Saving all victims of Gagool By Maame Akua Koduah

People go for all kinds of camps: church camps, leadership camps, to mention a few. Usually one would go voluntarily for such a camp with the exception of kids who might be ‘forced’ by their parents to go for such camps. Unfortunately, a certain class of women in modern day Ghana had no other option than to go to a particular camp or risk being lynched by an irate mob. Lynched because they were accused of being witches in their homes and communities.

These witch camps are all in the northern part of the country. One was closed down in the year 2014 but there still a handful yet to be closed down. While I commend the initiative of the previous government for closing down one of the witch camps and believe the current government would continue, it is necessary that some precautions are first taken. If the ladies are taken back to their communities without the people in those communities being sensitized on the rights of the ‘witches’ amongst others, then the lives of the ‘witches’ are still at stake. The government in collaboration with NGOS and other human rights activist groups should embark on a sensitization tour in the northern part of Ghana where witch camps are prevalent. These tours should be done to enlighten the chiefs and their subjects on the evil they perpetrate against their kindred who have the same rights as them; there is the need for the renewal of the minds of the people in order to put a stop to women usually bring forced to flee to witch camps and live in seclusion from the rest of society as if they were a contagious disease.

I ask myself, why should some human beings have to be segregated from other human beings in order to preserve their lives? What makes those they are running away from more ‘human’ than they the victims? If those in the communities accuse them of being witches, killing the so called witches is not right. For those who are religious and believe that they arebeing tormented or harassed by these ladies, they should pray to their various deities for help; if they have evidence of crimes committed by the ‘witches’, they should bring cases before the court. It’s as simple as that. Chasing them as if they were animals to kill them is plain degrading and humiliating. Forcing them to go into exile amongst their own people for allegations of witchcraft strips these ladies of their dignity and liberty. These ladies then have to be dependent on NGOS and the government for their daily bread and survival which should not be so.

Every human being has the right to life, right to dignity and liberty as stated in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the 1992 constitution of Ghana; the right to life is found in article 13 of the constitution while the latter two can be found in articles 16 and 17 respectively. No person deserves to be belittled or treated unjustly because of the biases and prejudices of others especially when they have no substantial evidence backing their claims. Every alleged female witch needs to be respected and treated equally as a human being by all and sundry including gagool(the name of an ancient witch smeller in the famous classic penned by H. Rider Haggard called King Solomon’s Mines). After all, if those treating them unjustly had been in their shoes, I doubt they would find what the ‘witches’ go through even a tad bit amusing.