I do not in any way subscribe to the strong language and scurrilous attacks on the personality of President Mahama by renowned Prof Keith Bluwey as reported by the media. I also do not support the call for the resignation of the Foreign Minister Hanna Tetteh, who for me has been one of the best performers of this government. However, I believed that we should have a dispassionate discussion on this important foreign policy issue so that we can support the government and the President to take decisions that will protect the security and sanctity of this nation and its citizens.
As a responsible nation cognizance of its obligations in the comity of nations, I think accepting refugees or asylum seekers from any part of the world is a duty and responsibility that we cannot shirk. However, we should be mindful of the repercussions of entering into an arrangement that is tinged with dangerous geopolitics. Providing shelter and protection for Yemeni detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Syrian refugees at this stage is very bizarre. According to the news media, 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.
The UK Guardian reported that ….“According to leaked (US) military documents from 2006, Dhuby “probably” fought at the December 2001 battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan alongside al-Qaida, yet the military recommended in 2006 to transfer him out of custody.
“At the time, it recommended continued detention for bin Atef, whom the documents describe as an ‘admitted member of the Taliban’ and a fighter in Osama bin Laden’s Afghanistan-based 55th Arab Brigade.
“By January 2010, however, a multi-agency review undertaken at the start of the Obama administration decided both men posed a minimal risk to (US) national security and ought to be transferred. But years of a self-imposed ban on transferring detainees to Yemen, (US) congressional acrimony and internal bureaucratic ‘foot-dragging’, according to the US official, kept both men at Guantánamo, alongside dozens of others.”
While one must admit that we are not privy to the ‘real’ behind the scenes negotiations between US and Ghana Government, which according to sources had gone on for over a year, what is certain is that there are serious security implications that we may face in the future for risking to take this decision.
There are several unanswered questions on this dangerous deal with the World’s unofficial Sheriff that policy makers should have averted their minds to. The simple question is: why Ghana? The Americans have every opportunity in this world to resettle those detainees in the US mainland itself and allow them to move freely. They have the most sophisticated surveillance and intelligence infrastructure than any country in the world that can monitor the detainees in the US mainland. Secondly, almost the entire Western European countries and much of Eastern Europe too are part of the so-called friends and allies of America in the war against terror. Why can’t the Americans just select one or few of those countries to provide shelter to those freed detainees?
Again, almost all the Gulf Arab states namely Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Oman are like satellite states of the United States. So, why are they not settled in those countries, given the cultural and religious affinity of those countries with the detainees? If it is the question of political stability, those countries are equally stable and even financially and logistically more capable than Ghana to withstand any fallout response from Al-Qaeda or Taliban.
According to a publication in the citifmonline on Thursday 7th January, 2016, the US is said to be grateful for Ghana’s decision to accept those detainees. “The country was grateful to the Government of Ghana for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Ghana to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
This singular quote from the US State Department is very alarming and dangerous to any keen observer of the US foreign policy across the world and especially in the Middle East. From this statement alone one can decipher that Ghana is clearly exposed to a danger of monumental proportion. Not just from the former detainees we are coming to harbor but from all those who have the desire to harm the US and its interest in any way across the world. We cannot for any reason decide to make America’s enemies our enemies too. We should not be seen to be entering into a ‘war’ that we don’t have the capability to fight. America and its European and Gulf friends who have the best intelligence, the best arms, the best infrastructure and above all the huge financial muscle must be allowed to fight their own battles. Ghana’s concentration should be mainly on its internal issues of bread and butter.
We should not depart from our own ‘Dzi Wo fie Asem’ mantra we are noted for as a nation. We simply cannot manage the fallout of this important decision we are taking. The US will only say YES with the word of mouth but will not extend any meaningful hand of support to us in the event of any violent attack against our citizens or any of our civilian installations or infrastructure across the country. We may have to use our own hard earned budgetary resources to build from the ashes what may be destroyed (God forbid). If we doubt, the examples are everywhere for us to see. Wherever in the world the US pokes its long nose, we see the after effects. Syria, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Egypt and Lebanon are just some few examples.
Contrary to the position of Prof Bluwey that President Mahama is going to personally benefit from this deal, I believe the President may be taking this decision based on what he thinks is in the national interest. However, available evidence across the world has shown that all nations which have taken those conspicuous stands with the Americans in similar situations have attracted reprisal attacks from extremists groups across the globe. Kenya is just one example where we lost our own beloved Professor Kofi Awoonor.
On the issue of Syrian refugees, I think the government or the foreign ministry should give us the inventory of all those the country is accepting, and necessary security and intelligence screening should be done to minimize the risk of any blowback.