Washington offloads its troubles on Ghana
by Kwabena Opong
Unexpected it was that even as Ghanaians were gloating over a manifold increase in petroleum prices they were informed that their country would play host to some unwelcome guests from Africa and Guantanamo Bay. The word Guantanamo, not so familiar in Ghanaian lexicon has suddenly become a household word. Two men, namely Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby particularly irk the ire of Ghanaians having been detained at Guantanamo since 2001 immediately after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, NY.
Public opinion in Ghana is mostly contemptuous of the visitors from Guantanamo Bay in spite of the presence of equally dangerous people from Rwanda who indulged in the genocide in that country two decades ago. Suffice it to say that any support for the action is political as the NDC’s propaganda machinery has set in motion a process to convince Ghanaians that the act is purely humanitarian. NDC communicators are on a mission to proselytize compassion as the motive to accept the Gitmo duo. They have already started to play the religion card condemning the Ghana Christian Council and the Catholic Bishops Conference as being discriminatory in their remarks on the repatriation of the duo to Ghana. Sending the two terror suspects to the Chief Imam Sharabutu was a cheap political gimmick but dangerous in a nation where Islam and Christianity have existed side by side in peace.
At President Mahama’s press briefing at the Flagstaff house last month, he insisted that Messrs. Atef and Al-Dhuby were harmless. They were not convicted by the Americans and have not been charged with any crime. He also painted a picture of two harmless boys who were captured against their will and incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York. But the president’s defense of his action has since been debunked by a Fox television broadcast in New York describing the duo as among some of the most dangerous prisoners at the Gitmo prison. Security analyst and Director of the Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research at the Kofi Annan Peace Keeping Centre Kwesi Aning advises that the president’s claims be taken with a pinch of salt. He adds, “The nature of terrorist recruitment strategies and the brainwashing that takes place means that these guys are highly-trained operatives, they know how to tell stories that seem convincing and they will continue to do what they’ve done.”
The concern therefore for most Ghanaians is the capabilities of the security apparatus in the Ghana to contain any incident that might arise
as a result of any attempt to spring the duo away from Ghana. Already
four US senators have threatened sanctions against Ghana in case such a situation occurs, something that contains an indication of compensation changing hands between the Ghanaian negotiators and the US authorities. How else would the four lawmakers have the nerve to issue threats in a case where Ghana is merely providing a helping hand?
Kwesi Aning questions the rationale in accepting the duo into Ghana
from the United States that has the most sophisticated interrogation techniques as well as the technical know how to deal with terrorists.
Most Ghanaians are also apprehensive of the country’s military capabilities. Many question the resources available to Ghana’s security forces to secure the country’s borders and ensure nobody with sinister motives is allowed to enter the country legally or illegally. Fulani cattlemen are allowed to enter the country through unapproved routes with their cattle and harass and sometimes murder Ghanaians and get away with it. It does not appear the cattlemen who enter the country from neighboring countries are scrutinized for any possible terrorist connections. It is clear that Fulani cattlemen enter the country uninspected by either the immigration or customs authorities at the country’s borders.
Either for lack of logistics, knowledge, strategy or even compassion, Fulani herdsmen have been allowed by the authorities to continue their harassment of citizens of Agogo in the Asante-Akyem area of the Ashanti region. Any attempt to rid themselves of the Fulani menace has been rebuffed by the Police and not even a court order to remove the intruders has been carried out by the security services in Ghana. If the government of Ghana has not been able to deal with the Fulani incidence how else could it deal with a full-blown terrorist invasion of Ghana. And worse still one does not have to be an intelligence operative to be apprehensive of the possibility of the situation at Agogo one day developing into another Boko Haram strike considering where the Fulani come from. And when that day comes how will the people of Ghana face them?
Boko Haram and the Al Qaeda in the Maghreb are already a menace in the West African sub-region. Al Qaeda has already brought the war to Mali and in a recent bomb blast in Ouagadougou showed that it could be deadly not only in Bamako but in neighboring ECOWAS countries. The presence of the duo in Ghana provides the catalyst for a possible attack and the complaisance shown by President John Mahama does no good for the country.
What motivated the president of Ghana to accept the two known terrorists was certainly not compassion and he must be ready to tell Ghanaians truth. Why would two self-acclaimed democracies act on the blind side of their people? The official version of the decision to repatriate the duo to Ghana has already been debunked by the American media.
According to the apocryphal Acts of Peter (Vercelli Acts XXXV), Peter is fleeing from likely crucifixion in Rome at the hands of the government, and along the road outside the city he meets the risen Jesus. In the Latin translation, Peter asks Jesus “Quo vadis?”, to which he replies, “Romam eo iterum crucifigi” (“I am going to Rome to be crucified again”).
Is it likely John Mahama took the decision to bring the Gitmo duo to Ghana to influence his reelection? We dare ask, Quo Vadis, Mr. President?
The writer is the editor-in-chief of Amandla and a Director of theNew York-based Center for Media & Peace Initiatives (CMPI).