Suspected witches at the Gambaga witches camp in the East Mamprusi Municipality of the North East Region say they are very safe and happy at the camp.
According them, life at the camp was very comfortable and they expressed their heartfelt appreciation to the chiefs and people of Gambaga for the warm reception, which had given them hope.
However, they appealed for food aid and clothing for their upkeep.
Critics, social actors and some human rights organisations are advocating the disbandment of the Gambaga witches camp.
According to history, one Imam Baba, an Islamic Cleric set up the camp in the 1900s to provide shelter and security for people accused or labelled as witches and wizards in the area and since then the camp had been in existence to shelter the inmates.
The Ghana News Agency (GNA) learnt from residents that witchcraft and wizardry were regarded as taboo in most communities in the northern part of the country, and suspects were either banished or killed by the local people, including their relations.
Many of the alleged witches fled their communities to find refuge at the camp to escape the severe beatings, molestations, inhumane treatment and other worst forms of human rights abuses meted out to them.
During a visit to the camp, some of the inmates told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that the camp was their new home, and a safe haven for them, saying its disbandment would worsen their plights.
The visit forms part of an on-going “Engaging Media and Minorities to Act for Peace building (EMMAP)” project, a two-year intervention that started from March 2022 and would end in February 2024.
As part of the project, 10 Journalists from Ghana, Sierra Leone and Liberia, who are participating in the online course were selected to undertake the five-day face-to-face training and field visit to some selected Ghanaian communities that host minority groups.
The purpose of the EMMAP programme, which is funded by the European Union (EU), is to raise public awareness of the interconnections between conflict, migration and minority exclusion to help build and consolidate sustainable peace in Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone.
The EMMAP is being coordinated by Uganda-based Minority Rights Group International (MRGA) and implemented by the Ghana-based Media Platform on Environment and Climate Change (MPEC) and Media Reform Coordination Group (MRCG) of Sierra Leone.
Most of the inmates at the camp, who shared their ordeals, said their respective communities labelled them as witches and wizards, alleging they bewitched victims with chronic diseases and sicknesses.
“My husband has two wives, myself and another woman. My rival woke up one morning and informed my husband that she saw me in her dream that I was chasing to kill her.
“The information got to the community and they labelled me as a witch and attempted to kill me, but I was able to flee to the camp for safety, after they subjected me to severe beatings,” one of the inmates, Kologo Tindana, who claimed to be a native of Zalatenga stated.
Another inmate, Gideon Salifu who said he was a native of Nalerigu said, “I was seriously brutalised after one man told the people he saw me in his dream. I am not a wizard and as I stand now I don't know what to do.”
“I have four wives and 12 children and as we speak my wives and children are going through serious discrimination and stigmatization in the community”, he stated.
“My biological son woke up one morning and started beating me mercilessly. He claimed I had bewitched him, that was why he is facing difficulties and struggling to succeed in life”, Dinwaak laar, an aged woman who claimed she was a native of Sagbani from the Bimoba tribe, indicated.
“Life at the camp here is far better for me than to be sent to my community where my people and relations had neglected and trying to kill me”, Dinwaak Konbiuk, an inmate and a blind aged women, said.
Mr Sampson Laari, the Caretaker at the Camp, in an interview, said the camp contained 93 females aged 54 years and above, three children and four males, saying some of them were also living with their children.
They are mostly from the Bimoba, Komkomba, Dagomba and Mamprusi tribes, he said, saying the situation at the camp was worsened until the Presbyterian Church of Ghana under its “go home project' adopted the camp.
Since then, Mr Laari said water and sanitation as well as hygiene and shelter had improved, and appealed for more support for the upkeep of the inmates, saying the camp needed more support to build more shelters for the inmates.
He said many of the people in the local communities were ignorant, and appealed for support to intensify community sensitisation for successfully re-integration of the inmates back to society.
Mr Laari said the “Presby go home project” that aimed at helping to re-integrate the inmates had successfully re-integrated about 108 of the inmates in the society.
Through the project's skill training programme, some of the inmates were engaged in soap and beads making to enhance their socio-economic livelihoods at the camp, he added.
Mr. Laari said some of the inmates also had mental problems, saying others who could not engage in the skill training also fetched and sell firewood.
He said almost all the inmates had been registered under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and benefited from the government LEAP programme, which served as a kind of relief for them.
The group donated a bag of rice and three bags of maize to support the upkeep of the inmates.