General News of Friday, 26 January 2018
“There was no specific exit agreement…there is nothing wrong; we have always known that. That is why within the two year period discussions ought to continue,” says Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.
The NDC MP claims the erstwhile Mahama administration decided to give a “refugee status” instead of a “permanent residence or a visa” because the refugee board can “revoke it” at any time.
He was speaking in an interview on Peace FM morning show ‘Kokrokoo’ to the issue of the current state of the two ex-Guantanamo detainees of Yemeni descent, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby.
Status of GITMO 2
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, told parliament on Wednesday, 24 January 2018 that the two ex-Gitmo detainees have become Ghana’s responsibility because no exit plan was made by the Mahama-led administration.
According to her, the hands of the Government are tied now considering the bilateral agreement the Mahama-led Government entered into with the United States of America.
“For now, we are saying that our hands are tied because they have been granted a legal status for them to stay here. On our side, I am going ahead to explore options…“they will not be leaving Ghana and, that they are now the responsibility of the state”. It is to be noted that no exit arrangements were originally discussed between the two governments to end the bilateral arrangement at the time of negotiation. The US has also been clear in our discussions with them that per the agreement, returning them to the United States is not an option open to discussion or negotiation. This means that all obligations relating to the two have now become the responsibility of Ghana,” she said.
National Interest Was Our Motivation
When the North Tongu MP was quizzed by the host Kwami Sefa Kayi what motivated the then ruling NDC government to go in for such an agreement, he answered, “Our motivation was the national interest… it came with support for our national security in the fight against terrorism.”
He however, quickly added that “it is not appropriate” to put out further details.
“There was the understanding that within the two year period, there will be discussion between USA, Ghana and the two detainees to find out if they want to go back to their countries or remain in Ghana. If they decide to stay in the country, they can find employment if they are properly integrated and I don’t find anything wrong with that especially as government has confirmed that they have been of good behavior,” he said.
Integration into Ghanaian Society
Meanwhile, a portion of the agreement as read by Mr Ablakwa indicated that: “the government of Ghana and the United States are to regularly consult on matters regarding the status, activities…and integration process of Mr Ben Atef and Mr Al-Dhuby…”
“This statement means the Mahama-led administration as part of the agreement, accepted to ‘integrate’ the two detainees into the country?!” Sefa Kayi again prodded.
“Not necessarily,” he replied. “It was not an outright integration,” he added. According o him, the then government only agreed to integrate them into the country for two years.
“…that was why it was stated that the government of Ghana and the United States were to regularly consult. There was always room for discussions to continue,” he added.