The Gambia’s new president has vowed that he would carry out drastic reforms in the country’s much-feared security and intelligence apparatus. Adama Barrow said Saturday that an overhaul would be underway in the Gambia’s security services, a notorious system previously known for hash treatment of the dissent under longtime dictator Yahya Jammeh.
Barrow returned to the Gambia on Thursday after Jammeh was forced from the country he ruled for 22 years. The new president had to take his oath of office in neighboring Senegal after Jammeh refused to accept Barrow’s victory in December elections. Jammeh and associates then fled to Equatorial Guinea fearing a military action by a bloc of Western Africa nations.
The new president also said that he plans to rename the Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency, a department which was blamed for harsh interrogations and alleged torture of detainees. Barrow said the agency would continue to function but under a different name. “It’s an institution that has to continue, but the name will change,” Borrow told reporters in his first news conference since the dramatic homecoming.
He added that those members of security forces, including the cadres of the army, have to be retrained, adding that foreign countries would contribute to the mission. “In the army we need technical aid, and we need countries that are willing to help us in the security realm,” Borrow said, adding that the overhaul in the security services would be part of his broad plans for rebuilding the Gambia after years of dictatorship.
Barrow’s announcement comes against the backdrop of regional and international calls for reforms in the Gambia’s judicial and security system. The United Nations has urged the immediate release of political prisoners, saying many political opponents and journalists have been put behind bars over the years just for opposing Jammeh.
Reports on Friday said authorities in Senegal had managed to arrest one of the influential aides to Jammeh who had a record in suppressing the dissent. Borra Colley, who served as the director of the notorious Mile Two prison, was reportedly detained on Wednesday while he was escaping to Guinea-Bissau. It was not clear why Colley, who had also led Jammeh’s personal military known as Jungulars, had not joined the escaped president.