The Minority in Parliament has expressed shock over claims by the US Ambassador Robert Jackson that the John Mahama government took a unilateral decision to grant refugee status to two terror suspects currently being held in Ghana.
Bawku Central Member of Parliament Mahama Ayariga insists the US Embassy was part of the decision every step of the way and wondered why the Ambassador will claim ignorance.
In what is perhaps the first full disclosure, more than two years after the GITMO 2 scandal broke in January 2016, Ayariga said the government he was part of in 2016, decided to grant the two suspects refugee status so they could acquire a form of ID card fr the suspects.
Having been flown into the country under controversial circumstances, the MP said the Yemenis, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammed Salih Al-Dhuby, had no identification cards, passports which will enable them access the National Health Insurance and other essential services in the country.
He said the refugee status granted the two suspects came with a form of ID which enabled the two to settle in peacefully.
“The matter was discussed with the US embassy; the case officer for the US Embassy was Tim Miller and he was briefed by the case officer representing Ghana’s National Security,” he stated.
He found it rather surprising claims by the US Ambassador that the refugee status conferred on the two was done unilaterally.
The two came into Ghana in January 2016 following an agreement reached with the Obama Administration to close down the Guantanamo Bay which was housing a number of terror suspects at the time.
The two Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammed Salih Al-Dhuby, had been kept in the bay for close to 14 years after they were arrested in Afghanistan in 2001.
According to the John Mahama administration, the two did not pose any major security challenge to Ghana and granted them a new home at least for two years.
They were admitted into the country albeit huge protest, controversy and lawsuits.
Even though there were speculations Ghana received some cash for the upkeep of the two suspects no specific figure was mentioned at the time the John Mahama administration was signing the agreement with the US.
Ex-president John Mahama
However, Mahama Ayariga told Joy News’ Evans Mensah a total amount of $300,000 was paid to Ghana for the upkeep of the two for two years after which the government can take a decision on what to do with them.
He said the amount was converted into cedis, with the government accruing a little over one million cedis.
According to Ayariga, the NDC government spent a little over 571,000 cedis on the upkeep of the suspects and leftover 595,000 in the coffers of the national security when it lost power in the 2016 elections.
He challenged the government to disclose how much it is left of the amount and what it has been used for.
The Bawku Central MP also stated emphatically that the refugee status granted the two suspects is due to expire in July this year.
He wanted to know what the government plans to do when the period elapses.
Government spokespersons had insisted the refugee status granted the two tied their hands and left them with little or no choice but to allow the two to stay.
Ayariga insisted the NDC has been consistent on the matter of the GITMO 2 scandal. He said in keeping with Ghana’s credentials as a country that believes in freedom and the rights of human being, the John Mahama government was right in opening the country’s doors to the two suspects.
A deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Owiredu has however challenged the claims by Ayariga that key stakeholders were consulted in the decision to grant refugee status to the two.
He said they had perused all documents and at no point was the issue of refugee status raised.
When he was asked whether he knew about the account, the amount remaining and the expiration date for the refugee status of the two suspects, the Deputy Minister said he did not have that information but promised to cross-check and provide same later.