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It is humane to accept former Gitmo detainees; decision is in line with our proverbial hospitality


Governments are elected to make difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions, and that is a political reality Ghanaians should learn to live with. The Mahama’s administration’s decision to accept two former Gitmo detainees is indeed praiseworthy. However, the move has been roundly criticized by the President’s most ardent critics who have labelled the decision a betrayal of monumental proportions.

The Ghanaian airwaves, the last two days, have been filled with the unhinged hysteria and rants of Mahama’s critics. Some depicted the two men, originally from Yemen, as hardcore and unrepentant terrorists who should not permitted on the shores of Ghana; the door should be slammed shut in their faces, the critics thundered.

K.T. Hammond, a former deputy minister of the interior summed up the mood of the critics with this breath-taking depiction of the two men. “My heart is completely broken, l am devastated. These are infested maggots. It is a dangerous situation that we find ourselves in.”

All this chatter is silly, irritating and a sad reflection of how inhospitable Ghanaians have become, of late. What about our legendary hospitality? Did we suddenly jettison a value that has endeared to many around the world?

It is abundantly clear from all the din and brass band noise that the critics jumped to conclusions without doing due diligence; they apparently did not carefully examine the reasons the decision by the government to accept the two former Gitmo detainees .

Viewed from all angles, the decision to throw a welcome mat to the men was purely humanitarian. It was not designed to ingratiate ourselves with the world’s most powerful and wealthy nation. Instead, the decision was an effort to give the two men, wrongfully imprisoned on charges that have never been proven, a chance to enjoy freedom once again.

What in God’s name is wrong with this decision? Are Ghanaians not capable of extending a helping hand to others who are essentially stateless? Where is our humanity?

The United States specifically chose our country because of our political stability, a recognition of our excellent democratic credential and an acknowledgement of our democratic bona fides. In fact, based on this, the decision by the Obama administration to select Ghana as a temporary home for these men was a no brainer.

This is an undeniable truth; Ghana is an island of peace and tranquility in an ocean of violence and mayhem.. A cursory look around the West African region reveals broken political structures bedeviled by internal conflicts.

While the critics have the right to vilify the President and his foreign minister for a decision the critics describe as boneheaded, however, what the critics have glossed over is the fact that the former Gitmo detainees were never charged with any crime, terrorism or otherwise despite being held in prison for more than a decade.

One other important ingredient missing from the menu of the critics is the fact that in the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Afghanistan by the United States and its allies and the subsequent rout of the Taliban, Arab men in the country were randomly picked up by bounty hunters, Afghan warlords and the Northern Alliance and sold to the Americans who then shipped them off to Gitmo without actively investigating their guilt or otherwise.

Of course, most of the captured men were hardcore terrorists and deserved imprisonment. But many others were innocent, More importantly, the United States military tribunal in Gitmo could not find any evidence of the men’s involvement in terrorism.

As a matter of fact, the former detainees were supposed to have been released a long time ago; one of them indeed was due for release ten years ago, in 2006, and the other in 2009. But no country was willing to accept them until Ghana showed its magnanimity, its wonderful big heart.

Do the critics in their right minds think that if these men were indeed guilty as charged, they would be released? Americans don’t play that kind of game. If you are found guilty of a crime as dastardly as terrorism, Americans have no qualms bringing down the hammer heavy on you.

Critics of the government’s decision should take a deep breath and relax; these two men do not pose a threat to our peace and stability. They are going to be monitored 24/7 and the chance of them engaging in terrorism is absolutely minimal. Long before they exhaust their two-year welcome, the former Gitmo detainees will become an afterthought.




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