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Christians should be saddened by their leaders’ attitude to the guantanamo bay prisoners

BY: K.B. Asante

According to the Daily Graphic of January 12, 2016, the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council have asked the government to demonstrate that it is a listening government by sending the two Guantanamo Bay prisoners back to where they came from.

The government should listen to the people, the release is said to have stated. Christian leaders seem to be suggesting that their flock should ignore Christian charity and the norms of today’s accepted civilised behaviour.

The argument that the action of the government posed a real security threat is untenable. The government is responsible for the security of the nation and has the UN alliances, resources and information to do this. Maintenance of national security is a difficult and complicated matter in today’s world. It cannot be based on transient popular feeling.

Our church leaders should not promote ignorance. The Foreign Ministry and authorised government institutions give visas to foreigners to visit Ghana daily. They do not have to consult parliament or any other institution provided they act in accordance with the ruling laws. I maintain that government is not bound by the Constitution or any other requirement to consult or discuss the visits and stay of visitors to the country with any authority as is being suggested in some quarters. Any consultation is at its own discretion. The aim is promotion and maintenance of security. That is why we the people should be careful about the government we vote into power.

There is no question of the government making a “unilateral” decision to accept “ex-prisoners” of other nations to Ghana. I would have thought that Christians would welcome the opportunity to express human charity to fellow creatures who have been imprisoned for years without the due processes of law.

Now let us have a few facts cleared. The Guantanamo Bay prisoners are not persons convicted of terrorist crimes. They were suspects arrested after a most hideous crime over New York on September 11, 2001. It is not difficult to find all about the terrible attack on the US and the arrest of those found by American Intelligence to be connected with the dastardly attack.

We the people and, especially, the media should do our homework before we comment. Those arrested were sent to Guantanamo Bay which is not United States territory. They could, therefore, be interrogated by methods which would be illegal on US territory and would certainly be questioned by US citizens concerned with human rights and the rule of law.

It is believed that some of the prisoners were subjected to inhuman, degrading and unlawful treatment to extract confession and information. In any case, those found guilty were dealt with. But a few remained who could not be convicted. The American administration was in great difficulty. It was championing human rights all over the world but was alleged to be practising torture and other inhuman treatment in Guantanamo Bay. President Obama decided to bring a halt to this dilemma by closing Guantanamo Bay.

As indicated, the detainees could not be sent to the United States and in some cases to their “home” countries because ocvf internal politics and other reasons. The US administration, therefore, asked friendly countries to take over some of the detainees. It appears that eventually President Obama, through his aides, approached the Government of Ghana to give asylum to the two detainees who are now the centre of the present controversy.

What we should realise is that the detainees in question are not convicted criminals. They, therefore, deserve appropriate understanding, assistance and Christian charity. It is a pity that the reaction to the incident from those who should know better has resulted in confusion about governance and the rule of government.

It is reported that a Christian Council delegation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have met officially with the American Embassy officials to discuss the matter. This action questions our sovereignty. This is no matter for officials of the American Embassy. Once the government has decided at the highest level, American officials do not discuss the matter with other officials and institutions. Ghana is either a sovereign country or an apology of a self-governing nation. Parliament, which represents the nation, has the right to question the government and not agents of another state. The people can air their views but government, armed with all the facts, has the right to take decisions in the interests of the security of the state.

In fact the government can use the “asylum” issue to improve national security with regard to visitors. Those with some knowledge about security whether pro- or anti-American have great respect for the capacity of the security institutions of the US including the FBI and the CIA. I do not think our government asked for money to agree to the deal as is being suggested in some quarters. What would be done by any good government in our circumstances is to ask for American assistance in security surveillance, to identify and keep “foreign terrorists” out of the country.

Surveillance over those who might already be in the country would also be useful. We do not have all the facilities for this. An indoctrinated graduate left the country not long ago, apparently to join his comrades in ruthless murder. How many more are there in the country and what are they trying to do? Are we safe? President Mahama is a good communicator but his information institutions did not do well in explaining the Guantanamo issue. That is why there is so much confusion of thought and utterances about the deal with the United States government.

Properly handled, the present Guantanamo Bay issue will strengthen the capacity of the relevant Ghana security and intelligence institutions to deal with threats from Boko Haram, ISIS and other ruthless inhuman organisations.

I have heard a few alarming but ignorant comments by “security” analysts. Such “experts” should not be entertained in our foreign intelligence field. We need officials of robust and unsentimental knowledge to handle relevant foreign intelligence issues. And the government should know how to inform the public of foreign happenings which affect national security and, therefore, the welfare of the people.