By Mustapha Jallow
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has found the once feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA) spying on government employees and citizens with the view to keep ex-ruler Yahya Jammeh in power.
The commission described the act as an abetting tool that incited numerous rights violations and abuses against the citizens with impunity.
“The NIA deployed operatives to sensitive installations and government offices to spy on the citizens with the view to strengthening Yahya Jammeh’s grip on power,” said the truth body in a report that was earlier submitted to the Gambian president, which is now made public.
“The NIA operatives deployed in these locations were very powerful and committed numerous rights violations and abuses against the citizens with impunity.”
“The NIA became a weapon of oppression and subjugation for former President Yahya Jammeh,” the commission said in the report.
The commission further said NIA agents acted with total impunity and disregard for human dignity in pursuit of Jammeh’s agenda of self-perpetuation, which was to be achieved through instilling fear and terror in the hearts of Gambians.
However, they also added that scores of potential surveillance targets by the NIA were government employees, political opponents, journalists, activists, other security forces and ordinary citizens.
According to the commission, Omar Cham was an NIA agent posted at the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC), to spy on employees and the institution’s operations between 2001 and 2003. It states that during Cham’s tenure at NAWEC, he claimed before the commission to have allegedly tortured several staff members of the organisation.
“Omar Cham was served with a notice of adverse mention,” said the commission.
Under Jammeh’s rule, the intelligence agency was known for its ruthless operations, where nobody was spared, especially those who questioned or spoke against the regime.
The intelligence headquarters was also used as a torture chamber, where NIA agents collaborated with Jammeh’s hit squad referred to as “Junglers”.
The NIA will do the arrest and hand over detainees to the hit squad for either torture or execution. Sometimes, the tortures are being carried by agency employees. The TRRC said detainees were tortured through severe beatings, electrocution as well as being stripped naked by Jammeh’s hit men and the NIA agents.
The truth body further indicated that Cham, ex-NAWEC staff (NIA agent), admitted torturing people on several occasions.
Cham made confession before the commission that the former President Yahya Jammeh sent them to NAWEC to help recover the arrears owed to NAWEC. He acknowledged that the NIA had nothing to do with NAWEC, and that posting them there was unlawful.
By then, Yankuba Badjie was the spy chief of the agency. He led the most brutal intelligence agency that would arrest, unlawful detain, torture or even kill its citizens to instill fear in people to satisfy ex-President Yahya Jammeh. In his 22-year-rule, Jammeh has no respect for rule of law.