“This government has been consistent and sincere…Don’t pretend government is sleeping…” Kweku Baako replied critics of President Nana Akufo-Addo on his position on the issue regarding the stay of the two Gitmo detainees in Ghana.
Taking a subtle dig at some leading members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and social commentators – including Kwesi Pratt Jnr of the Insight Newspaper – who blame the Akufo-Addo government for its inability to repatriate the two ex-detainees, Kweku Baako emphasized on Peace FM’s Kokrokoo that the current administration has rather been principled on what needs to be done about the stay of the duo.
In 2016, Government of Ghana accepted the transfer of two Yemeni ex-detainees from the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay into the country for a period of two years, despite some popular opposition in Ghana.
The two – Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby – who were in detention for 14 years after being linked with terrorist group Al-Qaeda, arrived in Ghana January 2016 under a controversial arrangement between the two countries, which expired on January 6, 2018.
In the midst of the agitation for their repatriation, two citizens; Margaret Bamful and Henry Nana Boakye, subsequently sued the former Attorney General and the Minister of Interior contending that the two were being hosted illegally.
The two were justified by the Supreme Court, which declared as unconstitutional the agreement between the Mahama government and the United States.
On June 22, 2017 the Supreme Court of Ghana ruled that the agreement signed by the President of Ghana was in violation of Article 75 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. Only by an Act of Parliament could the agreement become valid. Subsequently, unless the current government submits the agreement to Parliament for approval within three months, the two prisons would be returned to the United States.
When the matter came up for discussion in Parliament, the House was informed that the agreement that was reached under a note verbale and Memorandum of Understanding.
A note verbale is a piece of diplomatic correspondence prepared in the third person and unsigned.
Indications are that the two governments opted for a less formal mode of communication and agreement because of security considerations.
It was also revealed that the then Mahama government granted the two Yemeni nationals refugee status before the end of their mandatory two-year stay in the country.
Foreign minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey told Parliament on January 24, 2018, the two have been given refugee status and are therefore the responsibility of the Ghana government.
“No exit arrangements were originally discussed between the two governments to end the bilateral arrangement at the time of negotiations,” she told the House.
Notwithstanding these latest piece of information, critics not excluding the Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the NDC, Joseph Ade Coker, insist the NPP should repatriate the two Guantanamo Bay detainees since they (NPP) kicked against their stay in Ghana when it was in opposition.
Another NDC stalwart and a member of the party’s legal team, Abraham Amaliba even dared the NPP government to make where the two ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees live in Ghana public.
He said this would serve as a proof to the position being held by the current administration that the Mahama-led government was not open to Ghanaians by keeping the agreement to host the two secret.
Seasoned Journalist, Kwesi Pratt, also waded into the fray.
Speaking to host Kwami Sefa Kayi on Peace FM’s Kokrokoo last Friday, he strongly held that President Akufo-Addo and the ruling NPP are to be blamed for legalizing the stay of the Gitmo 2 detainees.
He asserted that the current administration made it legal for the detainees to remain in Ghana though the Supreme Court had earlier ruled their stay “illegal. It was unlawful. It was unconstitutional. How do you perpetuate something that’s unconstitutional? You cannot perpetuate it”.
“The only way was to make it constitutional. So, those who have made this constitutional for it to remain on our necks are the NPP government because if they hadn’t gone to Parliament for ratification, it would have been an illegal act. But they have legalized the act”, he stated emphatically.
Consistent and Sincere
But addressing the issue on Wednesday edition of Kokrokoo, the Editor-in-Chief of the New Crusading Guide Abdul Malik Kweku Baako opined that the current administration has done nothing wrong.
According to him, “this government has been consistent and sincere on its values and position on this matter and all the official documentation actually authenticates the point I am making”.
He explained that there was no way the government could have sent the detainees back after the Supreme Court ruling because the previous government had made a deal with the American government to keep them here knowing very well the American government wasn’t willing to accept them back.
He said though the court gave the incumbent government 90 days to send them back, it is clear they couldn’t due to the agreement package between Ex-President Mahama and the American government.
“Within 90 days, there was no way government was going to be able to get a country to accept them. And true [true] too, the American government had also indicated that sending them back to America was a non-option. So, for the Supreme Court to have said send them back to the United States; that was obviously an unsustainable action but I’m sure they didn’t consider that implication and they didn’t have to anyway. For them, their resolve was that ensure they (detainees) are taken out of Ghanaian jurisdiction but they pointed to the US as destination. The truth is that that was out and those who signed the agreement knew that”, he expounded.
To him, unlike some critics who want Ghanaians to blame President Akufo-Addo and his government over this issue, Kweku Baako insists the “government did the right thing by first seeking ratification and ensured that they will get space and time to get a country that will willingly receive these guys. At that point, the government didn’t even know they had been given a refugee status”.
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