Parliamentarians on both sides of the political divide yesterday locked horns in parliament over government decision to allow the two former terror suspects to continue their stay in the country, following the expiration of a two-year agreement with the United States government.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Members of Parliament engaged in a heated debate when the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, made a statement on the floor yesterday.
The minister, who is also MP for Anya-Sowutuom, in the Greater Accra Region, told Parliament, the two Gitmos have been given refugee status and are therefore the responsibility of the Ghana government.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammed Salih Al-Dhuby were brought into the country from the United States’ infamous Guantanamo Bay after President Barack Obama moved to close down the detention center.
A diplomatic agreement was signed between the government of Ghana and the US in January 2016, which obliged Ghana to take a decision on their stay after two years.
Since then there has been pressure from the opposition NDC and sections of the Ghanaian public for government’s decision on the matter.
In parliament, 12 days after the expiration, the Foreign minister briefed the MPs on government’s decision.
She said there was no discussion of an exit plan between Ghana and the US which meant that immediately the stay expired, the US government is not obliged to take them back.
“In exploring options open to Government, we have hit two hurdles. The first being that the agreement stipulates that the government of Ghana is to take measures to facilitate the integration of Mr. BinAtef and Mr. Al-Dhuby into Ghanaian society. What this means is that while the United States’ obligations end after two years, Ghana’s obligations continue even after that,” she said.
“All obligations relating to the two suspects have now become the responsibility of Ghana,” she explained amidst murmurs from the MPs.
She said the Akufo-Addo government has found records that show that the two were granted Ghanaian refugee status in a letter dated July 21, 2016.
It meant the NDC government had already agreed to keep them in Ghana even before their two-year stay expired on January 6, this year.
Ghana is a signatory to the UN Convention on refugees and is required to protect them.
“The most essential component of refugee status and of asylum is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution,” she said.
Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs. Hon Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said, government failure to take outright decision to return the GITMO 2 back was most surprising as the NPP earlier opposing comments when they were brought in.
According to him, the government then in opposition said, the two former terrorist suspects were dangerous to the country and that their stay was not safe for Ghana.
Others MPs who contributed to the debate were the Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, National Security Minister, Albert Kan-Dapaah, Ambrose Dery, Mahama Ayariga, Yaw Patrick Boamah, Dr. Dominic Ayine and Dominic Nitiwul, Minister for Defense.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba