Gitmo Two: ‘It’s surprising Nana Addo is leading the chorus’
The Former VRA Chief Executive, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby has expressed surprise over Nana Addo’s comment on the former Guantanamo detainees.
The flagbearer of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo has accused the ruling government of breaching Section 35 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (Act 762).
In a statement, he said: “The problem we face is yet another case of the failure of leadership by the President of the Republic and a sad example of his belief that he is answerable to no one, not even to the laws of the Republic, like Section 35 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (Act 762), which, as President, he is sworn to uphold. That law prohibits the transaction into which he has entered with the United States government.”
Had President Mahama done the needed consultations, “Ghanaian people may well have been spared the disquieting anxiety in this time of justifiably heightened fear of global terrorism, that we are being led by a President who ostensibly in the name of compassion, prefers to ignore laws designed to defend the most sensitive area of all, our nation’s security,” Nana Akufo-Addo noted.
Speaking to Nana Addo’s take on the Gitmo two saga, Dr Wereko-Brobby in an article wondered the kind of relationship the NPP flagbearer will have with the United States should he win the 2016 election.
“Therefore, I find it quite surprising and astonishing that Nana has waded into the fray and is leading the chorus challenging the legality of the exchange, claiming categorically that it infringes the Constitution of Ghana. Since the matter is in the Supreme Court for determination, I think it best for all of us to await the outcome.
Suffice it to say that Nana’s public intervention in this debate has many inherent obstacles for relations between him and the US Embassy. They will tread cautiously from now till the November elections in case anything said in confidence is used for partisan political gain. More serious will be the relationship between President Akufo-Addo and the United States should he win the next general elections. But I will not speculate yet, as it has not happened”.
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The GITMO Saga: Beyond the State of Fear and Panic
The tale is told of a gravely-ill patient at the Okomfo Anokye hospital in Kumasi whose survival depended on an urgent infusion of blood. Just as the medical team was on the point of administering the procedure, the patient mustered the last gasp of breath in him and muttered. “I hope you made sure the donor was does not belong to the NDC” Being Oseikrom, it’s not a stretch to guess the hapless patient was a dye-in-the wool NPP ,eber .
Public discourse and Politics in the 24 years of the 4th Republic of Ghana have all been about partisan adversarial posturing. The notions of national interest and national cohesion have been jettisoned by those who are supposed to govern in our name and on our behalf. Instead, the people’s behalf has been replaced by the parochial and debilitating practice of “what position will serve our peculiar partisan interests?”
And so it has been with the matter of the resettlement in Ghana of two ex-detainees of the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention centre of the United States of America. The raging public debate, largely ill-informed, is not premised on what is in Ghana’s national interest, but what will give the largest boost to the political fortunes of the NDC & NPP in the run up to November’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
I am straining at the leashes to establish what interest the churches have in this matter to propel or justify their central involvement. By the same token, I cannot fathom what purpose is served by the so-far divisive pronouncements by spokespersons of the national Chief Imam and the head of the Shia faction of the Muslim faith in Ghana.
Ironically these same religious leaders are pontificating that this matter must not be treated as a Christian- Muslim feud at the same time as they demand and insist to be at the centre of very delicate diplomatic discussions between Ghana and the United States of America. If anyone finds out why our religious leaders have turned sought to inject divine intervention in this matter, please let me in on the secret.
And so like everything else in Ghana, discussions about the merits or otherwise of us hosting two ex-detainees for at least two years, have degenerated into very shrill but largely uniformed posturing. Most Ghanaians are unaware of the bald facts of the basic facts to aid them to contribute to the discourse and arrive at informed conclusions about whether it is or nit in Ghana’s national interest.
For now all we can agree on is that ‘Oman’ Ghana is in a deeply agitated state of fear and panic and apparently facing an imminent terrorist attack. Ghanaians have developed a bunker mentality which fosters deniers of fundamental human rights the excuse to crush all freedoms in the name of our collective national security. The relationship between Ghana and the United States of America is being stretched to near breaking point.
And all for what? A lack of answers to the key questions of 1) What informed the decision that led to Ghana accepting to host two Yemeni Ex-detainee ‘aliens’ in our midst?; 1)Are we alone in making such an arrangement with the US?; 2) What dangers are posed to us by the decision we took?; 3)Are the arrangements in breach of the normal rules governing international diplomatic relations or any of the laws of Ghana?; 4)Has the manner of prosecution of this matter likely to have potential permanent injury to our relations with the US in particular, and other countries in general?
My search for answers has unearthed the following interesting and incontrovertible facts. Firstly, Fifty six (56) countries around the world, including thirteen (13) in Africa are hosting ex-Guantanamo detainees. Please check countries and numbers on http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/transfer-countries.
Secondly, none of the ex-detainees in any of the 55 other host countries have been charged with, and/or convicted of fostering terrorism of any description in their host countries. Additionally, there have been no incidents of terrorism in the host countries that can be directly or indirectly traced to the decision of those countries to host the detainees.
It is interesting to observe that Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria, sub-Saharan countries which have suffered major terrorist attacks in recent weeks, are not hosting any Guantanamo ex-detainees. Therefore, this makes nonsense of the attempt to link hosting ex-detainees with the likelihood of terrorist attacks on the country that accepts them.
