Madam Mariama Miendo woke up one morning to hear her troubled son tell her his dream one night.
Her son’s dream was that she had killed him.
And that was the beginning of a nightmare that has confined her to a witches’ camp at Kpatinga in the Northern Region.
The mother of seven was confronted by one of her sons eight years ago that she had killed him in a dream.
He immediately drove her away from her home left to the family by her late husband at Zakpasi in the Gushiegu District.
She cried. She pleaded. She denied it. But her son would not have it.
“I don’t know why he claimed I’m a witch. Only he can tell why he insists I’m one,” she said near tears.
The recent brutal lynching of a 90-year old woman at Kafaba, a farming community in the Gonja East municipality of the Savannah Region, has revived concerns about outmoded customs, including witchcraft trials that endanger the lives of women.
Many of the alleged witches find refuge in camps set up purposely to accommodate the women accused of witchcraft with the flimsiest of evidence.
The five regions of the north have at least six witches camp at Bonyasi, Gambaga, Gnani, Kpatinga, Kukuo, and Nabuli.
Photo: A so-called witch camp in Northern region.
Sociologists say there is a possibility of more camps. But these camps are more remote, and there are not many records about them.
Communities often accuse women of witchcraft because they believe they are guilty of circumstances like bad weather, disease and livestock death. Some communities exile women simply for appearing in someone’s dream. Showing signs of dementia or mental illness also leads to witch accusations. Often, communities’ accusations are based on superstition.
The story of the frail old lady, who could not remember her age, is one of many horrifying tales that send women to witches camp in the Northern Region.
With her son threatening to kill her, Madam Miendo’s other children pleaded for her life and took her to the Kpatinga Witches Camp where she had spent the last eight-year, ostracised from her family and friends.
“One of my children who live in Accra advised that I come to the camp so that he could raise some money to build for me to relocate,” she said.
That dream is yet to materialize, but Madam Miendo misses home.
“I’m thinking of going home, but because of my son, I’m still here. I don’t know what will happen to me when I go back,” she said with her face buried in her palm.
With a swollen knee that makes it difficult for her to walk, feeding herself and her grandchild, who keeps her company, sometimes becomes an arduous task.
“One of my children brings me food. But when that runs out, things became difficult, I have to depend on some of my colleagues here who farms or work on peoples farm to get food,” she said of her plight.
Madam Miendo’s pain and frustration are no different from those of Ms. Hajara Alhassan.
When she woke up an early morning some years ago to brew pito, a local beverage, little did she know that her neighbor’s lurking around her firewood would cause her pain.
The little girl picked up a piece of firewood and got stung by a scorpion.
“The child screamed and her father rushed to the scene to accuse me of witchcraft.”
That was all it took to drive the mother of eight from her home to the witches’ camp.
With an absent husband to protect her from her accusers, she said her children who were younger at the time could not confront the intimidating man.
Although the accuser is dead and she would want to go back home, she said the man’s family is threatening to deal with her if she returned.
“The girl they accused me of bewitching today has four children now, but I’m here suffering because my accuser’s son doesn’t want me back home.
For Hassana Aziz, while the older generation at the camp may not be facing stigmatization, the 15-year old has been called the daughter of a witch many times.
Photo: An old woman at Gambaga witch camp
“Whenever I fight with my mates in school, they insult my parents that they are witches. I’m not happy here. I want to leave. But my parents brought me here to live with my grandmother who was accused of killing someone,” the Junior High School pupil lamented.
Hassana who had lived at the camp for four years said although she would want to be a nurse, the stigmatization affected her studies.
While describing the camp as a safe haven from her pain and frustrations in school, she was optimistic that one day, the camp would be closed down so that there would no need to accuse people of witchcraft.
The camp caretaker, Mr Adam Musah Sampah, said he does not detain the alleged witches and was willing to release anyone who wanted to go back home.
“They can bring a woman today and come for her tomorrow. I release them. Others can be here for a month or a year. If the family comes for him or her, I’ll release her.
“When a person is brought here. I charge only GH₵ 100 because you said she is a witch or very bad so I have to cleanse her so that we can stay together.
“You brought the person that she is not clean. So, I have to cleanse her, so that when you come back, your notion about her would not be like that again,” he said.
He appealed to the government to come to our aid of the camp because in the dry season, things could be dire here when there was no food.
Although each room in the camp is connected to the national grid, there are no streetlights.
Many carry kerosene lamps to move around in the dark. This makes the community vulnerable to snakes and other dangerous animals and insects at night.v
Mr. Sampah, therefore, appealed to the Gushiegu Municipal Assembly to help the community with street lights.
“Although World Vision which had built houses for the camp, as well as put street lights near the camp, their homes were not connected.
He said World Vision “has been kind to connect our community to electricity. Only that our rooms are connected. We are appealing to them or the District assembly to bring strict light to our community.
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