Discussion by: Kwaku Asante
Witchcraft superstition has become a major problem in many African countries especially Ghana where witchcraft superstition and persecution is so high. The availability of witch camps in the country reflects the seriousness of the problem and how deeply rooted the belief in witchcraft is in the country.
Last time I came across an article written by T.M Luhrmann titled ‘When Demons are real’. The article depicts how churches are fuelling the current problem of witchcraft superstition in Ghana. According to the writer, he once visited a Christian service in Accra where thousands of people where shouting: “The witches will die! They will die! Die! Die!”
In the African society, witches are not non human entities but human beings. So it’s very appalling, when in a country whereby the issue of witch hunting and persecution is currently a major social problem, people continue to believe and fuel the superstition of witchcraft through religion.
Their growing business of divination and exorcism has made it difficult to combat this mistaken belief and the suffering and death it is causing in the region. African governments, Nonprofit Organizations and Religious organizations must rise to the occasion and help define a new era in the history of the continent. Both must join hands and bring an end to the wave of witch hunting ravaging the region.
A grandmother was allegedly tortured and burned to death by a five-strong group – one of whom is believed to be an evangelical pastor – who accused her of being a witch.
Ama Hemmah, 72, suffered the horrific injuries when she was set upon by the mob, who claimed that she admitted to being a witch before drenching her in kerosene and setting her alight.
Mrs Hemmah, who was from the port city of Tema, near the Ghanaian capital, Accra, was burned alive in nearby Tema Site 15.
She was rushed to Tema General Hospital but died within 24 hours and five people have been arrested in connection with her death.
Newspaper pictures showing the woman's injuries caused revulsion in Ghana, and the incident was condemned by human rights and women's activists.
The so- called penis snatching reports are not common in West Africa, where purported victims often blame penis shrinkage on handshakes with sorcerers or witches.
The seven alleged sorcerers who were accused of grapping penises and beaten to death by angry mobs in the Ghana capital of Accra also attracted a lot of criticism from the international community. Victims claim the sorcerers simply touch them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in order to extort cash in the promise of a cure.
Around 700 women and 800 children live in Gambaga camp, and in five other witch camps across northern Ghana, where they are virtually cut off from the outside world. Housed in flimsy mud huts, without enough food, they have few basic health or education facilities. Their children and, often, grandchildren grow up inside the camps' boundaries.
Women and children are also targeted in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and the Central African Republic.
It is about time that churches and other religions review their practices and dogmas to curb the high level of witchcraft superstition and persecutions in African societies.
By Kwaku Asante
University of Ghana.