Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, believes the incident-free stay of the two former Guantanamo Bay detainees vindicates the Mahama government’s decision to enter into the agreement with the United States of America to host them.
Speaking on Eyewitness News, Mr. Ablakwa said the firestorm generated in response to the agreement, including fears of the terror attacks were alarmist.
“There hasn’t been any of these situations that critics of our administration at the time put out against us. In hindsight, it is clear that due diligence was carried out and these two are not harmful,” he said.
The two detainees, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, who were in detention for 14 years after being linked with terrorist group Al-Qaeda, were brought to Ghana in 2016, for a period of two years, which expired on January 6, 2018.
The move was criticized by many observers including the then-in-opposition New Patriotic Party, who described the two as a security threat despite assurances to the contrary by the US.
The current Information Minister, Mustapha Abdul Hamid, at the time, argued that central to the Jihadi ideology is the assertion that a friend of your enemy is also your enemy, hence, though Ghana may have received them out of generosity, in the mind of a Jihadist, Ghana becomes a legitimate target for attacks .
He also said the government at the time was ignorant about radical Islam ideologies.
But after the change in power, the NPP government had a legitimate opportunity to send the two Yemeni packing.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef (L) and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby
The Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional, the agreement between the Mahama government and the United States and ordered the government to send the agreement to Parliament for ratification or have the two detainees sent back to the US.
When the time came, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, indicated in Parliament that the Akufo-Addo administration had not altered the formal agreement between Ghana and the United States over the two, thus keeping them in Ghana till the January 6, 2018, expiry date.
‘Give gov’t space to decide’
Mr. Ablakwa, who said he was “indifferent” as to whether the two should be allowed to stay or leave, said the NPP government should be given space to act on the matter.
“…I think the government would have to be accorded the respect that they ought to have to be taking the decision on our behalf. They can decide to engage in consultations. They can decide to bring it to Parliament at some point… The can decide to be consistent with their initial position when they were in opposition that the decision to receive them was not really a good one.”
Whatever the decision, he also expects the matter to make its way to Parliament following the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling.
“After the Supreme Court decision, the Executive no longer has a choice. Whatever they decide with the Americans, they would have to bring the agreement to Parliament for ratification,” Mr. Ablakwa stated.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Ministry is engaging with the US and will make any new developments on the matter public in the next couple of days, according to the Information Minister, Mustapha Hamid.