Tag: President Barack Obama


Ghana’s Gitmo dilemma

In the same week that Ghana’s interest rates soared to an eye watering 17.7%, a US Embassy official admitted Ghana would be sharing the upkeep costs for two Guantanamo Bay ex-detainees.

Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef (left) and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby (right)

Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef (left) and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby (right)

Yemeni Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Saudi-born Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby were transferred on 6 January by the US to live in Ghana for two years.

The transfer followed an agreement between the two countries that reportedly has been going on for a year.


Truth and lies

Daniel Fennell, head of public affairs at Ghana’s US Embassy, said on TV3’s ‘Hot Issues’ programme that upkeep expenses were being shared by the two countries.

No sooner was that information circulating, Fennell then reportedly retracted his statement, falling in step with the

President Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing the bill for detainees' stay

President Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing the bill for detainees’ stay

official government line in Ghana. The country’s president John Dramani Mahama has denied that Ghana is footing any part of the bill or that he received $300 million for the detainees’ stay.

More revelations are emerging, namely that these men’s involvement in terrorism was downgraded to a minimal threat. According to the Wall Street Journal, the US misled recipient countries. It seems Ghana wittingly or unwittingly accepted this advice without conducting independent checks.

No doubt most Ghanaians are outraged. Ghana enjoys an international image as a friendly and safe country compared to some of its neighbours. In such uncertain times when countries such as Burkina Faso and Egypt most recently, and latterly Nigeria and Mali faced terror attacks, preserving that haven of relative tranquillity is paramount.

Whether you believe the men, who were interred for almost 15 years without trial, pose a threat to Ghana or not – the process taken to agree their transfer to Ghana is dubious. These men are reportedly self-confessed terrorists with Atef believed to have trained at an Al Qaeda camp, according to Joy FM and Wall Street Journal reports.

Yemen in particular, where Atef is from, is considered to be a hot bed of terrorist activity. This is probably why US president Barack Obama recently signed a defense authorisation bill barring detainees from being transferred to Yemen.

 

Republicans v Democrats

The Republicans are currently trying to push through a moratorium to prevent more detainees leaving the prison because they are considered a risk. And yet the official line from Ghana’s government remains that these men pose no threat and are under 24 hour surveillance.

Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay

Seems contradictory….. Why monitor them if they are considered low risk? And if they are so low risk why hasn’t the US taken them in? US law prevents the country from accepting these detainees. On top of that, there would be a public outcry.

Closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has been an Obama pledge. So it’s unsurprising that he is keen to dispense of the prisoners even if – to some – it looks as though he is exporting terrorism.

The two prisoners, the first to be sent to a sub-Saharan country, are also the first of 17 due to leave the prison in early 2016. Obama is under pressure to reduce prisoner numbers below 100. With 17 due to go, the total facility population will drop to 90, according to online publication defenseone.com
Some have been already been sent to Uganda and Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa, and Georgia and Slovakia in Eastern European, according to multiple media reports. But where are the rest going to and can Ghana expect more?

 

Keeping mum

Those with authority in Ghana have been economical on these details. Under Ghana’s laws, people considered to have terrorist connections are barred from entering the country. So why would Mahama not only flout this legislation but also deny Ghanaians the right to this knowledge?

Most Ghanaians learnt about these revelations through US’ Fox News. Even with the cat out of the bag, the Ghanaian government is inadvertently stoking up fears and conspiracy theories by saying very little.

Joy FM revealed that those in Ghana’s security council (the interior and foreign ministers) were not fully aware of Mahama’s plans. Many have questioned why the Ghanaian public was not deemed important enough to be told. Possibly because the government knew the response would have been not too far away from the current reaction…Sound familiar? Didn’t Ghana follow a similar route in its reported involvement in Ebola testing in the country?

 

Friend or foe?

So what’s in it for a Mahama? Well, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended Ghana for its role in image.imghelping to combat Ebola. Taking on these ex-detainees may be another way Mahama can curry favour with the West and the international community …..even if it is at the expense of Ghanaians. Afterall, this may be his last few months as president….elections are scheduled for 7 November 2016.

Of late, Mahama has been saying the decision to take in the ex-prisoners was out of human compassion and because of Ghana’s alliance with the US. But wasn’t Ghana’s first president Dr Kwame Nkrumah a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961? And wasn’t one of the tenets of that organisation that members were not for or against any major power bloc?

With evidence emerging that the US may be have misled recipient countries, I wonder how Ghana’s decision will impact national security and that of her neighbours. Could the presence of these men have repercussions for Ghana politically or dissuade current or future investment?

It is unclear how much access these men have to the wider Ghanaian public or what level of surveillance there is on their telephone and internet activities. We are not clear what happens after their two years expire. Do they gain Ghanaian citizenship? Do they go home? Or can they invite their families over?

What we do know is that Ghanaians are struggling to survive as utility and fuel costs soar and Dumsor continues to blight the country.

Don’t Ghanaians deserve to be put first in their own country? Afterall, doesn’t charity begin at home?

