(JollofNews) Gambia’s ousted ruler Yahya Jammeh has used the country’s feared National Intelligence (NIA) to spy on President Adama Barrow and his colleagues during last year’s presidential elections, a report into the conduct of the agency says.
According to the report, an unamed NIA officer on study leave was planted in the Barrow campaign to fed information to Mr Jammeh. It said the officer gained the confidence of the opposition camp and rose to the position of bodyguard to Mr Barrow even during the political impasse and shortly after his assumption to the Office of the President.
The unnamed officer is now promoted to a senior post in the agency and is directly answerable to the director general.
The NIA reports directly to the president, and is responsible for protecting state security, collecting intelligence, and conducting covert investigations.
But the report submitted to the Office of the President by the agency’s owned legal adviser, Bubacarr A.M.O Badjie, said over 60 per cent of its staff are “functionally illiterate” who can neither read nor understand the English Language.
It said a large percentage of the staff some of whom were members of President Jammeh’s Green Youths and relatives living at the residence of Mr Jammeh’s mum, were recruited into the agency by past and present directors, former army generals and Mr Jammeh’s cousin, Pa Bojang.
“The usefulness of such people as NIA agents is very insignificant as most of them cannot write comprehensive English Language nor understand it,” Badjie wrote in the report leaked to the independent Point Newspaper.
The NIA was used during Mr Jammeh’s reign to commit cross human rights abuses including arbitrary arrest, torture and murder of Mr Jammeh’s opponents and journalists.
The report observed that following the collapse of Mr Jammeh’s regime, the former NIA director-general, Yankuba Badjie in an attempt to cover up evidence of criminality, had removed torture equipment and repainted the torture chamber to hide the blood stains of torture victims.
It added that many officers involved in the torture and murder of government critics and opponents including Solo Sandeng, of the United Democratic Party (UDP) are still actively working for the agency without the threat of arrest and prosecution.
Although the new Gambian government has put in place a number of reforms in the agency including a change to its name and removal of some functions including the power of arrest and detention, the report said it has failed to touch some of the key issues affecting the agency.
“Ordinarily, the first priority of the reform is to conduct a proper staff audit as writing is the working tool of the intelligence agents,” Mr Badjie wrote in the petition.
“The reform is not yet done and without it the NIA cannot contribute effectively to the crucial role a democratised intelligence service can play in the national security architecture to combat both traditional and emerging threats including terrorism, espionage, insurgency, sabotage, subversion, human trafficking, money laundering and illegal migration.”