By Nelson Manneh
The Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ousman Sowe, has on Wednesday 6th January, 2021, commenced his testimony before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
DG Sowe joined the NIA in 1995, among the first intakes of the agency.
After his training, he was deployed to the Analysis Unit of the Agency. In August 2003 to April 2004, Sowe was redeployed to the Investigation Unit of the NIA, serving as the head. He was appointed as the Director General in February 2017.
Sowe, who worked in several departments at the NIA before his appointment as DG, said the NIA is an institution that understands the Office of the President and the agency is only answerable to the president. He said the agency is headed by a director general and a deputy director general.
DG Sowe said the NIA has foreign cooperation unit and national cooperation unit, saying the foreign cooperation unit looks at international intelligence matters and the national cooperation unit looks at internal intelligence matters.
“The functions of the National Intelligence Agency are to collect, analyze and disseminate information that is a matter of threat to the security and the Government,” he said.
Sowe said from the national intelligence stand point, the NIA has a significant role to play on drug issues and what they do is to collect and analyze information. He said they are aware of instances where the NIA Officers were involved in private matters that were reported to the NIA.
The witness said at the NIA, there were certain things that were happening which were not the business of the agency, saying private citizens were using the institution for their private businesses. Sowe said at the NIA, they have a code of conduct but he is not aware of the existence of any other regulation at the agency.
“We are only having the decree 45 and code of conduct and we will be able to produce those documents to the TRRC,” he said.
Sow said drugs, being threats to national security, and its related matters should be left under the responsibilities of the State intelligence Agency. He said drug threats ought to be handled by the NIA in collaboration with other relevant Agencies.
Lead counsel Faal put it to the witness that drug law enforcement is not the duty of the State intelligence Agency. The witness argued that the State Intelligence Agency are responsible for collecting information and can go to the extent of arresting an individual and detaining the person in order to obtain information.
Sowe admitted that at the NIA, people were arrested and detained in order to obtain information from them. The lead counsel puts it to the witness that it is not the responsibility of the NIA to arrest and investigate individuals on drug related matters and give information to the drug law enforcement agency. Instead, Counsel Fall said it should have been the duty of the drug law enforcement agency to arrest, investigate and give relevant information to the NIA, which the witness agreed to.
“Would you agree with me that it was not the responsibility of the NIA to deal with issues related to illegal migration?” the lead counsel asked the witness. “Yes,” said Sowe.
The witness said there was a time they got information that there were some people who entered into the country with drugs from Guinea Bissau and he led the team that went to investigate the matter in Brikama. He said the suspects wanted to continue with their operation, but the NIA officers went there and interfered and some of the suspects escaped.
He said there was a gunshot but there was no causality. The witness said the NIA operatives should not have involved themselves in such issues but it was the dictates of the law that was why the agency took up the responsibility. He said what was happening during the past 22 years was not the best practice. He added that the lead institution should be allowed to deal with issues that are under their responsibilities.
The witness said it will be very disheartening if the NIA personnel, who were fighting against drug trafficking in the country, participated in the dealings and selling of drugs. Sowe said after they held the operation in Brikama, they went and reported what happened at the incident to their Director General at the time.
He said after a while, one Kabou who was alleged to be part of the drug dealers, reported himself at the NIA and the DG at the time told him to explain his involvement on the issue and the DG handed over the investigation to the investigation unit at the NIA. Subsequently, the witness said he was later informed that Kabou was later handed over to one Alagie Morr for future investigation.
“I was later told that Kabou was tortured at the NIA to an extent that he escaped and ran naked out of the NIA premises,” he said.
The witness said he would not be able to say whether Yahya Jammeh was using the state institution to achieve his objectives because he was not the DG and was not communicating directly to Jammeh.
Born in Bulock in 1972, Sowe attended Bulock Primary School and advanced to Basse where he did his O’Levels. DG Sowe joined the University of the Gambia extension program in 1995 and graduated in 1999. In 2013, he went to Malta where he studied MA in diplomacy.
His will continue his testimony at the TRRC tomorrow.