By Kirsty Osei-Bempong (@MisBeee)

Masquerade Of Justice: Introducing Anas Aremeyaw Anas

‘And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.’ – JOHN 1: 5 [NET]

Anas Aremeyaw Anas. An investigative journalist who cultivates his shining work in the depths of Ghanaian darkness. He works to the mantra ‘Name, Shame and Jail’ – a mission statement cultivated by his horror at corruption running rife in Ghana’s military and police. Brought up in a military barracks, and an owner of degrees in Law and Journalism, his metier focuses on human rights and anti-corruption – gathering hard evidence of crime and corruption in order to put perpetrators behind bars.

 

Anas posing as a mad man on the streets of Ghana

Anas posing as a mad man on the streets of Ghana

Amidst the ‘Who You Know’ culture which creeps along the corridors of Ghanaian power, Anas is a marked man. Enter, the disguises. His real identity is classified. He is seen publically wearing masks made of African beads which cascade down from various caps and hats, obscuring his features from view. Even when giving a TED talk in 2013, the beads remained, a candy-coloured shield to keep his identity intact while he shared his motives with the world. From his youth, Anas was known to enjoy theatrics, with a former President of the National Association of Pan-African Clubs recalling how Anas was once given a role in a casual play – “if you wanted him to play the role…he would go out and look for costumes, and then come in full regalia, ready to play the part”.

 

The ‘Name, Shame and Jail’ mantra has powered an impressive portfolio of investigative work. He published the results of two investigations in 2006 – one involving a cookie factory which was using maggot-infested flour, and another exposing corruption inside the Passport Agency, which earned him the Journalist of the Year Award via the Ghana Journalists Association. He has gone undercover in Ghana’s biggest state run orphanage, exposing corruption and child abuse. He has exposed fraud and corruption at the Tema Harbour. The dumsor fans among you may be interested to note that Anas in 2012 premiered a three-phase investigation into the power distribution sector in Ghana, exposing corruption carried out by employees of ECG. He has also investigated the effects of illegal gold mining in Ghana, and exploitation carried out by an ‘Abortion Lord’ who slept with female clients who came to him seeking abortions, as well as exposing child sacrifices being carried out in the Northern region, calling for the prosecution of fetish priests who were participating in such barbaric activity.

 

Disguises are required to successfully infiltrate the secret circles which are the focus of his investigations. There is no space for failure. Anas notes, “The threats are not imagined. They are real…When you are dealing with bad guys in the society and you take a swipe at them and you miss, you embolden them. I have no time for that. If I pick a story that I want to do, I do it well.” He is a possessor of many items of disguise – a marvellous array of wigs, masks, and surveillance equipment have helped him in many missions. He has masqueraded as an albino body parts trafficker, and even posed as a rock to film cocoa smugglers! One of his most notorious missions involved him gaining admission into Ghana’s largest psychiatric hospital under the guise of a severely mentally-ill patient. He secretly filmed, amongst other things, workers selling hard drugs to patients, patients scrounging for food out of bins, and a dead patient who had been lying in a ditch unattended for days being carted away in a van used to transport hospital food. This helped him bring an exposé of Ghana’s mental health service abuses of patient’s human rights to the masses, triggering further scrutiny by Human Rights Watch and the creation of a Mental Health Act in 2012.

 

When it comes to Anas Aremeyaw Anas, fact is stranger than fiction. But behind the various disguises stands tall a strong, powerful body of investigative journalism which has

Anas as a policeman

Anas as a policeman

brought down walls and made a tangible and very serious difference in Ghanaian society. His whistleblowing reaps results. And you won’t find a better example of this than his most recent and arguably most significant mission to date.

 

In September 2015, he premiered a new undercover film titled Ghana In The Eyes of God, which focused on corruption within the Ghanaian Judiciary sector and showed 34 judges and magistrates caught on hidden camera receiving money and animals in exchange for the freedom of various criminals. The affected judges have been suspended from service and the cases have gone to Ghana’s highest courts, with Chief Justice Georgina Wood ordering further investigation based on the findings of Anas’s work.

 

He has been noted for his portfolio of investigation, receiving a ‘Heroes Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery’ award by the US State Department in 2008 for his contribution to investigating human trafficking, as well as a CNN/Multichoice African Journalist award in 2009, and being named the best in Anti-Corruption reporting by the FAIR Investigative Journalism Awards in 2010. He has also received an Africa Achievers Award in Kenya in 2013, and an Engaged Journalism Award by the May Chidiac Foundation in 2014. President Barack Obama highlighted Anas’ virtues in a speech during his 2009 visit to Ghana: “An independent press. A vibrant private sector. A civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy. We see that spirit in courageous journalists like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, who risked his life to report the truth.” He was polled as the ‘5th Most Influential Ghanaian’ in 2011 by ETV and named one of the ‘Most Influential Africans of the Year’ by the New African Magazine in December 2014.

 

Despite the accolades, the face remains hidden, the identity remains secret. Mr Anas is a beautiful oxymoron who terrifies the underbelly of Ghana. He needs to keep his mask on in order to cause the masks of others to fall so we can see people for who they really are. He shuns the fame and the spotlight, and remains in the shadows. For it is in the darkness of Ghanaian society that Anas Aremeyaw Anas works best, and will continue to work – and bring our worst to light, warts and all.

Follow him on Twitter @anasglobal and view his 2013 TED Talk ‘How I Named, Shamed & Jailed’ at http://www.ted.com/talks/anas_aremeyaw_anas_how_i_named_shamed_and_jailed

 

By Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)