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Implications of open Guantanamo on our politics

BY: Collins Essamuah
President Donald John Trump
President Donald John Trump

President Donald John Trump of the United States, in his first state of the nation address last Tuesday night, said he had okayed the Guantanamo Detention Centre in the American enclave in Cuba to remain open. 

Normally, as a Republican, this would be no news, as the party is the one which believes in a strong America with an outward-looking foreign policy and global power projection. It was Republican President George Bush who had Guantanamo opened in the first place to deal with the aftermath of the terror attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001. 

America is a superpower and as such has imposed or thrust upon itself, obligations of policy and conduct which affect the rest of us in all sorts of ways.

For example, we all believe the only country that can influence the current North Korean regime for better or the worst is neighbouring China; in much the same way, we all believe that America can influence Israel. These are burdens, opportunities or disadvantages of the powerful when you dispose of so much power. 

But the Guantanamo story affects us in Ghana in several significant ways in our current internal politics. The ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is pro-West in its ideology and foreign policy leanings.

 Guantanamo detainees, or Gitmo Two, played a role in our own presidential and parliamentary elections two years ago to the advantage of the eventual victors who are now stuck with the responsibility of navigating us safely out of the mess they created in the first place.

The genesis and the direction of the particular Ghanaian side of the Guantanamo story should teach all of us that it is best to leave foreign policy out of domestic politics.

But because of the story surrounding this matter and the success of the anti-Gitmo campaign, I am not hopeful of a hands-off policy by any party in the future.  

Allow me to sketch in broad strokes what happened in this country prior to the election when it was announced by government that two detainees from Guantanamo had been accepted and brought to Ghana for a period of two years, which ended last January 6, 2018.

 Now we know that they have been given refugee status, which is not fatal to any further decisions contemplated by our lawful government.

We also know now that America provided money for their upkeep in the two years they were to be here. 

This bare recital is bereft of the fierce anti-terrorist campaign waged by the NPP as a party against both the government of President John Mahama of the now opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and strangely enough, the United States government for thrusting a hot potato in their own country upon us as elections loomed in both countries. Former President Mahama and the NDC party were colourfully and vividly painted as reckless and wicked men and women ready to sacrifice our peace and stability for absolutely no gain in the estimation of the comity of nations.

If my readers will remember, I took on the Presbyterian Moderator and the President of the Catholic Bishop Conference, Reverend Professor Emmanuel Martey, and Bishop Osei-Bonsu respectively, for their rejection of the argument of compassion and mercy for the homeless and innocent that the harried NDC government at the time proffered.

It will be revealing, instructive and rewarding to know their reaction to the emphatic statement in Parliament last week by our  Foreign Minister, Madam Ayorkor Botchway, that the Gitmo Two posed no threat to the security, stability or peace of this country since their arrival two years ago.

I assert today, that their view, which I roundly condemned, was neither informed by the Bible or Christian theology, but by extraneous concerns employing the cassock they wore. 

Two individuals, the national youth organiser aspirant of the NPP, and an old lady, surrogates for the NPP, sued for the declaration that the ‘note verbale’ which underpinned the arrangement constituted an agreement with a foreign power requiring ratification by our Parliament to be effective, and consequential orders. I say surrogates because this has happened before.  Awoonor-Williams, who sued to kick out Komla Gbedemah, the leader of the opposition National Alliance of Liberals [NAL], from Parliament in 1969 in respect of  article 71 of the Second Republican Constitution was represented in court by Harold Darko, the lawyer for the ruling Progress Party at the time, and he Awoonor-Williams eventually replaced Gbedemah as the Member of Parliament for that seat.  Henry Nana Boakye is an NPP leading apparatchik and the addition of an elderly woman co-plaintiff was intended to deceive and confuse us as the controversy raged.

The Supreme Court judgement came long after the election and the installation in office of the NPP, and it was revealing in its reasonableness, considering present developments.

The victory of the NPP and the accession to office of President Akufo-Addo meant that the conduct of our foreign policy and the ramifications of the acceptance of the Gitmo Two had now become the sole and unchallenged responsibility of those who had opposed tooth and nail the arrival of the two on our shores.

That responsibility cannot be legally or politically shared with any other person or party apart from President Akufo-Addo and the NPP government he has established.

Since our current President was the Foreign Minister in the President J.A Kufuor government for a greater portion of the tenure of that administration, we all are justified in expecting management of a problem in a way as to demonstrate his experience.

Unfortunately, that has not been forthcoming. It would appear the NPP government believes demonising the opposition NDC will make their problem go away.

The people of this country have freely and openly given the power and authority to the NPP government to resolve this matter in a way that guarantees our peace, preserves our interfaith relations, maintains our friendship with America, and also maintains our position as worthy of trust in our foreign policy. President Trump has his own domestic battles to fight.
 
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