed by Parliament by a resolution supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament, the President shall assent to it within thirty days after the passing of the resolution.

(11) Without prejudice to the power of Parliament to postpone the operation of a law, a bill shall not become law until it has been duly passed and assented to in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution and shall not come into force unless it has been published in the Gazette. 

(12) The provisions of clauses (7) to (10) of this article shall not apply to a bill certified by the Speaker as a bill to which the provisions of article 108 of this Constitution apply; and accordingly, the President shall give his assent to any such bill when presented for assent.”   
It is therefore my considered view that the above laws relating to the initiation, passage by Parliament, and assent to a Bill, in this case, private Member’s Bill are clear and unambiguous, and thus, make the President’s actions a clear violation of the 1992 Constitution.

 Signed
Hon. Francis-Xavier Sosu (Esq)
MP, Madina Constituency
Republic of Ghana

Cc:    The Commissioner
Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice
Accra – Ghana

The President
ECOWAS Commission

The Chairperson
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The Chairperson
African Union Commission 

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva – Switzerland

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