Lamin J Darboe

(JollofNews) – A change of government does not mean there is no law in The Gambia.

Disgraceful, yes, but the above statement is the new mantra of the lawless security officer, a catch phrase that embodies the cultural hostility to human rights within large sectors of the security forces in our new Gambia, particularly the police and the NIA.

When you next encounter the statement, do a contextual analysis of this throwback philosophy to the old dispensation of public lawlessness and its dangerous import would become clearer.

On a visit to Kairaba Police Station about midday Saturday 10 June 2017, the details of how the arrest operation on Bubacarr A.M.O Badjie of the NIA was conducted became clearer.

The NIA contingent, from its so-called Special Operations outfit, was led by Alhaji Ceesay, and included Ebou Sanyang, Kalilu Janneh, Kanyi, and Leon. Among the police component of the arresting team were A. Sowe, L. Jamanga, and B. Wanjang.

In so far as both the Inspector General of Police, and the Director General of the NIA were fully aware of the composition of the arrest team, they disgraced themselves and their institutions for allowing the presence of incompetent personnel in a matter where there was no exigency to necessitate the active participation of the NIA.

As Legal Adviser, Mr Badjie is fully aware of his agency’s lack of mandate to arrest in a matter of this nature. He pointed this to the IGP who subsequently ordered the withdrawal of the NIA contingent.

Undaunted and unfazed, Ceesay and his NIA contingent nevertheless went to Kairaba Police Station to await the arrival of the arrested Legal Adviser and his police escorts. The purpose, if it had any, was to annoy and intimidate, to effectively say we are still NIA and above the law and you can’t do a thing about our conduct, no matter how lawless.

At the Kairaba Police Station Mr Badjie was handed a letter from the Personnel Management Office interdicting him for “unethical conduct”. For now he is out of a job and out of the way.

In line with the practices prevalent in the former dispensation, the powers that be waited for the onset of the weekend, and rather inhumanely about an hour before the end of fasting to arrest Mr Badjie.

More egregiously, as of 1:00 p.m. 10 June 2017, and a whole 18 hours after the police dumped him at Kairaba Station, Mr Badjie had no inkling of the reason for his arrest, a conduct in clear contravention of section 19(2) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia (the Constitution) thus: any person who is arrested or detained shall be informed as soon as is reasonably practicable and in any case within three hours, in a language he or she can understand, of the reasons for his or her arrest or detention and of his or her right to consult a legal practitioner.

As if the failure to comply with the three hour deadline for notifying the reason of arrest was not bad enough, Mr Badjie was effectively prevented from consulting with his lawyer(s).

Bubacarr Badjie

A brief conversation with Mr Badjie was interrupted by Kairaba Police on the grounds that they were waiting for instructions to approve the continuation of the meeting. After waiting for some 20 minutes, I went back to the three officers sitting with Mr Badjie in another office to enquire about the state of affairs regarding the resumption of the client-lawyer conference. I was told this was an order from above and that I should speak to the Officer Commanding. As I was headed for another meeting, I refused that futile suggestion.

Mr Badjie was later informed that since bail was not authorised by higher authority, he must remain in detention in the filthy cells of Kairaba Police Station until 12 June 2017.

A government that promises openness and accountability is dancing timidly around its security challenges by failing to remove known torturers and killers from the disciplined forces. Even in the case of the immediate past Director General of the NIA, it took far too long to remove him, a state of affairs that was quite scandalous to put it mildly.

Considering his antecedents, Director General Sowe should be deployed other than to the NIA. By his actions since assuming the mantle of leadership, it appears the Government’s due diligence on his current appointment was faulty.

An objective reading of “SIS Graduates Maiden Batch of Recruits on Human Rights” discloses a penchant for exaggeration and half truths considering he served less than four months as Director General when that propaganda article was written. Security experts within and outside the NIA argue that the kind of publicity highlighted in The Point article of 12 May 2017 was unprecedented and quite possibly counterproductive for a spy agency.

As argued in an earlier post, the article “SIS Response to Freedom Newspaper Online Publication on its Director General” does not reassure at all. Considering his very short time on the job, the article yet again demonstrates the tendency to exaggerate and it is frightening that such a person is directly advising the President. The NIA requires a fresh start with rogue agents ousted and the current Director General appears not to be the person to lead that role.

If indeed an executive directive issued in the case of Mr Badjie, the President must urgently consider rescinding it. Mr Badjie does not deserve to sleep in dirty police cells for having the public welfare of The Gambia at the front and centre of his concerns.

If he must be tried, so be it, but pre-trial detention is an outrage given the circumstances of his case.

By Lamin J. Darboe