A few weeks ago, the average Ghanaian would probably have needed Google to know what Guantanamo Bay is famous for. A few weeks hence, and it would be surprising if one doesn’t hear “Guantanamo” or its many variations, at least, a dozen times before breakfast.
The Government of Ghana’s decision on January 6, 2016, to accept to reside two detainees from the infamous Guantanamo Bay Prison in Ghana for a period of two years has evoked a debate throughout the country. It has also elicited some very interesting reactions including, but not limited to, a desertion of the Christian value of forgiveness, erroneous government statements, admissions of ignorance by government ministers and probably the best of the lot, a Kumawood poster, and title.
They have all in one way or another helped to polarize opinion, but what are the real facts?
The Guantanamo Bay Prison, also known as Gitmo, was founded in 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on The United States of America to “detain extraordinarily dangerous people, to interrogate detainees in an optimal setting, and to prosecute detainees for war crimes”.
Since its establishment, over 700 prisoners have passed through its walls, a large percentage without trial, while its famed and feared interrogation techniques have caused a widespread outcry and call for its shutdown especially from groups like Amnesty International and the United Nations, calls which President Obama eventually agreed to.
Due to the American Congress’ refusal to allow any of the Gitmo inmates to resettle on American soil and the instability in some inmates’ home countries, the American Government reached out to a number of countries to accept the inmates for a while.
The legalities of Ghana accepting the two detainees are still being hotly debated but already a number of valid issues have been raised. The extent of the President’s powers have once again been called into question and admissions by the Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs, respectively, to being ignorant about some of the facts relating to the detainees are decidedly concerning. Government’s insistence that Messrs. Mahmoud Bin Atef and Khalid Shayk Mohammed have been “cleared of any involvement in terrorist attacks” and pose no threat to the nation are dubious. This is considering that some documents on the terrorists, which were released by The New York Times, show that these men are believed to still pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies.
The safety of the nation is uppermost, and while arguments still rage about whether the two detainees should be in Ghana or not, the government needs to explain some of the measures it is taking to protect Ghana and Ghanaians from any reprisals or other forms of terrorist attacks. The news that broke last year about a Ghanaian joining ISIS, linking to terror attacks occurring in neighboring Burkina Faso, should already be a huge wake-up call to the Government and security forces. Acts of terrorism are a real threat to any nation and that now, more than ever, we need to be more vigilant and prepared for any acts that attempt to derail the stability of the nation. One of the reasons given for the choice of Ghana as a shelter for the two detainees is Ghana’s peaceful nature and its stability. We need to ensure that long after Messrs. Mahmoud Bin Atef and Khalid Shayk Mohammed have left the shores of this country, Ghana will still be known by those attributes.
Author: Senam, threesixtyGh Writer