”You did kill witches though. The whole witch-burning thing was well documented in European history and went on for hundreds of years. We were admittedly at a lower developmental stage than you and what impressing the Judeo-Christian religion upon us does is simply force us to repeat the European mistakes. The moral/spiritual compass of mankind is woman, and religion should be the sole preserve of women. Judeo-Christianity/Islam forbidding women from religion is corrupt””
“Bayie” Literally Witchcraft
Akan “Bayi”(Jamaican: Obeah)
“Bayi” is the word for “witchraft” in the Akan language. “Obayifo”/”Abayifo” used in the current Akan language means “person who practices witchcraft”. I say this because both words have roots that are associated with witchcraft, one among the Akan in west Africa and the other among Jamaicans in the Caribbean, some of whom are descendants of Akans sent there.
A Picture is taken from Ghanaian local movie:”Effie Bayie”
Many Ghanaians, like many Africans, genuinely fear witches, old women who are said to cause all kinds of calamities and misfortunes, from infertility to impotence, drought to death. Suspicion and jealousy fuel the accusations, which are often supported by nothing more concrete than a dream. Convicted of witchcraft using traditional animal scarifies, the women are banished from their villages, sentencedto live alone in a culture where family is revered. They must fend for themselves at an age when their bodies are not strong enough to carry water, plant crops or reap harvests. Many of them end up in squalid camps where they work as indentured servants and pledge allegiance to a shrine or chief who are thought to control their powers. Despite education campaigns carried out in the 1990s, the belief in witchcraft has grown stronger: there are more than 3,000 women living at six camps dotted throughout northern Ghana.
Kukuo:Inside a ‘Witch Camp’ in Ghana
Kukuo is a small community located off Bimbilla, near Oti river in the Northern Region of Ghana. It is one of those communities where banished ‘witches’ take refuge.In December, I visited Kukuo village as part of a pilot study. Like other villages in Northern Ghana, Kukuo has a chief, but currently the chief is dead and a regent is overseeing the affairs of the village till a new chief is appointed. There is also a traditional priest. One of the duties of the priest is to carry out a ritual of ‘purification’ on any alleged witch that arrives in the village before the person is allowed to live in the community.
Kukuo hosts one of Ghana’s ‘witch camps’, but I didn’t notice any restricted and exclusive area for alleged witches in this village. Instead I found Kukuo to be a community that welcomes ‘strangers’and provides a safety net for ‘old ladies’ as alleged witches are often called. I saw a community that gives alleged witches an alternative home and some hope in a country where anyone accused of witchcraft has two options – to flee to any of the witch camps or be killed.
In Kukuo, the women mixed freely with other members of the community without fear, discrimination or stigma.
No one knows exactly when the first ‘old lady’ arrived Kukuo, but from what I gathered from the community members, that was so many years ago. In fact I met some ‘old ladies’ in their 90s who came to Kukuo as teenagers to cater for their mothers who were banished for witchcraft. They stayed back after the death of their mothers and have adopted Kukuo as their home. Currently, there are 113 alleged witches living in Kukuo. Many of them came to this remote village by foot.Many of the alleged witches said they would like to return to their original homes but were afraid for their lives. Some did not want to go back at all. They felt safe and at peace in Kukuo.But that is because they do not have a better alternative. In Kukuo, life is hard. Survival is difficult. Most of the women survive by farming for others, but many of them are getting too old and could not farm any longer. Some of them were sick. One of the women could not walk, and she was living alone. She crawled around to cook and to attend to her daily chores. Some have resorted to begging for survival. There is a scarcity of water in Kukuo. The only water pump installed in the village dries up during dry season, and the river is around 2 kilometers away. Many of the women cannot descend the hill to fetch water from the river. The situation is worse for the women who are childless or those who have no children staying with them.
