THE SIS IS AN OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLE, DESPITE INSTITUTIONAL REFORM AT THE AGENCY- TRUTH COMMISSION WAS TOLD

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“The NIA recruited people not only people without O level but people who are completely incompetent. These problems were aggravated with the appointment of Director Generals who are not fit for purpose. And posting of people, who do not deserve it. To add insult to injury, these situations were marred with Executive interference and directives that were unlawful and destructive to the civilian authority in the general management of the affairs of the country,” Ousman Jallow a top official of the former NIA, now renamed the State Intelligence Services (SIS) told the TRRC. Jallow was giving evidence before the TRRC on Wednesday.

Jallow was told by Lead Counsel Essa Faal that his statement was a total indictment to the former Jammeh government and the NIA, where he worked as an Investigation Director.

“This is a very strong indictment of the government, the executive and the NIA,” Faal remarked.

“And if anything, that is even an understatement,” Jallow posited.

Jallow notes that the former National Security Services (NSS), which he briefly served before the change of government in July of 1994, was a professional intelligence agency. The NSS was renamed the NIA when Jammeh toppled Sir Dawda Jawara’s 30 years rule. The NIA was given sweeping powers to arrest and detain citizens perceived as opponents of the government.  Decree 45 was promulgated to legitimize the illegal acts of the agency.

“In the end, all of these problems, the country became ungovernable. I must add the NIA did badly in terms of human rights violations and arbitrary arrest, but there were also good men and women, whose only reason of serving was for the good cause of The Gambia,” Jallow testified.

When asked by Faal, whether he stand by his statement, Jallow responded in the affirmative.  “I stand by it 100 percent. If I can add, the problems that I have highlighted, we lived it. And generally, it is a common knowledge that the NIA have become the center of the human rights violations, the tortures, disappearances, the killings, probably the things that we will never know.  So, that aside, people have lived the national aspirations of this country and they hold very it dear. We have lost a lot of things.  It is unfortunate that that description of that men and women, the mangers who were brought to supervise the men and women, aggravating the situation where we found ourselves, no words can tell you, the seriousness of what that did for our governance system of the country.”

Faal interjected: “But you are saying that there are no more excesses at the SIS as it is, but it is still old wine in new bottle. You are saying, but the officers are the same men and women with lots of capacity gaps. That is your position?

In response Jallow said: “Yes, but if I can add, capacity gaps, I am talking in general terms. As a country, I have lived all my life in this country, so, the capacity if anybody is fair to oneself, as a country, we need to wake up.”

Faal further interjected: “And in your statement, you said, until the equation changes, the status quo is the same, there is no value for money. That is another strong indictment.” Jallow said he stood by his statement.

Jallow said the NIA had departed from the core values of the NSS, following the change of government. “There were some extraordinary departures from the ethics that I was taught from the training school,” he said.

He added that illegal arrests, tortures, and killings were the order of the day under Jammeh’s rule. He said agents like him, who refused to execute the arrest orders were often labeled as oppositions.

He said the agency had in the past appointed Director Generals, who haven’t attained high school education, and were novice when it comes to the spy craft.

Jallow has admitted participating in torture during his decade long service with the former NIA, now called SIS.

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