Rufai, a Senior High School (SHS) dropout in the Upper East Region who self-styled as a witch doctor and was convicted to a jail sentence, has been released from jail.
He was arrested along with four other accomplices and charged with four counts.
Rufai and one of the accomplices pleaded guilty to two out of the four counts and were sentenced to two years each on July 20, pending trial on the remaining two counts which included trial by ordeal.
Prof. John Azumah, Executive Director, The Sanneh Institute, who has been working to ensure that witches camps are closed down, said in a statement that Rufai alone, out of the five suspects, has however been “strangely granted bail” by the High Court in Bolgatanga and is now a free man.
“The rest remain in jail pending court hearing on Aug 25. Meanwhile, the base is not closed down. The police visited the place for the first time on Aug 14 and saw people in chains. The Kafaba case is on track. Suspects are in remand at Bole pending court hearing on Aug 20.
“Truth of the matter is that there is a faction in Bawku town who are determined to turn Rufai’s criminal case into an ethnic/chieftaincy conflict. They believe Rufai has supernatural powers, prostrate upon seeing him, refer to him as “Chief Rufai” while provocatively addressing the Paramount Chief of Bawku by his first name. They have accused the Bawku Paramount Chief of orchestrating the arrest of Rufai and posted incendiary allegations and insults on Facebook under “Backlink” which has since been deleted. They brag that their party is in power and that no court can convict Rufai. The police are completely demoralized at the turn of events!
“From the conversation thus far on whether to close or not to close the “witch” camps, it is clear that all concerned parties agree on the need to close down the camps. However, a divergence of opinion exist on how to go about the task of closing down and how soon it should be done. The Gender, Children and Social Protection Ministry say they will close down the camps, GRADUALLY. Our position at The Sanneh Institute is that the camps should be closed down ASAP. The reasons for our position as well as suggestions on how to go about it, are as follows: In all the camps a Trial by Ordeal is involved in “convicting” victims as witches. The processes range from the use of pure water, sacrifice of chickens and the position they die, drinking of blood and other concoctions, to the use of religious texts. Yet, in our law books, trial by ordeal is a criminal offence. To condone the continued existence of the camps in their current form is to condone the crime of trial by ordeal. Closing down the camps will also send a powerful message that government is against witchcraft accusations and takes the crime of trial by ordeal very seriously.
“All the chiefs and priests involved in overseeing the camps benefit economically from their existence. Before women leave the Gambaga camp for reintegration into their communities, a ransom fee has to be paid to the Gambaga Chief. We also know from countless visits to the camp that when donations are made towards the upkeep of the victims, the Chief has a percentage. In some of the cases, the victims provide free labor to the chiefs and priests. These are examples of further exploitation of the already traumatized victims. We have shied away from talking about these publicly,” his statement said.
It added, “But in light of Madam Akua Denteh’s barbaric murder, we can ill afford to remain silent or adopt the current “kick the can down the road” approach.
“The ministry of gender should work with the chiefs! Government should give the chiefs under whose jurisdictions the camps exist a time frame of not more than six months to close the camps.
“The chiefs under whose jurisdictions the women will return should, with government support, be made responsible for the safety of victims who return to their communities. If the women are assured that they have the protection of the chief and other community leaders of their area, the vast majority if not all the victims, will leave the camps. When the chiefs speak, the people generally listen and follow!
“The government should also give modest support to the victims to rebuild their lives. NGOs that are currently working directly with the camps should be given the task of monitoring the wellbeing of those who return home through visits and regular telephone calls.
The ministry can then work with other stakeholders to provide a safe house in the Northern Region for the few victims who may genuinely have no place to return. Removing the women from the current camps will in itself be psychologically and emotionally liberating to the victims. These camps are anything but safe-havens! The stigma of living in a witch camp is a heavy burden these victims have borne for many years. The time to free these vulnerable women is now!
“It is our prayer that the media will stay on course to make sure justice is not denied Madam Akua Denteh,that Rufai is returned to prison where he belongs, and the base at Widana is closed down and the “witch” camps in the Northern Region shut down ASAP.”