Vol. 32 No. 1 (2023): Nordic Journal of African Studies
General articles

Murder at Kafaba: Debating Witchcraft and “Witch Camps” in Ghana

Saibu Mutaru
University of Cape Coast
Naa Adjeley Suta Alakija Sekyi
University of Cape Coast
NJAS Journal Cover

Published 2023-03-31


  • witchcraft, witch camps, Ghana, human rights, NGOs

How to Cite

Mutaru, S., & Adjeley Suta Alakija Sekyi, N. (2023). Murder at Kafaba: Debating Witchcraft and “Witch Camps” in Ghana. Nordic Journal of African Studies, 32(1), 28–49. https://doi.org/10.53228/njas.v32i1.781


In Ghana, the collision between the local reality of witchcraft and human rights sensibilities is manifested in local discourses and debates concerning the so-called “witch camps”. The recent killing of an elderly woman, Akua Denteh, accused of witchcraft and killed in communal rage, has reinvigorated these debates. This ethnographic study examines these debates and makes an important contribution to the theoretical and ethnographic understanding of witchcraft. This article offers a nuanced analysis of narratives that emerged from interlocutors in and around the settlements for accused women, also known as “witch camps”. The settlements are represented by civil society and foreign NGOs as prisons that violate the accused women’s human rights; however, this view does not account for the risks involved in the closure of the camps and the reintegration of these women. The women, meanwhile, prioritized their own safety. We highlight the complexity of belief through the lens of “multiple modernity”. Our findings show that belief can be neither underrated nor overrated: belief in witchcraft neither needs the confirmation nor the rejection of the (dis)believing agent to assert its contextual salience. We suggest that the representation of these women’s settlements as prisons and as violating human rights in an argument for closure and reintegration demonstrates little appreciation of the complexity of “belief”. It also clashes with the postmodern concept of multiple modernities, pointing out the plurality of epistemologies of modernity, which include “beliefs” in witchcraft.