A Horrific Report on the Witch Camps in Ghana

The BBC has a report on the witch camps in Ghana and the appalling beliefs that create them. It tells the story of a woman who lives in one of the camps who was accused of witchcraft because a relative died. The fact that the woman is blind is a contributing factor to why she was accused.

Memuna Abukari sits at the door of a mud hut, accused of being a witch.

“My nephew’s wife died,” she explains in ​Dagbani​, her native language, “My family said I was responsible, they accused me of being a witch.”…

A hen and a dozen chirping chicks brush by her feet while a neighbour woman pounds spices with a large wooden mortar and pestle.

But Abukari, an old woman who doesn’t know her age, can’t see any of it. She is blind.

People who are deemed different are often the first accused of practising dark magic…

Abukari says she wants to go home, but only if her family wants her back. “I’d be happy to return,” she says. Then her brow furrows. “But if my son doesn’t ask for me to come back, anything could happen.”

She has good reason to worry.

A letter was sent to her family and village, informing them Abukari is to be returned after four years at the witch camp.

The response from own son was chilling, according to the traditional priest and landlord ofthe camp. “He told them he would not come for her,” Adam Musah says, “He said if they released his mother, he would kill her on the way back.”

There are several camps in that country, housing more than 500 women and 300 children (and a very small number of men; the victims are almost always women and children). Leo Igwe has devoted his life to helping them and Conor Robinson will be leading a team from the Humanist Service Corps to Ghana this summer to work with those who live in the camps to improve their living conditions.

""ended with a drop dead gorgeous red head from Cleveland"I suppose we can at least ..."

OH Gov. Candidate Defends Franken by ..."
"“I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for"Okay, stop right there. You're just ..."

AL Governor Thinks Moore Did It, ..."
"I guess it's true: to his followers, tRump is a masterfully subtle genius. That says ..."

Crokin: Trump Was Sending a Message ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • The Other Lance

    Well, that’s just about enough to make me loose my breakfast.

  • John Pieret

    He said if they released his mother, he would kill her on the way back.

    There is nothing rational to be said about this … all one can do is shake one’s head about what human beings can become.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The BBC has a report …

    That link goes to the CBC, not the BBC. The CBC is in Canada; you know, that big friendly country to our north.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    I think human beings are inclined toward both aiding the weak and murdering them, that we’re fundamentally conflicted about weaknesses and defect. Depending on environmental conditions, either inclination could confer reproductive advantage or disadvantage.

    Declaring the permanently disabled to be non-human is a way to get around the moral inclination to protect the weak and instead indulge the inclination to destroy the weak and eliminate the material disadvantage they impose.

    It’s easier for those of us who live in relative prosperity to have a protective and benevolent attitude toward the weak, but you only need to look as far as American conservatism and attitudes toward universal health care, medicaid and aid to children to see the opposite inclination even in a wealthy nation.

    I think that the more conservatives push away from social safety nets, the more they paradoxically increase collective anxiety about death, increasing, in turn, the impulse to destroy the weak and the damaged. They drive themselves into a state of panicked ruthlessness. Perhaps their version of witches are “diseased” and culturally defective immigrants and people living in racially segregated ghettos.

    Ironically, it’s conservatives who stridently oppose abortion, deeming the killing of the weakest and most dependent a morally repugnant crime. Once the fetus is born, however, it becomes a drag on public resources and the inclination to destroy the weak ones surges. Makes me wonder if being antiabortion isn’t simply a very low-cost emollient for the guilty conscience of a fearful person who wants to destroy anyone who acts as a drag on collective resources.

  • anubisprime

    @ OP

    The fact that the woman is blind is a contributing factor to why she was accused.

    So here we go again, sounds familiar to the ‘Burning times’ in Europe does it not?

    Where exactly the church stands in all this is open to speculation of course…but

    “traditional priest and landlord of the camp” seems to be a leading clue, and if the report is in any way accurate then the RCC seems involved right up to their sweaty armpits.

    “Sure you can burn and torture your own…as long as you don’t wear condoms and hate teh ghey with a passion fit for a messiah!”

