President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana

Ghanaians decry transfer of ex-Guantanamo prisoners to their country

Public outcry in Ghana following decision to transfer two Yemeni detainees held for more than a decade at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the country. Many say they view the men as a security threat to the West African nation, located in a region struggling to cope with the rise of several militant Islamist insurgencies.

SOWS ACCRA, GHANA (REUTERS) – Ghanaians have reacted strongly to the transfer of two Yemeni detainees held for more than a decade at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the West African country.

Many say the presence of the detainees may pose a security threat to Ghana which has so far evaded the Islamist threat in West Africa targeting Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon and most recently Burkina Faso.

“To me I’m not happy they are in Ghana here anything can happen and if anything happen we are the poor people who will suffer for it they also have way to go by now they have their plane tickets passport and everything so in case if anything happen in Ghana the poor will be facing the trouble and we will suffer a lot so we are not happy with what are leaders have done so far,” said Accra resident, Adongo Thomas.

“There is a force somewhere pushing the president to do what he’s doing without consulting let me say parliament and if parliament disagree with it which he might not take their decision that is why he just have to do it without the consent of parliament because the western world controls African most than our own decisions,” added Azoya Philemon another Accra resident.

President John Mahama said the men posed no threat and would be monitored. Ghana received no money for taking them but would benefit from information from the United States about people arriving in the country who could pose a security threat.

The detainees were identified by the Pentagon as Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby.

“We have had several sessions with the Americans. Our people went to Guantanamo and personally interviewed these people and I believed our security is not endangered because they are in our country. What we should fear is not them because we have them under surveillance, what we should fear is somebody who can come in and create havoc that we do not yet know and so our collaboration with the United States of America, the U.K. and France helps us to be able to protect our safety and security of our by being able to access the data base of persons who are suspected and perceived to be terrorists,” said President Mahama.

Ghana is a peaceful democracy but many say they are concerned the relative proximity of countries like Nigeria and northern Mali where militant Islamist have set up bases and operate.

For years, Islamic militants have used northern Mali as a base, but over the past year they have staged a number of attacks in other parts of the country and on neighbouring countries.

Recently, Al Qaeda militants seized the Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, opened fire on a restaurant and attacked another hotel nearby, killing at least 28 people from at least seven countries, and wounding 50 other people.

The attackers sprayed the restaurant with bullets, set fire to cars and motorbikes and then entered the Splendid Hotel opposite. From there, they fired on people in the street, including anyone trying to emerge from the restaurant.

The assault, claimed by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), follows a similar raid in November on a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, which killed 20 people, including citizens of Russia, China and the United States.

Northern Mali was occupied by Islamist fighters, some with links to al Qaeda, for most of 2012. They were driven out by a French-led military operation, but sporadic violence has continued in Mali’s central belt on the southern reaches of the Sahara, and in Bamako.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram has killed thousands of people and driven more than 2 million people from their homes during its six-year insurgency.

Regional armies mounted an offensive against the insurgents last year that ousted them from many positions in northern Nigeria.

But in the absence of effective co-ordination, security sources and analysts have warned that this can often mean that soldiers just drive the militants across one another’s borders.

Chukwuemeka Eze, is a security expert and analyst.

“If you look at what is happening along the Sahel region the horn of Africa, the gulf of Guinea whether is at the level of piracy, whether is at the level of kidnapping, whether it is the level of terrorism, Africa is under threat and I think that the soil is fertile and that’s the greatest problem. If you look at all the indicators that could lead to violent extremism most of them are present today,” he said.

Dozens of countries have received former Guantanamo Bay detainees but the transfers were the first to Ghana

The government has granted permission for the two to remain in Ghana for two years, subject to security clearances.