Witchcraft Hunting, a lucrative business, the woes of Northern women

witches_campBy JOSEPH OSEI

Witchcraft, superstition or reality? Is gradually becoming a scourge and a business. There are no efforts by government and society to control and restrain the activities of some self-styled traditional priestesses who claim they can detect and exorcize witches and wizards from society.


The number of such priestesses, known in the Frafra community as Tigaris, in the Upper East Region of Ghana, is increasing by the minute and they are causing more harm than good. The priestesses have been forcing some poisonous substances down the throats of alleged witches and wizards in an aggressive bid to tap confessions from them.

In many cases, their victims rather have died than uttering any true confessions after taking poisonous concoctions. The priestesses are also said to have been demanding a fine of four hundred Ghana cedis (GH¢400), a cow, a sheep and a carton of gin from every accused person. Many of these self-styled witch Hunters practice of exorcism by the priestesses was nothing more than extortion.

Am Using the term “Witches” to generalize the believe, and make my case because is not common for a man to be accused of being Wizard, not because there are no men believe to be wizards but the fact is women are always accused because they are the weak in society

There is evidence of violations of the fundamental human rights of the accused persons. The accused is not supposed to take food or water; he or she is not allowed to either urinate or defecate and is made to stand for several hours or even till daybreak as a punishment for being a witch. Sometimes, the accused are always beaten for them to tell the truth. One case which really stroked me was the three men of Zorko who denied of being wizards and was made to drink cement to vindicate them and after drinking the cement, two of them passed on…It is worth mentioning the humiliation and shame the family members of the accused go through. Some accused are even ostracized from their families,” Another observation is that more girls, apparently lured by the financial gains in the practice, are now abandoning school to enroll as apprentices in shrines belonging to such priestesses and set up their own shrines upon completion of apprenticeship.

The shrines have also become offices for young men who parade themselves as shrine guards reportedly not because there is anything to protect but because there is always free alcohol to drink in those shrines courtesy of accused persons. The embrace of this practice by a swelling number of young people should call for a collective worry as it holds potential damage not only to the youth but to the national economy as well.

“The ‘tigari’ is a business venture and people engage in it just to make money as such they try by hook and crook to convict the accused so as to charge him or her exorbitantly. The accused is also subjected to severe maltreatment so as to allude to the accusations leveled against him or her. As such we call upon the government especially the Ministry of Women, Gender and Social Protection, development agencies, civil society organizations and human rights watchdogs such as Commission for Human Rights Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to intervene and safeguard the sanctity of these people who are unlawfully accused,”

Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) and the Ghana Education Service (GES). Interestingly, all basic school believes that witchcraft existed and that they all had encountered and survived evil manipulations from some of their pupils.  Some of those pupils are said to have boldly disclosed to school authorities that they were witches and that they had at times run evil errands against some teachers on behalf of their invisible masters. Some of those operations, the pupils are quoted to have later revealed, were abortive particularly with prayerful targets.

But some school-going young witches and wizards are said to have confessed to caging “stubborn” teachers in bottles, a spiritual manipulation they say would later manifest in physical limitations and sickly state in the lives of their victims. Working in the north two years ago in the north, i handled Witchcraft case where a woman was accused of being the cause of a young lady’s sickness; she was hauled to a shrine in Sirigu in the Kasena-Nankani District of the Upper East Region. This Accused woman was taking through all forms of ordeal to prove her innocence. A relative of her happen to know me and we intervene for her to be released and we caused the arrest of the priest.

“In 2008,” said Mrs. Bibiana Abilla, Saint Charles Headmistress. “I admitted P-One children. And later on, we realised that one of them had witchcraft. I also believe in witchcraft. I have nothing to test, but circumstances and science made me to believe. And also, I’m a Christian and it’s in the Bible; and once I believe the Bible, I believe that there is witchcraft. But I don’t believe in the treatment that they give to them.”

A research conducted shows that teachers and headmistresses had abandoned their classrooms and schools due to torment from schoolchildren linked to witchcraft and wizardry.  She equally asked that people alleged to be in possession of mystic powers should be dispossessed devoid of harm.

Are these superstitious stories enough to exorcise women and others from the society? An advocacy group in the Upper east region of Ghana believes the practice of exorcism by the priestesses was nothing more than extortion.  The pressure group calling itself Save Our Women Foundation has urged government to help restrain the activities of some self-styled traditional priestesses who claim they can detect and exorcize witches and wizards from society. The leader of the group Eugene Savio Alagskoma tells me his group is working hard to abolish the practices in the society, the fight I urged him to seek spiritual bathing before embarking on the expedition.

By Joseph Osei

Osei2000@gmail.com

 

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