Nevertheless ‘old ladies’ fleeing their communities after being accused of witchcraft are still coming to Kukuo to seek refuge. I met a 48 year old woman, Fusa, who came to Kukuo in November. Her husband died many years ago and she went to live with the mother.In November, a neighbour’s child took ill and she was accused of being responsible. A man in the family who owed her some bags of groundnuts was her main accuser. Fusa was taken to the chief’s palace and there a local mob threatened to kill her if she did not heal the sick child. She denied being responsible for the child’s illness. The situation got so tense that one of her relations living in a nearby town had to send a police team to rescue her. She was later taken to Kukuo where she is currently staying. Fusa was heart broken and traumatized. Fusa just finished building a house and was about to move into it before she was accused and driven out of the village. Apparently the witchcraft accusation served as a pretence to dispossess her of the house. Other alleged witches I met in Kukuo had similar stories of making somebody sick, causing the death of a family or community member, or being seen in a dream.Until something is done to address the root causes of witchcraft accusation, Kukuo remains one of the destinations for alleged witches who want to remain alive.
Is this insanity ? The judgment is in the hands of the viewer.
“”IN AFRICA THEY HAVE BEEN BADLY BRAINWASHED PEOPLE. THEY HAVE TAKEN ON SOMEONE ELSE’S BELIEFS AND WAYS OF THINKING, AND BEGAN USING THEIR WAY OF THINKING. THEY HAVE BEEN PRACTICING MAGIC AND HAVE TOO MANY FORMS OF SPIRITUALITY TO NAME. PEACE AND LOVE TO THE MOTHER CONTINENT.””
Another commentator: “”am in tears right now,some of are fortunate where we are…now instead of complaining abt ma phone, school, clothing etc..i will be grateful and hope God uses me to change someone’s world wherever i find maself…very sad””
Then: ””You did kill witches though. The whole witch-burning thing was well documented in European history and went on for hundreds of years. We were admittedly at a lower developmental stage than you and what impressing the Judeo-Christian religion upon us does is simply force us to repeat the European mistakes. The moral/spiritual compass of mankind is woman, and religion should be the sole preserve of women. Judeo-Christianity/Islam forbidding women from religion is corrupt
Poor and powerless women
“These women are accused because they are poor and they are powerless,” says Adam Lamnatu, women’s rights officer at Songtaba, a network of organisations ActionAid helped set up to support the women in the camps.Many, like Issahaku Awaba, below, are over 45, have reached the menopause and are unlikely to have children. “Not only is that considered a bad omen in our society, it leaves women vulnerable because they have no one to protect them,” says Lamnatu.
The state offers little in the way of protection either, preferring for the most part to let the women take care of themselves. Although there are laws that should allow them to bring their cases to the authorities – such as the recently passed domestic violence bill – few make it as far as the courts.“Our culture dictates that women are not assertive, they cannot speak out about their rights,” says Lamnatu. “For most people it is the family that is expected to sort out problems, so to go to the police is to cut yourself off from your own family.”Although the government has made statements condemning the practices, there is still no specific legislation outlawing violence against women accused of witchcraft.
Proof of guilt
Possessionless, scared and sometimes physically wounded, the ordeal is not over once a woman arrives at the camp. She must now take part in a ritual performed by a local spiritual chief, like Alhassan Shei, pictured below, which will prove her guilt or innocence. Her accuser is brought forward with her to a shrine, where two chickens are slaughtered and thrown in the air. The way they land – face up or face down – seals her fate.Religious smokescreenThe prevalence of superstition, juju and black magic might sit uneasily in a country where Christianity and Islam are also practised, but regardless of imams and priests actively preaching against witchcraft, people here seem able to easily reconcile the two.On the path to the Mosque can be found spiritual talismans and charms, and just around the corner faith healers and witch doctors ply their trade for those without the money or inclination for the state-sanctioned version.It’s no coincidence that spiritual beliefs are strongest in the poorest areas, where the majority of people have little or no access to education, healthcare or the power to have any sort of control over their own lives.Take away the smokescreen of witchcraft and you are left with basic human emotions and desires: power, jealousy and revenge, visited on those too vulnerable to resist.Mariama, who was accused of killing a neighbour who died in childbirth, has no doubts why she was singled out all those years ago. “It was out of envy,” she says. “If someone does not like you they will do bad things to you.”
