Two former Guantánamo prisoners thanked Ghana for allowing them to settle in the country following their release, as the president of the West African nation sought to quell fears that the men posed any danger.
The two Yemenis, Khalid al Dhuby, 34, and Mahmoud Omar Bin Atef, 36, were held at the U.S. base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as enemy combatants, accused of training with al-Qaida and fighting with the Taliban. They had been cleared for release in 2009, but the U.S. won’t send Guantánamo prisoners to Yemen because of instability there and officials had to find another country to accept them.
Ghana’s president, John Mahama, on Tuesday urged residents to not be fearful nearly a week after the government announced it would allow the two Guantánamo Bay detainees to resettle in Ghana. They were released from the remote prison in southeast Cuba and secretly flown to the west African country on Jan. 6.
Mahama said that the country took in the detainees after a direct request by the U.S. government, with whom he said Ghana has been partners in every sphere. He said “no monetary consideration was made to us” to accept them.
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Mahama reassured the public saying “I will not take any decision that will jeopardize the safety of the nation.”
Dhuby and Bin Atef are the first Guantánamo prisoners resettled in sub-Sahara Africa, and among the first wave of 17 expected to be released this month.
Bin Atef told Ghana Broadcasting Corp. radio they are grateful to the people of Ghana for accepting them.
“We have been wrongly arrested for 14 years without any charge against us and we have suffered,” he said on an interview that aired Tuesday. “We are not looking for revenge because we are not bitter. We only want to live in Ghana because we couldn’t go back to our country because of the current conflict situation.”
The foreign ministry said they would be able to leave after two years. Bin Atef said “We look forward to go back to our country.”
On Monday, the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council all asked the government to reconsider the decision in separate statements that questioned the security risks.
President Barack Obama’s administration seeks to whittle down the population of low-level prisoners as part of a broader effort, opposed by many in Congress, to close the detention center and move remaining detainees to the U.S.