By dint of accepting two Guantanamo Bay ex-convicts, Ghana has now become a “legitimate target” of jihadists and terrorist groups in the world, Islamic scholar Dr Mustapha Hamid has said.
“What I am telling Hanna Tetteh [Minister of Foreign Affairs] is that this fundamentalist ideology, which they held when they were at Tora Bora, has further been accentuated by the 14 years of incarceration in Guantanamo.
“They [Jihadist groups] may not have anything against Ghana as a nation, but they certainly do have something against America, especially so because America has confessed that it had no evidence for which it incarcerated them for 14 years. A school of jihadist ideology is that: ‘The friend of your enemy is your enemy.’ That one is a non-negotiable aspect of the ideology that feeds al-Qaeda, Taliban, al-Shabab and Boko Haram, so we have shown by this act, which we believe to be an act of generosity and compassion, but in their mind, it is an act of complicity in the sense that we have shown ourselves to be allies of America. And Osama Bin Laden, who is, if you want, the ideologue of the jihadist movement, has stipulated this very clearly. He says that America and all its allies, including Israel and the rest of them, are all legitimate targets, so, I am putting it to you that it is not true that these people will see Ghana as intercessors. In fact, what we have done has just given us out as allies of America, and, therefore, we, in the eyes of jihadist ideology, have become legitimate targets,” Dr Hamid, who lectures at the University of Cape Coast told Bernard Avle on the Citi Breakfast Show on Monday.
On the same day that he spoke, the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council also came out, as the latest religious group, to condemn the country’s decision to take in two Guantanamo detainees.
The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) was the first religious group to kick against the transfer of Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby to the West African country for two years, as part of a deal between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Ghana.
General Secretary of the Council, Apostle Samuel Yaw Antwi said in an interview on Monday January 11 that allies of the two may attempt visiting or coming for them since “they are not here on their own free will”.
“They might follow up to come and find out what is wrong with them, and imagine if any of these people, something should happen to them while they are here for the two years. What are going to be the implications on our nation? So, these are the issues that we think need to be seriously discussed and we see that as a risk.
“Their associates may come looking for them. Anything may happen to them and will Ghana be exonerated? The government should return them. They should make sure that they leave our soil. We don’t believe that their being here is of much gain to us – it might be a gain for some people; some outside forces – but as a nation, we don’t believe that it is in our supreme interest,” Apostle Antwi added in an interview with Citi FM Monday.
The sentiments of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council come just a day after the Christian Council of Ghana, CCG, said in a statement dated January 10, signed by General Secretary Rev. Dr Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, that it has “observed with grave concern the lamentations and fears being expressed by most Ghanaians since news broke about the relocation of two Guantanamo Bay inmates with Al Qaeda ties to Ghana.”
“As a Council, we associate with the uncertainties and fears this issue has generated among our people, and request that government should consider immediate rescission of the decision and relocate the inmates outside the country.
“The non-engagement of civil society and other stakeholders on such sensitive security issue that affects the common good of the nation has put all of us at risk as the ordinary people don’t know what is required of them in the current potential security threat. In fact, the whole process lacks transparency.
“It will be recalled that, in 2007, the United States (US) government wanted to establish its African Command (AFRICOM) in Ghana and most Ghanaians and African countries kicked against it.
“The admission of the Guantanamo inmates into Ghana is no different from setting up an AFRICOM in Ghana.
“We are of the strongest view that the inadequate public consultation and broader consensus building by government is exposing our nation and the entire sub-region to terrorist attack, and must be reversed,” the statement said.
The Council quoted Fox News as saying Bin Atef “is an admitted member of the Taliban and fought for Usama bin Laden, while [the other] Al-Dhuby trained with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” and that “the two inmates [who have spent close to 14 years in prison] are the first of a group of 17 detainees expected to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay that includes “multiple bad guys” and “Al Qaeda followers.”
The Council said there are enough evidences “for us to believe that these inmates have Al Qaeda ties and put all of us at risk.”
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, arrived in Ghana on Thursday January 7, 2016 for a two-year stay as part of a deal reached between the United States of America and the Government of Ghana.
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.
Apart from the two religious groups, many prominent Ghanaians have also condemned the move.
International relations expert Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, for instance, 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. Former Deputy Minister for the Interior, K.T. Hammond has said the two should be sent back to Guantanamo Bay. The Minority in Parliament has also raised concerns about the failure of the presidency to consult the House over the matter.
Latest to join the fray is a Ghanaian solider in the British Army who says Ghanaians must rise up against the move.
“Ghanaians should come out of their comfort zones and say we don’t want to tolerate this,” Dr Robert Nesta Lartey, MCMI MIET, told Ekow Mensah-Shalders on Class91.3fm’s Executive Breakfast Show on Monday January 11.
According to the 4-time war veteran and aircraft engineer – who says he is one of few people to have worked on all five British Army Helicopters (aircraft) namely: Gazelle helicopter, Lynx helicopter, Highlander fixed wing, Defender fixed, and Apache helicopter – if the United States, which has a strong intelligence network and military might, is unable to house the two detainees, then what business does Ghana have accepting them?
Dr Nesta Lamptey, who served twice in Afghanistan, once in Iraq, once in Northern Ireland, and also worked with the UK Special Forces for two years fixing aircraft, said the Ghanaian authorities have done the country a disservice by accepting to host Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby.