ARCHIVE (Re-post): First published on 24th December 2021, on The New Observer.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has recommended that the Director General of the State Intelligence Agency Ousman Sowe be banned from holding public office for a decade with at least nine other former and current state intelligence officers of the dictatorial regime of ex-autocratic ruler Yahya Jammeh.
The Commission found that Mr. Sowe was covering up and destroying evidence at the National Intelligence Agency. The evidence was critical to reports of human rights violations, mostly torture and extra-judicial killings at the NIA head office in Banjul.
“The following present and past NIA officials who directly and indirectly participated in the torture of detainees and other gross human rights violations and abuses must be banned from holding any public office with the government of The Gambia for a minimum period of 10 years…,” says the report.
The Commission said the ban “commensurate” with the severity of the actions of Mr. Sowe and other members of staff of the notorious intelligence agency, the NIA. Some of the NIA officers recommended to be banned currently hold senior positions in other security agencies.
According to the TRRC recommendations, Sowe will be banned with the following other NIA officers: Lamin Boo Baaji (former Director General of NIA); Tejan Bah (former Deputy Director General of Drug Squad – DLEAG); Foday Barry (former NIA officer); Ebrima Jim Drammeh (current Director of Operations at DLEAG); Salmina Drammeh (former NIA officer); Momodou Hydara (former NIA officer, who is currently serving as General Manager of Jah Oil Company); Ousman Jallow (former NIA officer); Lamin A.M.S Jobarteh (Babadinding, former Justice Minister and one-time NIA officer); and Baba Saho (former NIA officer),“ the report further disclosed.
The TRRC was set up to probe rights abuses and violations under former strongman Yahya Jammeh. Ousman Sowe was pressed at the Truth Commission by Lead Counsel Essa Faal for destroying evidence that implicates former President Yahya Jammeh, the Junglers, some members of other security services, and officers of the National Intelligence Agency.
Sowe conducted a thorough renovation of the NIA head office after his appointment, repainting rooms and changing building structures, including rooms in which detainees were allegedly tortured. During his testimony at the Commission, Sowe denied the renovations were not to conceal the atrocities of the Jammeh regime.
The country’s Attorney General Dawda Jallow made public the findings and recommendations of the Truth Commission on Friday, which held Mr. Jammeh responsible for most of the abuses and violations during his rule that spanned 23 years. Many other former senior officials of Jammeh’s regime are facing similar decade-long bans, according to the Commission’s recommendations.
Jammeh was defeated in the 2016 election and forced to flee The Gambia by West African regional forces in 2017 following a dispute of the polls to Equatorial Guinea, where he is being sheltered by the Spanish-speaking country’s longtime President Theodore Obiang. Obiang has vowed to protect Jammeh and other former African leaders, most of whom are accused of gross human rights abuses from prosecution.