Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference has waded into the controversial decision by the Mahama-led NDC government to accept terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Ghanaian soil, describing the decision as “wrong and dangerous.”
“We, the members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, have received news of the transfer of two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners, namely, Mahmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef (36 years) and Khalid Shayk Mohammed (34 years) to Ghana with great distress and sadness and wish to call on our government to act responsibly and in the interest of the nation by sending these men back to wherever they came from,” the Bishops said in a statement yesterday.
The Pentagon on Wednesday announced that two Guantanamo Bay inmates with Al-Qaeda ties were being sent to Ghana, the first in a wave of 17 detainees expected to be transferred from the prison. The government later issued a statement confirming that the two terrorists were in Ghana.
The two, who were held for more than 13 years at the detention facility near Cuba, are in Ghana for a two-year stay as part of a deal reached between the United States of America and the Mahama-led government.
Mission in Ghana
A statement issued in Accra and signed by President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Most Rev Joseph Osei-Bonsu, who is also the Bishop Of Konongo-Mampong, said “having learnt that of these two former prisoners, Mahmoud Bin Atef fought for the late Osama Bin Laden at one time, while Khalid Shayk Mohammed is known to have trained with the terrorist group, Al Qaeda, we wish to pose these questions, among others, for our government’s response: What is their mission here in Ghana?
“Does their presence not constitute or pose a clear danger to us? If indeed these two persons are harmless and if they have been ‘cleared’ of any terrorist act by the US Government, as our Government and the US Government and some others want us to believe, why were they not sent back to Yemen or Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan where they come from or taken to the USA which found them harmless?”
The Bishops further queried, “Did our representatives in Parliament discuss the merits and demerits of their resettlement here in Ghana?” adding, “We need urgent answers to these and other questions because we think that their presence clearly poses a threat to Ghana.”
They said “our government should not take the citizens of this country for a ride by acting in ways that can have serious consequences on the nation’s safety and security.”
The statement said “Ghana has been open to receiving refugees in the past but these two men are not in this category. We think that they are not refugees but time-bombs and so government should do all it can to send them back as soon as practicable.”
The Bishops said that the upsurge in terrorists activities around the globe, particularly in the West African sub-region where Boko Haram and others are wreaking havoc, should have informed the NDC government to be cautious in accepting to host the high-profile terrorists, saying, “the acceptance of two former prisoners of Guantanamo Bay Camp is surely not a good move in the effort to secure the security of the nation.”
Election Year Security
They said as Ghana heads to the polls this year, “the security of our nation is going to be put to a severe test once again,” adding, “We must understand that Ghana is not immune to the attacks of potential external terrorist forces.
“This year is an election year and we expect our government to focus a lot of attention on helping to secure peace and security in the country by dealing with the above-mentioned and related challenges and not to risk the security of our land by hosting two former terrorists.”
The Bishops called on Parliament, religious leaders, chiefs, opinion leaders and civil society organisations “interested in the security of Ghana to speak against this unilateral decision of the government to accept these ex-prisoners to Ghana and to advise the government to do all it can to send these men back to wherever they came from.”
By William Yaw Owusu