Victims of five Witch Camps in the Northern and North East Regions are being sexually, verbally and emotionally abused, exploited in monetary terms, and made to engage in forced labour without pay, a research has shown.

The exploitation was from members of the community who took advantage of the vulnerability of the victims and the fact that they were stigmatized and kept away from society.

The study was conducted at the Gnani Camp near Yendi, which has 158 females and 38 males, the Kukuo Camp near Bimbilla with 137 females and two males, the Gushegu Camp which has 99 females, the Gambaga Camp which is the oldest with 77 females and one male and the Kpatinga Camp near Gushegu with 27 females.

The research conducted by The Sanneh Institute, an independent scholarly institute committed to nurturing a culture of interfaith and interdisciplinary research at the University of Ghana, Legon, also disclosed that relief aid meant for the victims at the camps were diverted for individuals.

The Institute interacted with the victims and the traditional priests who run the camps.

Professor John Azumah, the Executive Director of the Sanneh Institute, who presented the findings at an engagement with the media in Accra on Thursday, said some of the victims were accused by their own children, family members, local chiefs and religious figures including Pastors.

The accusations usually followed a death in the family (loss of children, grandchildren, husbands), however spouses and grown up children of the accused were afraid to go to their defense, he said, adding that accusations usually took place within the context of polygamous marriages.

Prof. Azumah said majority of those accused from the five camps were ethnically Konkomba (53 per cent), followed by Dagomba (41 per cent), Mamprusi (two per cent), Bimoba (two per cent), with two per cent from other ethnic groups.

The accused range in age from mid-50s to late-70s.

He said although a few relatives visited the victims at the camps, majority had their family members not visiting with the fear of being accused and ostracized, when the accused died at the camp, the family went to convey the body home for burial and final funeral rites.

The Executive Director explained that in all the camps with the exception of Gushegu, there were traditional shrines with priests known as tendanas, who performed rituals to confirm who was a witch and to exorcise the spirit of witchcraft.

Although some priests openly admitted that most of the accusations were fabrications out of malice, jealousy and hatred, families and communities still refused to accept the accused persons back home.
   

The conditions and abuses, he said, appeared to be worst at Kpatinga while Gambaga presented the most invisible wall of fear and exploitation.

Prof. Azumah who said the victims were only in the Camps out of fear and not by choice, admonished churches and mosques to mount serious educational campaigns concerning witchcraft.

He also called on the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to partner credible civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations in an educational campaign against witchcraft accusations, based on existing laws on harmful cultural practices and violence against women, as they had done with trokosi and female genital mutilation.

He charged Parliament to pass a law against witchcraft accusations in Ghana to serve as a deterrent to potential accusers, provide a legal framework for prosecuting offenders and seeking justice for victims.

Prof. Azumah also recommended that all relief, educational and legislative efforts be geared towards re-integrating victims into their communities.

“At the minimum, if local chiefs declare that accused persons who have gone through the rituals should be allowed to return to their families, they will enable victims to return home safely and if such declarations by chiefs are backed by local government officials, a safe environment will be created so that most victims can return home,” he added.