By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, January 7, 2016
Folks, I woke up this morning to read a news report that has really angered me beyond description. For the first time in my life, I got really pissed off and let down. If you have read that report too, you should feel the way I do. If you haven’t yet, here is it in substance:
“The US government says it has clarified and addressed all security lapses before transferring two Yemeni detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison to Ghana, nearly six years after their transfer approval.
The two, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby had been in detention for 14 years, after being linked with terrorist group Al-Qaeda.
However, a US multi-agency review undertaken at the start of the President Obama administration decided both men posed minimal risk to national security and ought to be transferred.” (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/US-grateful-Ghana-received-Yemeni-Gitmo-ex-convicts-405754).
That news report was attributed to the US Department of Defense, which had announced the deal in a statement on its Web site on Wednesday.
Why should I be angry beyond measure, you may ask. Many reasons, none of which agrees with what Ghana’s Ministe4r of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (Hannah Tetteh) adduced when she said “They [Atef and Al-Dhuby] are unable to return to Yemen at the moment” and that the Ghana government has agreed to accept them for a period of two years after which they may leave the country.”
Now, let’s raise some disturbing questions on this matter:
1. We have been told that the “quiet negotiations” between the US authorities and their Ghanaian counterparts took a year to conclude for the agreement to transfer the two Yemenis to be clinched. And all that while the Ghanaian government didn’t inform Ghanaians about the US’ proposal and why it chose Ghana to dump those Yemenis in?
We are concerned at this level of secrecy, which amounts to nothing but a betrayal of the trust of Ghanaians that the government that they have put in power will do things in a transparent manner to uplift standards of governance and use the mandate for the general good. Entering into such a negotiation to the blind side of the citizens and concluding it for these Yemeni undesirables to be dumped in the country constitutes a grave offence. It abuses the people’s trust and cannot be supported, no matter how the government explains its stance and the circumstances surrounding the deal.
It must be pointed out here that the government miscalculated terribly and will pay for it. No one should assume that there are gains for Ghana in this deal. There is none, especially if we consider the fact that nothing of the sort could have happened in the US without the matter being laid before the people. Governance in the US calls for disclosure of deals of this sort so the people could be informed early enough, even before a decision could be made. Not so in Ghana, where a serious issue of this sort was handled behind an iron curtain of dreadful secrecy. Why the secrecy, anyway?
This happening only tells me that our kind of democracy is bogus. How could the government alone make such a decision without dropping any hint for the citizens to participate in the discourse about the matter? Of course, once someone is tainted with accusations/allegations of terrorism, such a person poses danger wherever he/she is. And because of the wave of terrorist activities sweeping across some parts of Africa and the fear that it has the potential to do so in seemingly stable and peaceful areas on the continent (because of hardliners in partisan politics, religious extremists instigating the youth, and economic hardships engendering disaffection), our government should not have rushed into this deal. It should have sought a wider consultation with the people (if even with Parliament) before bowing to the US’ pressure. I have very serious concerns here.
2. Did the government involve any other organ of state, especially Parliament, in the negotiations; if it didn’t, why? And what has parliament itself done about the matter until now that it has been revealed?
If Parliament was not informed or involved in the deal, then, it is worse than the non-performing broken link in our democracy that it has registered itself all these years. Why would the government sideline it, anyway?
3. Why did the US choose Ghana and none of its better-positioned allies to dump these Yemeni undesirables in? What was the basis and the motivation for settling on Ghana, knowing very well that Ghana can’t be described and accepted as its most trusted and reliable ally in our part of the world?
Certainly, after losing its geopolitical base in Liberia under Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor, the US had no “friend” in our part of the world to hang on to. Its attempts to manipulate the situation with the view to establishing a marine base in Ghana failed; so also did its arm-twisting manouevres regarding homosexuality and threats to cut off aid to African countries resisting it. Ghana is known for standing firm. Why now buckle?
4. What did the Ghanaian government under John Mahama hope to gain from this deal for Ghana’s good?
5. On what basis did the Ghanaian authorities agree with the US that the Yemeni undesirables were not a security threat (to the US) and should, therefore, be sent to another country, none other than Ghana? Did their not being considered a security threat to the US mean that they won’t be such to other systems?
6. How will these Yemeni undesirables be kept in the country? Under lock and key or flushed into the society to mingle with Ghanaians or just anybody in the country? Who will monitor their movements and activities? At what cost? And why impose that burden on our system as if we have too much time/money and too little to do?
We note here that these Yemeni undesirables have connections with people and networks that cannot be completely known and neutralized, which explains why harbouring them in Ghana isn’t acceptable to me.
And we will be more annoyed if we unpack Hannah Tetteh’s porous statement that the Yemeni undesirables “may leave the country” after being hosted by Ghana for two years. MAY leave the country? The modal (“may”) is ambiguous and troubling here because it puts the onus on the undesirables. What happens if they don’t leave? It’s a decision that they have to make, which is wrong. The onus must be on Ghana, if anything at all, to send them packing off.
Again, for the Minister to defend them by saying that they “are unable to return to Yemen at the moment” is stunning. Why can’t they return to their country of origin but find solace in Ghana? And who will support them? The Ghanaian tax payer or the US government? Why Ghana of all countries in the world?
Folks, I am really angry, as you can see from my reaction. While Ghanaians travelling to (or living in) other parts of the world are subjected to all kinds of inhumane treatment and the Ghanaian government and its missions fail to support them, what is the justification for bringing into the country foreigners—at worst, the undesirable ones—to be taken care of?
As for the side issue on Syrian refugees, the least said about it, the better. What exactly is wrong with these people in government? It is no more a matter of misplaced priorities but one of atrocious mischief.
Before I explode, let me sound this warning to the government. This issue with the Yemeni undesirables will further dent its image and give the opposition a strong point with which to tear it down. I have already foreseen the angle from which they will do politics with it, playing on the emotions of the people as far as terrorism is concerned and why the government is not being responsible. They will harp on the fact that the government has chosen to open the country to terrorists to target or that it is now harbouring terrorists, which won’t redound to its image.
In this early part of the year, the government should be careful how it does things so it doesn’t add more fuel to the fire burning on the political landscape. There is so much anger among the citizens faced with high tariffs and harsh living conditions, which will add to the spark being provided with this hosting of the Yemeni undesirables to darken its political path. The major electioneering campaign season isn’t yet here with us, but it is obvious that the government is doing things to be pushed to the wall.
I urge Parliament and all well-meaning Ghanaians to take up this matter of the Yemeni undesirables and act for the decision to be reversed. Let the government know that Ghana can do better without being inserted into this Guantanamo Bay problem created by the US. Once Ghana had no hand in how the so-called detainees were first identified, tracked, arrested, and kept at the Guantanamo Bay, it shouldn’t have anything to do with how they are disposed of.
If the US captured them in Yemen, what prevents it from returning them there but to scatter them all over the world to create cells for future terrorists to profit from? We in Ghana must be alarmed enough to call our government to order. What else is hidden from the public? My anger won‘t subside or evaporate soon.
For the records, let it be said again and again that the United States has no permanent friend but permanent interests—and those interests know no bounds. Seizing the Guantanamo Bay from Cuba itself was an act done in pursuit of a territorial interest. Ghana has nothing to do with Guantanamo Bay and shouldn’t open its doors to anybody detained there, whether cleared by the US or not.
President Mahama has a lot of explaining to do and he must take it up immediately. Some may claim that the deal cannot be reversed, which I dismiss as stupid. Who signed the agreement with the US? When? And why? Ghana deserves better!!
I shall return…
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