The British High Commissioner for Ghana appealed to the government to close camps that house so-called witches and for the inhabitants to be reintegrated into society.
In a meeting with Ghanaian authorities Jon Benjamin urged the government to dispel the myth that witches exist and move potentially thousands of women and children back to their villages.
‘Personally, I believe in the 21st Century, it’s time to say there is no such thing as a witch and to decry the practice of using such a term to dehumanize vulnerable women,’ Benjamin said stressing his views were his and not of the British government.
During the address Benjamin, who has served in the African nation since 2014, claimed that squalid shanty towns around Kuko, Northern Ghana were holding around 800 ‘witches’ and 500 children.
He also said at the August meeting that keeping women and minors in such settlements is a violation of human rights.
One of the camps was closed down in 2014 with the help of British charity, Action Aid, according to the Express, however plans to close down other villages were quashed due to villagers, who still fear the witchcraft, and authorities which worry that women sent back to their communities will suffer violence or even death.
Despite agreeing with the authorities safety fear Benjamin remained an advocate for outlawing the camps.
‘The point is that there are no such things as witches. Some people maintain that the women in these camps are at least in a safe space and not mistreated there as they might be in their home villages, and they may have a point,’ the former UK Ambassador for Chile said.
‘But if people weren’t arbitrarily labelled witches and discriminated against, occasionally violently, on that basis in the first place, then you wouldn’t need the camps at all.’
The camp’s cut adrift inhabitants live in mud huts and have no access to basic sanitation and health facilities. Some women have also been kept in the ghetto style villages for decades says accused sorcerer Sano Kojo.
Kojo, 70, has been living in a camp since 1981 when she was accused of witchcraft by allegedly pressing on her cousin’s chest until he died, reported the Express.
‘People don’t care about alleged witches,’ she says. ‘Once you are here you are forgotten.’
Another camp inhabitant, Asana, was sent to a camp after her ex-husband poured melted plastic over her, when five months pregnant, who tracked her down after he had a dream that she was a witch.
Action Aid Ghana is still pressing for the closure of the remaining five camps and for ‘the reintegration of more than 400 accused women back into their respective communities.’
‘Since 2010, we have reintegrated more than 254 women into their communities and we are working hard with communities against sending more women to the camps,’ said Country Director Sumaila Abdul-Rahmen.
‘The belief in witchcraft is deeply rooted in traditional cosmology. It requires sensitization and education to discourage accusations.