It is turning out that the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) government was paid over $300,000 for accepting to host the two alleged hardcore terrorists from Yemen who were deported from the United States Naval Base of Guantanamo Bay on the orders of former US President Barack Obama and his government.
The amount was meant for the upkeep of the two alleged Al-Qaeda terrorists: Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby as they stay in Ghana.
However, it has now been made clear that the amount paid was to cover the two for only two years and that any subsequent debt incurred over their upkeep (after the two years) is going to be borne by the Ghanaian taxpayer.
Then President John Mahama had said that the two Al-Qaeda fighters were brought into the country on ‘compassionate grounds.’ But the lack of transparency in the whole deal has triggered another round of heated political debate over the NDC’s handling of the matter at the time.
Majority Leader in Parliament and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, did not hide his irritation on radio Thursday when he said that the Mahama-led administration shortchanged Ghanaians in the whole deal.
He said that even before the deal was expired for any possible re-negotiation, the NDC government had issued Ghanaian passports to the alleged terrorists and were in the process of integrating them into the Ghanaian society.
The NDC government, he said, even went to the extent of trying to change the names of the two alleged Al-Qaeda terrorists and that records were there to prove that attempt.
According to him, the name change was even done way ahead of the expiry of the two-year agreement that President Mahama and his minister signed with the then Obama administration.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu also said Mahama and his administration surreptitiously granted the two – who according to US authorities, were Osama Bin Laden’s foot soldiers – refugee status before the expiry of the two-year agreement.
He said one of them is married to a Moroccan but has vowed never to go to the Maghreb country for reasons best known to him.
The majority leader also said that then Foreign Minister, Hannah Tetteh, had created the impression in parliament that the so-called deal was subject to renewal after two years, which elapsed about two weeks ago, although the same Mahama government had secretly undermined the two-year agreement and granted them refugee status.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the NDC government, in altering the agreement, did not even have the courtesy to include it in the handing over notes to the NPP government during the transition early 2017.
The NPP Acting General Secretary, John Boadu, said on Asempa Fm that the Akufo-Addo government was able to successfully negotiate with Morocco to repatriate the alleged terrorists to that country, but when the documents were reviewed, it was detected that the Mahama administration had granted them refugee status without informing parliament.
Interestingly, the opposition NDC MPs in parliament, whose government took the unpopular decisions, are the same guys daring the current government to deport the two terrorists.
The minority chastised Akufo-Addo’s government over its failure to bring the agreement before parliament for ratification before allowing the terrorists to stay in the country.
NDC MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, who appeared to have turned himself into a spokesperson for the alleged terrorists of late, said recently that the two men were comporting themselves and had not given the security agencies any cause to complain.
He claimed on Peace FM Thursday, “There was no specific exit agreement…..there is nothing wrong; we have always known that. That is why within the two-year period discussions ought to continue.”
The MP admitted that the Mahama administration decided to give a “refugee status” instead of a “permanent residence or a visa” because the refugee board can “revoke it” at any time.
“Our motivation was the national interest…it came with support for our national security in the fight against terrorism,” he claimed.
“There was the understanding that within the two-year period, there will be discussions between USA, Ghana and the two detainees to find out if they want to go back to their countries or remain in Ghana. If they decide to stay in the country, they can find employment if they are properly integrated; and I don’t find anything wrong with that, especially as government has confirmed that they have been of good behaviour,” he said.
According to him, “If we don’t feel comfortable with them, we can revoke the refugee status; tell them that we are deporting them; if we are no longer a compassionate country or give them an option of a third country like Morocco.”
He added, “We all have to be responsible as far as this issue is concerned and so I would have wished that the ruling government would not have politicized this issue; we don’t need politics to be.”