A witch doctor watches on as the chicken struggles in the sand before pronouncing an accused woman, free or guilty of the charge of witchcraft.
A deadly accusation found nowhere in the law books but deeply bond to tradition and culture of the people there.
“I am following what I got from my grandfather, grandmother and forefathers”, a witch doctor told Joy News’ Justice Baidoo.
He found Suweiba there whose fate was yet to be determined by the chicken yet to be slaughtered.
She is one of three wives to her polygamous husband. She was accused of being a witch after her rival fell from a tree.
Her accusers say she pushed the woman from the tree, a charge she denies.
But that denial is to be tested by a chicken.
Suweiba is part of several hundred in Gamabaga, Gushegu who have had to find shelter in about five witch camps in the Northern region.
Going back home can be fatal as these ostracized women mostly old women are no longer welcome in a deeply superstitious society.
Justice Baidoo reports that he found them frail, wrinkled and living in abject poverty in the camp tucked away from the main town.
The journalist’s findings are part of a documentary ‘Camps of Bondage’ which was filmed after spending days in the witch camps.
Esther Boateng, Action Aid
Esther Boateng whose organisation, Action Aid, has been working to help close down the witch camps corroborated the revelations from the journalist.
She said she has met some men and women who killed a suspect witch. One of them confessed they ate as meat the body of the woman.
Esther Boateng revealed the difficulties involved in closing down witch camps across the country. She revealed on Joy News’ AM Show only one camp has been closed between 2011 to 2014.
The NGO says it is working at reuniting the women accused of witchcraft with their families to avoid further stigma and unhealthy conditions they live in at the camps.
She said one more camp could be closed by the end of the year, she said explaining it takes a lot of sensitization to push back the stronghold of tradition.
DSP Emmanuel Horlortu, Regional DOVVSU Director revealed on the AM Show with Mamavi Owusu-Aboagye, the practical difficulties of using the law to cure or quell a cultural practice.
He said runaway women accused of being witches hardly report to the police. In cases where a woman runs to the police, the lack of shelter for the victims leaves the police unable to do much to house them.
When the police do arrest suspects chiefs who are custodians of tradition intervene and assure the police of amicable settlements.
The DSP revealed that there are cases where the family wants to accept the suspected witch but the community just won’t. There is also the inverse where the community is open to accepting the accused but the family are not.
If the victims are forced back into such a society, she may be maimed or even killed, he said.
He said for such a cultural practice it would be unwise to forcibly close down the witch camps and simply return the victims to their homes.