Home » Madina MP Champions Anti-Witchcraft Bill, Urges Presidential Assent

Madina MP Champions Anti-Witchcraft Bill, Urges Presidential Assent

Call for Action: Sosu Fights for Human Rights, Legal Justice

by Adenike Adeodun

In a significant move to combat the deeply rooted issue of witchcraft accusations in Ghana, Francis-Xavier Sosu, the Member of Parliament for Madina, has taken a bold step by petitioning several international and regional bodies, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), and Amnesty International. His aim is to pressurize President Nana Akufo-Addo into assenting to the recently passed anti-witchcraft bill—a legislative measure designed to offer protection to individuals, predominantly women, who are accused of witchcraft.

This legislative effort comes in the wake of the bill’s passage by the Ghanaian Parliament on July 27, 2023, a move signaling a collective resolve to end the discriminatory and often violent accusations of witchcraft in the country. The bill seeks to amend the Criminal and Other Offenses Act, 1960 (Act 29), specifically targeting the abolition of the practice of labeling individuals as witches. Such practices have led to numerous human rights violations, including physical abuse, social ostracism, and even death.

Despite the parliamentary success, the bill’s journey towards becoming law hit a stumbling block when President Akufo-Addo expressed hesitations, citing concerns over the potential financial implications on the country’s consolidated fund. However, Sosu, a respected legal expert and advocate for human rights, has strongly contested the President’s reservations. He argues that the financial implications cited by the President do not align with the realities of the bill’s provisions, suggesting that the President’s refusal to assent to the bill contradicts both the letter and spirit of the Ghanaian Constitution.

Sosu’s petition, dated March 28, 2024, is not just a call for action but a detailed critique of the President’s stance, rooted in constitutional and human rights considerations. He highlights that the anti-witchcraft bill, having been thoroughly vetted, scrutinized, and unanimously passed by Parliament, does not violate any constitutional provisions regarding financial matters as suggested by the President. Instead, Sosu points to the broader implications of the President’s refusal, framing it as a setback to Ghana’s human rights record and its standing in the international community.

The urgency of Sosu’s petition is underscored by Ghana’s declining scores on various human rights and democratic indices. He connects the refusal to assent to the bill with a broader pattern of human rights erosions under President Akufo-Addo’s administration, despite the President’s background as a human rights lawyer. Sosu’s critique extends beyond domestic concerns, highlighting Ghana’s commitments on the international stage, including references to the bill during the 42nd session of the Universal Peer Review (UPR) in Geneva, Switzerland, and its implications for Ghana’s membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Sosu’s advocacy is further informed by his firsthand experiences visiting witch camps in Northern Ghana, where he witnessed the dire conditions and human rights abuses faced by individuals accused of witchcraft. These visits, he argues, reveal a disturbing reality that Ghana, a country known for its democratic values and human rights commitments, allows such practices to persist.

The petition also serves as a historical document, tracing the legislative journey of the anti-witchcraft bill from its inception following a tragic incident in 2021, where a 92-year-old woman was lynched on accusations of witchcraft, through its various parliamentary stages, to the current impasse with the executive. It represents a comprehensive appeal to not only the President but also to the conscience of the Ghanaian society and the international community, urging a collective stand against the inhumane treatment of alleged witches.

In conclusion, Sosu’s petition is more than a bureaucratic plea; it is a moral and legal argument against the backdrop of Ghana’s struggle with witchcraft accusations and its broader implications for human rights. By mobilizing international and regional support, Sosu aims to pressure President Akufo-Addo into assenting to the anti-witchcraft bill, thereby marking a significant step towards eradicating a deeply entrenched issue that has plagued Ghanaian society for far too long.

Source: Graphic Online

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