US unhappy about political dimension of GITMO detainees in Ghana

BY: Severious Kale Dery
Mr Robert P. Jackson, the US Ambassador to Ghana, addressing the journalists. To his left is Ms Sara Veldhuizen Stealy, the Press Attaché at the US Embassy

The US Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Robert P. Jackson, has expressed regret that the presence of the ex-Guantanamo Bay detainees in the country had taken a political dimension. 

“I think it has become a political issue here. I regret that,” he said, adding that foreign policies should fundamentally be non-political and that the United States-African foreign policy had largely been bi-partisan.

Mr Jackson, who was answering questions from journalists at the embassy to mark his 90th day in the country, however, said it was helpful that such a discussion about security and terrorism was going on.  

Interaction with the media

The about one-hour interaction with the media saw Mr Jackson answering questions ranging from US foreign policy on Ghana, terrorism and US support to Ghana’s democracy. 

He spent close to 30 minutes to clarify the issue on the ex-GITMO detainees in the country, rejecting claims that the presence of the two posed a security risk to Ghana.

He said countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, France, Burkina Faso, Belgium and Mali were victims of terrorist attacks and wondered whether those countries were keeping any ex-GITMO detainees, adding, “I just don’t see any linkages between having any detainees here and terrorism occurring in the region.”

Mr Jackson said terrorism was an international problem and that no country was immune to it.

Money for detainees

He denied categorically that the government of Ghana received money from the US government to host the two detainees.

“Let’s get back to the fact. That there was no exchange of money, except that we are paying for the lodging and maintenance cost of the two detainees for two years.

“Beyond that there has been absolutely no money, no payment, no bribe, no agreement. We did not tie the Millennium Challenge Compact, which had already been signed, to the detainees. We have not increased or decreased US assistance to Ghana. I want to be very clear that there was no exchange of money as far as I am concerned,” Mr Jackson stressed.

Consultations with stakeholders

He said Ghana did not just accept the ex-detainees when the US Government approached it, explaining that the country was to host three of the ex-detainees but the Ghana Ambassador to the United States, Lt. Gen Joseph Henry Smith, interviewed them and finally accepted two instead of the three.

Asked whether there was consultation before the arrival of the ex-detainees,  Mr Jackson was emphatic that his outfit consulted the leader of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, before the arrival of the ex-detainees.

“We did talk to Nana Akufo-Addo before the transfer happened and after the transfer, we met with a variety of civil society organisations and I personally met with the Catholic Bishops Conference and I met with Archbishop Duncan Williams and others to talk about this issue,” he said.

Epic Guardian 2016.

Referring to terrorism and Ghana’s preparedness, Ambassador Jackson said from April 26, 2016, the US and Ghana would launch an eight-day joint readiness exercise dubbed, “Epic Guardian 2016”.

Epic Guardian is a regularly scheduled training exercise held in Africa and designed to increase the effectiveness of US and African government entities and security forces in responding to international threats such as trafficking and terrorism.

He said such exercises had been previously held in Malawi, Cameroon, Djibouti and Seychelles, adding that a separate portion of this year’s exercise would involve similar coordination between the US and Cape Verde.