It is therefore reasonable for me to assume that the state of fear and panic that has engulfed us has more to do with how we have gone about this here rather than any remotely tangible evidence based on the experience of 55 countries that have accepted hostages, After all, ours is the one and only transfer that has generated such noise and fury in the citizenry and attracted international interest.
I start off with the conduct of the government and its communication gurus. Firstly, it was wrong to assume that you could keep the lid on a matter which involved dealings with the most accountable and transparent governance systems in the world than that of the United States of America. Ghana should have been the first to announce this deal to its people, rather than being informed by Fox News, the most right-wing and anti-Obama media outlet in America.
Secondly, and more importantly, the process of internal consultations left much to be desired. If the democratic dispensation in Ghana were like those of more mature democracies, there would be a mechanism in place for consensual discussions of issues of national interest.
In the United Kingdom, the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition is occasionally invited to meetings of the National Security Council to be briefed and consulted on matters deemed to be of wider national interest.
Likewise in the United States, as soon as the Presidential Candidate of the Opposition party is selected (lord forbid it’s Donald Trump), he or she is briefed daily on national security and other matters which are deemed to be of national interest. Additionally bilateral Senate committees on national security and other national interest are briefed, sometimes in camera, by the Government and security agencies.
In our country, the highly partisan political atmosphere we have established does not allow any room for cross party consultation on matters of presumed national interest. This is a fact of the entire 4th republic, period. So it is that in this case, y consultation between government and the alternative had to take place through a third party, the US Embassy in Accra.
I have established that Nana Akufo- Addo was informed just before the detainees were transferred to Accra. I have further established that there was more than one meeting between Nana and the embassy. NO, Nana Addo was not consulted six months prior to the arrival , and I cannot fathom whose interest was served by putting out such easily verifiable lies.
Nana Addo served as Foreign Minister under President Kuffuor, getting to chair the UN Security Council. Therefore he has firsthand experience of the sensitive atmosphere in which diplomacy is conducted, especially the strict need for tact, decorum and circumspection. He is aware of the several communication media deployed, incl. Aide memoire, note verbale, diplomatic note, etc, all of them short of formal agreements between nations.
Therefore I find it quite surprising and astonishing that Nana has waded into the fray and is leading the chorus challenging the legality of the exchange, calming categorically that it infringes the constitution of Ghana. Since the matter is in the Supreme Court for determination, I think it best for all of us to await the outcome.
Suffice it to say that Nana’s public intervention in this debate has many inherent obstacles for relations between him and the US Embassy. They will tread cautiously from now till the November elections in case anything said in confidence is used for partisan political gain. More serious will be the relationship between President Akufo-Addo and the United States should he win the next general elections. But I will not speculate yet, as it has not happened .
The other matter i have been concerned with is the question of whether our guests are terrorists or not. There is no question that they were arrested in an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in 2001 and taken to Guantanamo c=detention centre. However, it is also true that all attempts to charge and convict them of terrorist offences for more than 14 years, including subjecting them to legally questionable interrogation methods, failed to establish credible grounds for their incarceration.
On the issue of security assessments, you make your choice to suit your argument. The 2007 assessment that is often quoted was done under the Presidency of George W Bush and his acolytes Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld; the triumvirate that established the Guantanamo detention centre. On assumption into office in January 2009, Barrack Obama vowed to close down Guamtanamo as an indignity and an affront to the human rights beliefs and principles of the United States
Obama ordered a complete review of all previous assessments of the prisoners in the camp, as a prelude to initiating the closure of the camp. A report produced by an inter-agency panel comprising all the national security agencies, in 2010 unanimously cleared our GITMO guests of any suspicions of terrorist threats.
Therefore I am a little baffled by the stance of the Christian leadership of this country in doggedly insisting that our guests are terrorists then, now and forever more, period. What happened to the lesson of Saul being turned Paul on the road to Damascus? My catholic mass server teachings have been shaken to their foundations.
Likewise, i have never in my over sixty years of life heard media pronouncements presenting contradictory Shia and Sunni positions on matters of national interest. As far as i can remember, Muslims in Ghana live and have always lived as a unitary united community, practising the three predominant strand of the faith found in Ghana (including the Ahmadis persecuted elsewhere)
Our dear nation Ghana is the only one we have. We recognise this by asking God to bless our homeland and make our nation’s great and strong. Let this be the sentiment that drives our daily lives and the conduct of affairs that promote and reinforce our national unity and cohesion.
Let us therefore banish the easy resort to partisan and narrow political interests in the conduct of our national affairs. We must always remember that the party of Opposition today may become the government of tomorrow. It is the insincere failure to observe this simple transition that has made most Ghanaians lose faith in the conduct of politics and political practitioners in Ghana.
Ours is among the most vibrant plural democracies in the world. It also has one the most profligate media landscapes in the world. The combination of the two is that we have become a society that talks incessantly about everything, without recognition for discretion, decorum or respect for boundaries on the principle of “the need to know”
However as I keep reminding all and sundry, every one of us has the right to free speech and expression, BUT everyone also has the responsibility to know what they are talking about. Let us learn to do this and then we can really eschew the constant resort to creating states of fear and panic in our dear nation.
Charles WEREKO-BROBBY (Dr)
Chief Policy Analyst , GIPPO