Help from ActionAid
Ninety miles away in Gambaga camp, about 50 women cram into their newly built community centre to welcome us with song and dance, crowding round to shake hands and say hello. Until recently an alleged witch would never offer her hand to another, for fear of being accused of ‘transmitting’ her witchcraft.But ActionAid has been busy in all the camps, encouraging the women to form networks and make demands of a previously unresponsive government. A march on the local authorities resulted in hundreds of women receiving health insurance cards so they can now access treatment at the same clinics that previously shunned them. And with 75 hectares of land to their name, they can now grow their own food and stop relying on handouts.New water systems have been set up and a re-roofing programme is in progress, pushed forward by the women themselves. But the most distinctive change has been in the women’s attitudes towards themselves – and each other. No longer prisoners behind invisible bars, they have formed a network both within and between the camps, and are going out into the community to demand acceptance.“Being in a group is very helpful for us all,” says Sulk Lari, 49, who was accused of killing her own son through witchcraft. “Before I couldn’t eat well, I couldn’t sleep. But now it’s lovely, when I wake up there is laughter, there is dancing everywhere. If we want to do something such as go for firewood, we go together.”Some of the women are even earning a living again, selling toiletries in local markets after being given soap-making equipment and taking part in ActionAid-led discussions aimed at sensitising local communities“By coming together we care for each other more than we used to,” says Mariama. “We have agreed to go round and check on how healthy everyone is, which we would never have done before. We are stronger, more able to make demands for ourselves.”It is heartening to see that such actions can make a difference to what can seem like a depressingly intractable problem. But the big question remains, will women ever be able to live in Ghana without fear of being branded a witch?
Watching 40-year-old Ayishetu Bujri laughing as she grinds shea butter with her neighbours, it’s tempting to answer with a tentative ‘yes’.
Ayishetu was outcast from her village after a neighbour’s daughter fell ill, and ended up in Gambaga camp, separated from her family for almost three years. It’s thanks to the ActionAid-supported Go Home project that she is once again able to live a normal life.“It wouldn’t have been possible for me to come home without the project,” says Ayishetu. “Accusations of witchcraft don’t just go away, but Go Home helped persuade my community that the way they acted towards me was wrong.”It was, admittedly, a slow process, with months of meetings between Ayishetu and members of her former community. Support among local chiefs and village elders is crucial to getting the whole community on board, and in recognition of this Ayishetu was symbolically handed back to her chief when it was agreed she could return.Being handed over in this way may seem wrong to us, but for Ayishetu it was vital. “That gave me the respect I needed from others,” she says. And it is testament to the patience and peace-making skills of the workers involved that it worked.“We have so far managed to reintegrate about 250 women,” says Gladys Lariba Mahama, home attendant for the project, pictured below. “If a woman has been accused of something ‘simple’ such as coming to someone in a dream, it can be relatively straightforward to persuade people to accept her back,” she says. “But if she has been accused of killing someone, it can take anything up to five years.”
In Ayishetu’s case it took almost three years before she could return home, and that wasn’t the end of the process. Once she was back in her own home she was given a flock of guinea fowl to help her earn an income, and a health insurance card to grant her access to medical care.The resulting rise in her status was enough to fully convince her neighbours she was no longer a threat. “Attitudes towards me have changed,” she says. “I go to farm with my neighbours now and we work together. I see the people who accused me every day and there is no problem. They respect me.”Ultimately it is this respect, this change in status from poor woman to independent, self-sufficient woman, that will protect Ayishetu in the future. There are centuries of tradition that need to be addressed to fully break free from this practice. But by working with a long-term vision, side-by-side with women who have had no voice for all of this time, change can – and does – happen.
When Medical Doctors Believe in Witchcraft
Veteran Ghanaian journalist Elizabeth Ohene’s disclosure that in a survey, out of 45 Ghanaian medical students, 41 believe witchcraft is responsible for existential problems reveals the immense obstacles entangling the Ghanaian development process. For a medical doctor to believe that witchcraft is responsible for cancer, early deaths, TB, malaria or diabetes, then Ghana`s health foundation risky. This is because before the medical doctor starts examining a patient, the belief limits reasoning hence undermining the possibilities of advancement and tackling of complicated medical challenges.
Why does a student of medicine, trained like any other the world over, think that witchcraft is the cause of earthly problems? It is because the student was born in a culture that socializes people into believing in witchcraft and evil spirits for existential challenges. At the centre of the student’s brain is the simultaneous skirmish between irrationality and rationality largely fuelled by the Ghanaian/African culture. The irrational part of the students’ brains has outweighed their rational part, hence their strong belief, despite their long university education, that witchcraft is the cause of diseases and other challenges.
