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Regional News of Friday, 3 June 2016

Source: Graphic.com.gh

More men taking refuge at witches camp

Contrary to the fact that women are mostly branded as witches in society and, therefore, carry the burden of shame and often lynched or ostracised, there is a growing phenomenon in a witches’ camp at Gnani in the Yendi Municipality where the population of alleged wizards is on the increase.

The male population at the camp near Yendi in the Northern Region keeps increasing by the day following the number of men who are now being accused of witchcraft in certain communities in the region.

The camp is now a home to a total of 1,028 people comprising 313 women, 105 men and 610 children who have been chased out of their communities for allegedly causing the death or inflicting sickness and misery on relatives, friends or neighbours at their respective localities.

In some parts of the Northern Region most middle-aged and elderly women have suffered untold hardships from this practice over the years.

Now it is not only women who suffer such brunt. Men, who are also accused of wizardry are being driven away from their communities with their wives and children to the Gnani camp to be set free of the so-called evil spirit.

But after the ‘exorcism’, they end up staying at the shrine which has now become known as camps in some parts of the Northern Region.

This came to light when this reporter in the company of other journalists were invited to cover a free medical-screening exercise for inmates of the camp, organised and sponsored by the Ghana West Africa Missions of the Church of Christ in collaboration with the Harden University from the United States of America.

Linguist of the chief priest

The Linguist of the Chief Priest of the Gnani witches camp, Alhassan Seini, told journalists that now men who had been accused of being wizards were running to the camp thereby swelling up the male population at the camp.

“Most of these men who are brought in after going through the rituals to set them free from the witchcraft at the camp, do not go back to their communities for fear of stigmatisation and we have to accommodate them here,” he stated.

Mr Seini explained that since they could not go back “we have to let them stay here and we give them pieces of land to farm in order to cater for themselves and their families.

“You know some of the men who are accused of being wizards come in with their wives and children and we cannot turn them away and they end up living here as a family.”

Mr Seini said the camp was a whole community on its own now but they lacked social amenities such as properly constructed roads leading to the camp, school, health post, potable water, agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and machinery such as tractors since agriculture remained the source of livelihood for the inmates of the camp.

Accounts of an alleged wizard

Umimyuun Payaab from Yekpab, near Saboba, who was accused of being a wizard by members of his community about 11 years ago and now in his 40s, said a member of his community was bitten by a snake and died and he was accused of being responsible for that mishap. He was brought to the camp to be exorcised of the wizardry.

Payaab said he attended the Evangelical Presbyterian Senior and Technical High School at Saboba where he completed successfully and had a dream of becoming a managing director of a company in the future but his dreams were shattered by the accusation.

“I have lived in this camp for over a decade now and I do not have any plans of going back to my community because the people who accused me of being a wizard have not changed their mind about me so I prefer staying here with my wife and eight children”, he stated.

Payaab said he was happy at the camp than going back to his community with his family for fear of being attacked or stigmatised.

A volunteer teacher at the camp, who preferred to be known as Thomas, said the school at the camp lacked proper classrooms and motivation for teacher volunteers, adding that the Gnani community had a school but children of the inmates preferred to go to the school established in the camp because of stigmatisation.

The Health Screening

The team of health professional from the US, the Tamale Teaching Hospital and the Yendi Government Hospital screened the inmates of the camp.

Hypertension and high blood pressure was the number one disease among the inmates, followed by eye problems such as cataract.

Mr Ricky Mcwhorter, a member of the delegation, expressed delight at the exercise and said it was their contribution to the marginalised and deprived in the society.