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Opinions of Sunday, 20 July 2014

Columnist: Igwe, Leo

Putting Humanism to Work Against African Witchcraft Wars

By Leo Igwe

There is a war raging in many parts of Africa. This war has nothing to do with the conflicts in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Central African Republic. But it is a conflict all the same. It is a war against vulnerable members of the African population- elderly women, children, poor persons, people living with disabilities.
This raging battle is not fought with guns, bombs or rocket propelled grenades. It is fought weapons- the weapon of witchcraft, of superstition. Witchcraft belief turns any body to whom the label is applied into an enemy, into a target to be attacked, tortured, banished or killed. Witchcraft is a killer belief, a killer label.

Witchcraft wars have internally displaced uncountable number of people in Africa- both children and adults. They have caused many to flee their homes and take refuge in camps in places like Ghana and Burkina Faso. By fighting for the basic human rights of persons in these camps and other victims of witchcraft accusations, humanists-atheists, agnostics, skeptics- are suing for peace. Humanists are urging an end to this sorcery based wars that have raged for ages.
Incidentally, the government of Ghana has threatened to close down the witch camps. But witch camps are not the problem. Are they? Belief in witchcraft is the problem. Superstition is the problem. Inability and unwillingness to challenge harmful traditional beliefs is the problem.
Lack of compassion for accused persons is the problem. Lack of critical thinking is the main issue.
Witch camps are 'traditional prisons' for criminals. Witchcraft is believed to be a crime and accused persons are tried and convicted openly like any other offender. The different between witch criminal and an 'ordinary' offender is that a witch is believed to have perpetrated the crime through spiritual means, ordinary criminals through physical means.
Banishment to witch camps is a form of punishment, a penalty for committing this occult offence.
By fighting for the human rights of persons in these camps, humanists can ''normalized'' persons who are stigmatized due to witchcraft. Humanists can work and campaign to dispel the notion that witchcraft is a crime through dialogue and persuasion. Humanists can help bring an end to African witchcraft wars by putting humanism to work.