  • raven

    Healthy young men can’t be witches.

    Because Africa is saturated with guns and trying to kill an armed adult is too hard. You may end up being the (dead) witch instead.

    It’s telling that most alleged witches are women, children, and old people depending on the time and place in Africa. This also happens in parts of Asia but not as much.

    It also used to happen in…America. The high point of American theocracy was the murder of 25 witches at Salem, Massacusetts. In the fundies New Dark Age, that might be considered an hour’s work.

  • raven

    It’s also telling that most of the efforts to stop these witch hunts and murders and rescue the victims are by…seculars, humanists and so on.

    The churches are no where to be found on the right side and frequently are part of the witch killing machine.

    The evidence that xianity isn’t a source of morality is overwhelming. That it can be a force for evil is overwhelming. To be fair though, you can be a good person and be a xian. It just makes it a lot harder.

  • wpjoe

    @4 “Makes me wonder if being antiabortion isn’t simply a very low-cost emollient for the guilty conscience of a fearful person who wants to destroy anyone who acts as a drag on collective resources.”

    I think it is just a way to control women, as are the anti-contraception measures. Similarly, accusing women of being witches may be yet another move to control women.

  • Childermass

    The report is by the CBC, not the BBC.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Similarly, accusing women of being witches may be yet another move to control women.

    It could be in some instances, but this doesn’t address the question of why damaged, odd and “defective” people, including children, seem to be a special target of the designation. And to talk about control in the abscense of the underlying end-game doen’t really identify the “why” behind an inclination.

    I just think we have to dig a little deeper. And beware confirmation bias, so I offer all this tentatively.

  • anubisprime

    Dr X @ 10

    why damaged, odd and “defective” people, including children, seem to be a special target of the designation.

    Same old same old…easy targets that do not fight back either because they are scared shit-less or just confused, helpless and in some cases mentally ill…

    The same pattern happened in the ‘Burning times’ …in Blighty it became almost a sport at one time the Pendle hill witch trials became notorious, but in Germany they really had a party with it.

    In Europe between 40,000 and 60,000 were murdered by one form or another…burning was mainly reserved for heretics , i.e the ones that pissed off the church.

    But more then a few folks,mostly women, were also victims to this particular barbarity, most were hanged some pressed with stones and others drowned…some dies of the wounds of interrogation…

    A skill that was documented and proscribed for by the Malleus Maleficarum, a wonderful book that the RCC later rejected and ignored after first welcoming it with open arms for a few years….Apparently it found a new home and enthusiastic fans amongst the Protestant faith…irony or what?

    The common thread was the vulnerable…of course later the financial side became a favorite source of antipathy and revenge and land aquisition…it was common for the victims estate to be divided between the accuser and the high official, early on this was usually the church although later the church wanted only to be the puppeteer behind the curtain, the publicity turned toxic on their scam, they just sanctioned the proceedings later in the insanity and did not actively prosecute they insisted the secular authorities presided in court and any proceeds were accordingly adjusted.

    At first the poor were the main victims, it was easy and a great tool of control the victim base morphed into the well heeled later in fact the richer the victim the more likely to die, at least in the latter stages of the craze.

    Base human nature,never baser without good ole’ religion to stoke the righteousness…and copious bucket loads of ignorance of course!

  • busterggi

    Yeah but all witch camps are dangerous. I knew one witch who burned herself making s’mores while sky-clad.

  • drizzt

    I agree with Doctor X, in which witch burning and all similar kinds of shunning, are a way to «stop» our moral obligations. But I’ll got further and say that it not only does that, it might elevate your status among men, many of which have guns, or have money etc… Becoming a witch hunter or a «priest» can give you many social advantages, one of which is women, hence a reproductive advantage too. And in a poor society, having money, power or women is being a mile above the other males.

    I don’t believe it’s religion that powered such beliefs at first, but with Christianity and other beliefs that have an accent on witches, warlocks, black magic etc, especially in Africa (you don’t hear about the black magic witch next door in a Catholic church in Europe), it has become a way of life in a way.

    Just reading the article wants me to go read Hitchens. Religion really does poison everything.