Pressure is mounting on the United States (US) government to cut aid to Ghana if the two former Guantanamo Bay detainees brought into the country escape from the hands of the security agencies.
The move is being pushed by four members of the US Senate, led by Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois, who has written to the Appropriations Committee to “reduce assistance to Ghana by $10 million per detainee, in the event that either of these detainees escapes from confinement or re-engages in terrorism while in Ghana’s custody.”
The two suspected terrorists, who Foreign Affairs Minister Hanna Tetteh described as ‘Al-Qaeda foot soldiers’—Mahmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef, a Taliban fighter and member of Osama bin Laden’s “55th Brigade”, who threatened to cut the throats of American guards and their families upon release, and Khalid Mohammed Salih al Dhuby, an Al-Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan who reportedly threatened to kill guards at Guantanamo Bay—were given what according to President Mahama was a humanitarian assistance to help them reintegrate into society after their release.
Their arrival in Ghana has since generated a furore, with government struggling to put up a strong defence in the face of opposition by Ghanaians.
Many Ghanaians, particularly security experts, civil society bodies and religious groups like the Christian Council of Ghana, Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, are strongly against the resettlement of the Al-Qaeda foot soldiers in Ghana.
Their fear is that the presence of the suspects in the country could expose Ghana to terrorist attacks, a concern four US Senators have confirmed with their petition, an indication of the danger the Gitmo duo in the country pose to not only Ghana but the world at large.
Even though they admitted consistently voting to support foreign assistance to Ghana and expressed gratitude to the government for their friendship and the strong bilateral relationship between our two countries, they want the US government to tighten the nooks on the host country to ensure they hold and monitor the two detainees and ensure they do not re-engage in terrorism against the United States.
In a letter dated January 27, 2016 and addressed to the Chairman of the State and Foreign Operations and Related Programmes, Lindsay Graham and Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, Kirk and three other colleague Republican Senators—Roy Blunt from Missouri, James Lankford from Oklahoma and Steve Daines from Montana—requested that the government include such a condition in the fiscal year 2017 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programmes appropriations bill.
They believe “such language would incentivise Ghanaian authorities to allocate appropriate resources to closely and securely monitor the activities of these terrorist detainees.”
Even though President Mahama maintains these terrorist detainees pose no threat, the Senators harbour the fear they could break jail and cause harm.
Their fear hinges on the fact that the reports from the U.S. Intelligence Community suggest that 30 percent of the terrorists released from Guantanamo are known or suspected to have re-joined the fight against Americans.
For them, “it is reckless to release more of these prisoners, particularly when the ability of the host country to hold and monitor these detainees is in doubt.”
That, they stated in the letter, was evident in the fact that “the nation’s (Ghana’s) prison system provides an illustrative indicator of the country’s limitations in credibly detaining and monitoring these hardened terrorists.”
Aside that, they indicated ,“the prison system is plagued by decay and mismanagement” while “majority of Ghana’s prison facilities were constructed during the colonial era and lack the modern infrastructure required to hold inmates.”
They cited a study which said Ghana’s “prison system operates at 145 percent capacity nationally, with some prisons operating up to 300 percent over capacity” and that in “in recent years, 30 or more prisoners have escaped from Ghana’s prisons annually.”
In view of that, the Senators were convinced that “it is clear no facility in the world, let alone in Ghana, could detain terrorists as securely as Guantanamo.”
By Charles Takyi-Boadu