Songtaba, a non-governmental organization working in the interest of persons accused of witchcraft, has called on President Akufo-Addo to assent to the Criminal Offences Bill, otherwise known as the witchcraft bill.
According to the group, despite the presidency claiming the bill was only presented to him on Monday, November 27, 2023, the same day the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, expressed displeasure over the President’s alleged silence on the bill, the President must act on it swiftly.
“The expectation is that the President should quickly look at it. I heard the majority leader say there are some concerns, so the team should quickly look at it. I don’t think it should be a major issue that should take the President’s time and like I said, we are demanding that at least, in this period of the sixteen days of activism, which is around gender-based violence, the President should please assent his signature to this for us.”Lamnatu Adam
Reacting to the presidency’s statement of not being privy to the bill prior to the Speaker’s comments, Executive director of Songtaba, Lamnatu Adam, questioned the competence of officials tasked to handle such matters.
She indicated that there is the need to exact due diligence when it comes to the treatment of such sensitive matter.
“I was asking myself, whose responsibility is it to make sure that the bill got to the President and also whose responsibility was it to make sure that they followed up?
“So, if we did not know whose responsibility it was to make a follow-up, then there is a challenge, and the question we ask ourselves is, is it that this bill is of no interest?”Lamnatu Adam
Engagement with gender ministry on witchcraft bill
Furthermore, Ms Adam expressed that her outfit has over the years engaged the ministry of gender on many occasions on the need to pass the bill.
Subsequently, she emphasized that especially this year, her outfit has continuously engaged the gender ministry and it was clear that the issues around witchcraft was the ministry’s priority. As such, she noted that the President’s ignorance of the bill comes as a surprise.
“So, this has come as a surprise that the bill is just getting to the presidency. So, I don’t want to be part of the argument. Apart from the question that the Coalition against witchcraft accusation is asking, we are also demanding that the President should as a matter of urgency make the comment that they think is necessary.”Lamnatu Adam
In spite of the seeming delay of the passing of the bill, Ms Adam expressed optimsm that the bill will be passed in due time.
“… It is our hope that we would have this bill passed within these sixteen days of activism, especially as we are putting investment around protecting vulnerable groups, women, and children. So, this is of a serious concern to us. If the issues around witchcraft accusation is not prioritized to this extent, then it’s so sad…”Lamnatu Adam
It will be recalled that the Office of the President in a statement dated November 28, 2023, clarified that President Nana Akufo-Addo did not decline to assent to the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2023.
The bill, a private member’s bill sponsored by Member of Parliament, Francis Xavier Sosu, aims to prevent attacks on alleged witches and prohibit individuals from operating as witch doctors or witch-finders.
The Bill equally seeks to explicitly criminalize the practice of witchcraft accusation and proscribe the declaration, accusation, naming or labelling of another person as a witch, and its related matters.
In light of this, the object of the bill is to amend the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29), to prohibit the practice by any person as a witch doctor or witch finder. It forms part of the broad policy measures to deal with attacks and human rights violations arising out of witchcraft accusations.