Three major Christian groups — the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCGC), the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC) — have asked the government to demonstrate that it is a listening government by sending the two former Guantanamo Bay prisoners back to where they came from.
In separate statements, the three groups said the fears and lamentations being expressed by Ghanaians over the presence of the two in Ghana were legitimate, as the two posed a real threat to the country.
Catholic Bishops Conference
“Our government should not take the citizens of this country for a ride by acting in ways that can have serious consequences on the nation’s safety and security,” a statement signed by the President of the GCBC, the Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, and issued by the council yesterday said.
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Since the government announced that it had accepted a request by the United States to accommodate the freed former Al Qaeda prisoners, many Ghanaians have expressed their indignation at the presence of the two in the country and demanded immediate action to repatriate them.
The bishops said they received the news of the transfer of the ex-prisoners — Mahmoud Omar Mohammed bin Atef, 36, and Khalid Shayk Mohammed, 34 — to Ghana with “great distress and sadness”.
Although the bishops conceded that Ghana was noted for receiving refugees in the past, they said the case of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners was totally different.
“These two men are not in this category. We think that they are not refugees but time bombs and so the government should do all it can to send them back as soon as practicable,” the statement said.
Against the background that bin Atef fought for the late Osama Bin Laden at one time, while Mohammed trained with al Qaeda, the bishops posed some critical questions.
“What is their mission here in Ghana? Does their presence not constitute or pose a clear danger to us? If, indeed, these two persons are harmless and if they have been ‘cleared’ of any terrorist act by the US Government, as our government and the US Government and some others want us to believe, why were they not sent back to Yemen or Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan where they come from or taken to the USA which found them harmless?”
“Did our representatives in Parliament discuss the merits and demerits of their resettlement here in Ghana?” they further asked.
Upsurge in terrorist activities
Touching on the growing terrorist activities around the world, the statement said, “Today, the problems caused by such groups as those in the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria and
Cameroun, Al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, Houthi rebels in Yemen, to mention but a few, are evident for all to see.”
“We have reports of the movement of Boko Haram fighters across parts of West Africa looking for places to pitch camp. This and other reports should make Ghana reflect soberly on how to tighten our nation’s borders and security to ensure that we do not fall victim to the attacks of these terrorist groups in the near future. The acceptance of two former prisoners of the Guantanamo Bay Camp is surely not a good move in the effort to secure the security of the nation,” it said.
Ghana’s security in election year
The bishops stated that 2016, being an election year, called for security matters to be taken seriously.
“In the lead up to elections this year, the security of our nation is going to be put to a severe test once again. We must understand that Ghana is not immune to the attacks of potential external terrorist forces,” the statement said.
They argued that internal issues could make the country susceptible to such attacks.
“This is why we think sincerely and honestly that to have two ex-prisoners of very dangerous backgrounds walking freely on our land is a wrong move and wish to call on the government to repatriate them as soon as practicable,” it said.
Concluding, the statement called on Parliament, religious leaders, chiefs, opinion leaders and civil society organisations interested in the security of Ghana to speak against this unilateral decision of the government to accept the ex-prisoners to Ghana and advise the government to do all it could to send these men back to wherever they came from.
Christian Council of Ghana
The CCG, in its statement signed by the General Secretary, Rev. Dr Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, questioned why the government failed to engage the people before taking the decision on the ex-prisoners.
“The non-engagement of civil society and other stakeholders on such a 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.
“We are of the strongest view that the inadequate public consultation and broader consensus building by the government is exposing our nation and the entire sub-region to terrorist attacks and must be reversed,” it said.
Taking a look at history, the council recalled how Ghanaians kicked against a decision by the US government to establish a military command base in Ghana in 2007.
“It will be recalled that in 2007, the United States 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 to Ghana is no different from setting up AFRICOM in Ghana,” it explained.
Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council
In its statement, the GPCC wondered about the security considerations that informed the government’s decision to host the ex-detainees when the United States, with its all-powerful and sophisticated security network, was unwilling to host them.
It stated that apart from the fact that the presence of the two had generated fear and insecurity among the people, the decision to accept them also sought to infringe on the 1992 Constitution.
“The decision to bring in the terror suspects appears contrary to Article 1 (1) of the 1992 Republican Constitution which states: ‘The Sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people of Ghana in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised in the manner and within the limits laid down in this Constitution’.”
“This is also confirmed by Article 35 (2), which also states: ‘The State shall protect and safeguard the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ghana, and shall seek the well-being of all her citizens’.”
The GPCC said its position should not be seen as a battle between Christians and Muslims.
“The position of the council should not be misconstrued as a Christianity versus Islam issue but rather a common national and international security threat that must be dealt with, without any religious colouration,” it said.