Dr. Mensah-Bonsu, an Ottawa, Canada based social policy consultant and a former chair of Ghana’s Peoples National Congress (PNC), one of the minority political parties, experienced first-hand how a medical doctor’s belief in witchcraft negatively affects the working environment. Dr. Mensah-Bonsu had gone to Ghana’s premier hospital, Korle Bu, in Accra, to visit a family member admitted there. In the course of his interaction, he overheard a middle aged medical doctor remarking sarcastically that if the patients have been bewitched by witches hence their ailments; they shouldn’t come to Korle Bu to disturb the doctors.One cannot develop first class medical institutes if the main, supposedly highly trained people expected to think vastly are restricted by certain inhibitive cultural beliefs. If the modern Ghanaian medical doctor, after long years of training, cannot extricate himself/herself from unscientific, primitive beliefs and has receded into irrational beliefs, then Ghanaian medical schools should be redesigned by Britain’s J.K. Rowling of the witchcraft-themed Harry Potter fantasy. Here J.K. Rowling will create the equivalent of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as found in her hugely popular Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. To do this however would be to give more weight to forces of irrationality and take Ghana back to primitivity.
Can Ghanaian medical doctors extricate themselves from such an environment and help rationalise the inhibitive values that have entangled them? The dilemma is seen in Elizabeth Ohene’s The Rhodesian Syndrome. “The truth is, we live in three different centuries in this country, not just in terms of physical facilities. Those who live in the 21st Century try to simulate the 21st Century conditions for themselves and do not want the 20th, never mind the 19th Century conditions and people to stray into their horizons. Every once in a while, you can pretend that you live in a modern and progressive country, but mercifully you bump with reality all the time. It might be a radio programme about witches. In your century, with your iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs, people do not believe in the existence of witches. But try and listen in on a class of medical students at our leading medical school. Out of 45 students, 41 of them believe witches do exist.”A Ghanaian-Canadian lady said, “How can that happen … I won’t go to a medical doctor who believes in witches … how can such a doctor treat patients fully with a mind drenched in belief in witches?”The solution lies in more enlightenment in the development process, particularly teaching medical students the deadly implications of irrationally believing in witches as the cause of existential problems and using such mentality to treat sick patients.
Witch Lands Naked Near Market????
” IN a suspected case of witchcraft, a middle-aged woman allegedly(Who alleged and saw her flying in the skies?) flew on a winnowing basket and landed in Masvingo’s Rujeko suburb while naked leaving residents who were going to the market place scurrying for cover.Masvingo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Peter Zhanero confirmed the incident that happened last Saturday morning but was quick to point out that the woman was not a witch.“Yes, I can confirm that such an incident happened and police attended the scene. However, we realised that the woman in question had a mental problem and has since been taken by her relatives,” said Insp Zhanero.Sources close to the story said the woman was seen naked at around 5 am near Rujeko Police Base by women who were going to the market place after having flown from Gokwe.“The woman allegedly landed in Rujeko after having flown from Gokwe. The incident was a huge spectacle as a lot of residents wanted to get a glimpse of the uninvited guest,” said a resident.It is alleged the woman was aboard a winnowing basket but her mysterious transport developed a problem.“The woman who was said to be flying on a winnowing basket allegedly lost control of the mysterious plane and landed near the police base. I also went to have a glimpse of the suspected witch who was stark naked and had smeared white-powder like ashes on her face. It was like a dream and many people were shocked,” said another resident.Police at Rujeko said the woman was sitting at Rujeko Shopping Centre while naked(Been Naked raises suspicion that someone is a witch?) thereby raising suspicion that she was a witch.“At first the woman behaved awkwardly that we also suspected that she could be a witch(Was it because she was behaving awkwardly that made them suspect she was a witch?). She was just wondering at the shopping centre while naked(Would wondering and naked makes one a witch?) but we latter realised that she had a mental problem and her relatives quickly took her. The woman was, however, helped by a good Samaritan,” police said.””
SO DO WITCHES EXIST IN REALITY OR IN THE MINDS OF BELIEVERS ??? Can a noble woman be suspected of witchcraft? or a mother of well established men or women be suspected of witchcraft???