What exactly compelled Ghana to accept the two Gitmo ex-detainees?

Mon, 18 Jan 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Friday, January 15, 2016

Folks, we have already bared our teeth to bite the Mahama-led administration for agreeing to settle the two former detainees of the Guantanamo Bay in Ghana. And we now know from President Mahama's slip-up that they are based in Takoradi. Why Takoradi? And how does the government expect the residents of Takoradi to receive the news of these Yemeni undesirables being accommodated in their midst?

Much is emerging for us to continue to question the rationale behind the deal. President Mahama has denied rumours that he and his administration took 300 million Dollars as kickback from the deal. Fair enough, for as long as no one can come up with any documentary evidence on the deal to that effect. But it doesn't stop tongues from wagging. Thus, the question being asked is: What exactly necessitated our government's willingness to harbour the two Yemeni undesirables (or any other not put out there in the public domain)?

Let's re-frame these questions: What is the benefit to Ghana for agreeing to host these undesirables? Certainly, nothing to do with "compassion" or "altruism" because Ghanaians have no connection with Yemen to warrant anybody from there being sent into the country to be catered for at the expense of the system. So, what is the sense in bringing these people to Ghana?

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (Hannah Tetteh) has tried to defuse everything, making pronouncements to calm nerves but not succeeding in any way. She is clearly reducing everything to absurdity. The more she opens her mouth, the more she raises disturbing questions. And she isn't even positioned to answer those questions. Who, then, will do so to set Ghanaians at ease? Terrorism is nobody's play thing!!

Eventually, Hannah Tetteh is saying that she wasn't even privy to all that transpired in the negotiations to have the ex-detainees relocated in Ghana. Who is privy to all that happened? We need more information so we can unpack everything to ensure that no one plays any fast and dirty game on/with us. We may be poor but we are happy to be peace-loving people.

More lies are being unearthed. We were initially told that the burden of supporting the ex-detainees would be solely borne by the US only for it to be debunked by a high-ranking and well-informed US official who said that Ghana will bear part of the cost. Why should it be so? What does Ghana hope to reap from this deal, bearing part of the cost for hosting these Yemeni undesirables?

As if we are not already "tortured", the matter has assumed political and religious dimensions, which we will unpack to know their dangerous ramifications for the country, especially in this volatile Election 2016 period.

While the NPP has condemned the government for pandering to the US' interests, it is comfortable that its flagbearer, Akufo-Addo, is silent over the matter and that he will be better off not commenting on it. Those in the NDC (apart from Hannah Tetteh and President Mahama) have chosen to keep their mouths sealed, clearly because they don't want to expose the government's underbelly for attack. But they would be better off doing so, especially now that the matter has given Ghanaians another window through which to view the government's intents and purposes.

Meantime, the matter is gathering storm at the religious front, which is dangerous for the country. While the Christian Council of Ghana is at the government's throat for showing compassion to "Muslims" and asking that all prisoners in Ghana be released to prove that the government is compassionate, something different is coming from the Muslim front.

The national chief Imam, Alhaji Nuhu Sharubutu, is reported to have urged Ghanaians, especially the Muslim community, "to accept the detainees on humanitarian grounds because accepting to receive and protect the two Gitmo detainees was in line with the Islamic mission of compassion and humanitarianism. " (See https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Gitmo-saga-Hana-Tetteh-raps-Chief-Imam-407633).

The Daily Guide newspaper, which reported that the National Chief Imam (90 years old) made the call after interacting with Hannah Tetteh, had sought to create the impression that the Foreign Affairs Minister had "awed" Alhaji Sharubutu. In the common parlance, "awing" could mean many things, one of which is "bribe" or something to that effect. It means that the National Chief Imam's palms had been greased for him to go that way. I don't know what happened because I wasn't there; but I can infer from the tone of the news report to guess the way I want to. Anybody else can do anything on that score.

We are seeing the seeds of religious conflict being sown. That is the potential danger for Ghana. Forget about anything else and concentrate on why the conflict between Christians and Muslims could become the powder keg on which the country is being placed. We already know how religious sentiments have featured in our national and local politics. Is it really necessary to widen the scope to this level in terms of the Yemeni undesirables?

We already have too much internecine warfare, social unrests, and many others provoked by chieftaincy and land disputes or ethnic conflicts. And there are many flashpoints of trouble all over the country to scare the people. Why add that of religion and terrorism to it? And why complicate matters by bringing into the country those who have no traditional roots in Ghana? Why, oh, why?

Be it what it may, the questions that emerge are daunting: What exactly does Ghana hope to benefit from this deal to move it forward as fast as is needed to solve the existential problems facing the citizens? Why would the Mahama-led administration go this way if there is no reward for the country (especially now that we know that the cost of keeping these Yemeni undesirables in Ghana will not be borne by the US alone but also by Ghana?) What is the reciprocal benefit to Ghana? And why should these undesirables tainted as terrorists be given this prominence to the disadvantage of Ghanaians? Many more questions abound, which will feed this deal into national politics and harm the NDC's interests!!

Here, then, comes the real issue of international relations dimension. If the Mahama-led administration can't stand its grounds to prevent these undesirables from being dumped on/in Ghana, what guarantee is there that it can act judiciously to secure Ghana's interests against being undermined? Let us not deceive ourselves that the mere fact that Ghana's territorial integrity has not been undermined over the years means it can't ever be. Entering into deals of this sort prepare the grounds for future trouble!!

Folks, this matter is not as slight as is being portrayed by the government and its lackeys defending it. That is why it will be politically sensible for the government to go beyond where it is now to level with Ghanaians. If it deceives itself that it can easily brush it under the rug, it will be setting itself up for more woes than it is prepared for. And public intellectuals like us doing the yeoman's job of raising pertinent issues to boost public discourse won't sit down unconcerned. We will talk, no matter what!!

The basis for apprehension about this deal should be clear by now. Now that the battle line is drawn between Christians (at least as represented by the strident criticisms of the Christian Council) and the Muslims (as portrayed by the pacifist stance of the National Chief Imam), we expect the issue to break all bounds and become more contentious than it has been so far. Is this what President Mahama wants at this point when there are already more pressing existential problems weighing down heavily on his administration to make him lose sleep? Inconceivable. Inadmissible. Woebetide those in authority today who take the people for granted!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.