Ghanaians are fussing about nothing as far as the transfer of two Guantanamo detainees to Ghana is concerned, security expert Irbad Ibrahim has said.
According to him, the paranoia and apprehension exhibited by the public and some security analysts in that regard are “unnecessary,” since Ghana will not become a target of terrorism just by dint of the West African country’s decision to house the two ex-detainees for two years.
International relations expert Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, has said it could open up the country to security threats. Also, a former presidential advisor in the Kufuor administration, Vicky Bright, has said Ghana, by accepting the detainees, was importing trouble to its shores.
“These two Yemeni guys, I believe, are not top-tier al-Qaeda commanders,” Mr Ibrahim told Kwadwo Asare-Baffuor Asare on Asempa FM’s Ekosii Sen political talk show on Thursday, January 7, adding: “There’s no cause for alarm”.
“Let’s save government some flak,” he said, noting that the two: Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, pose no security threat to Ghana.
Most of the time, the security threat, he said, “will come in the form of your military engagement in the theatre of warfare.”
In his view, Ghana’s decision to accept the detainees will rather “enhance our reputation in the eyes of the international community,” adding that “there are goodies that come with this…there’s no cause for alarm at all, if anything at all, this is an avenue for us to consolidate the bilateral ties between us. I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill. This is a foreign policy decision, I think, as Ghanaians, we shouldn’t fret over. I don’t think it should give us sleepless nights as a country. This will not put Ghana on the radar of al-Qaida or Taliban or Boko Haram.”
Mr Ibrahim’s concerns strike a chord with a similar sentiment expressed by Chairman of Ghana’s Prisons Council, Rev. Stephen Wengam.
“I think it’s a good move,” Rev. Wengam told Radio XYZ’s breakfast show hosted by Kweku Vandapaline on Thursday, January 7, 2016.
“I think that we pride ourselves as being a hospitable country and I think that such moves go a long way to improve our image in the international community. That is why we will need more resources.
“I will only plead with government to use this as a bait to get the international community to commit more resources to help us improve conditions in our prisons…maybe through this, we can get more resources because the international community will have to come to our aid and you don’t need to have everything before you can help somebody and we are a very religious country and who knows, God may look at that. This may be some of the reasons why we don’t encounter wars in this country… therefore, I will say that we should not be scared, we should not be perturbed,” Rev. Wengam added.
According to Rev. Wengam: “Don’t forget we belong to the international community and what is happening in Syria and others could happen to Ghana …and we’ve done it before when the conflict happened in Liberia and other places …we opened our borders. I am yet to get the very details but what I know is that I think they put in place security measures to ensure that those who are admitted into Ghana don’t cause a security threat to us.”
The two ex-detainees left for Ghana Wednesday, January 6, 2016. Their transfer is the first of an expected 17 such transfers approved for January, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby were held for more than 13 years at the detention facility in Cuba. They were unanimously approved for transfer by the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force, according to a Pentagon statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
The task force is comprised of six departments and agencies charged with determining which detainees can be safely transferred from the facility.
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Ghana for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the statement read.
“The United States coordinated with the Government of Ghana to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures,” it added.
Guantanamo Bay now holds 105 detainees. Fifty-nine are not eligible for transfer for security reasons.
Defence Secretary Ash Carter last month notified Congress that 17 detainees would be transferred from the facility to other nations throughout January. Fifteen of them were transferred last year.
Bin Atef, according to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket, was born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia and fought with Osama Bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade and was an admitted member of the Taliban. He was captured in Afghanistan and transferred to U.S. custody about January 2002 after engaging in combat against the American-led coalition.
Like Bin Atef, Salih Al-Dhuby was born in Saudi Arabia and claims Yemeni citizenship, according to the New York Times Guantanamo Docket. The suspected Al-Qaida member was born in 1981 and was captured by Afghan forces in December 2001 following an explosion near Tora Bora. He’s been held in Guantanamo since May 2002.
President Barack Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo Bay facility since he was a candidate in 2008 but has struggled to do so amid Congressional opposition to move detainees to a prison in the United States.
The 2016 National Defence Authorisation Act, passed in November, banned moving any detainees to the United States. Obama announced at the time he opposed that provision, but he signed the bill anyway.