By Madi Jobarteh
The marathon testimony of NIA Director General Ousman Sowe before the TRRC highlights what is wrong with this country in the past and in the present. While Yaya Jammeh used the NIA to torture, kill and destroy the rights, lives and dignity of Gambians, Pres. Adama Barrow chose to maintain that NIA to cleanse the evidence of the crimes of the past. Both leaders share Ousman Sowe as the perfect agent to carry out crimes against Gambians. The former used Ousman as a tool to commit the crime while the latter used him as a tool to cover up the crime. What a life Ousman has!
There was no civilian Gambian who did not fear the NIA even though most people were never arrested by the NIA nor visited its headquarters. This was because NIA was a notorious institution that distinguished itself as the Oppressor’s prime tool.
For example, Ousman Sowe himself confessed to that in his testimony when he said that during his own detention at the NIA, he encountered a cat that made him distinguish between freedom and oppression. Yet Ousman tried all means to say he was not aware, did not hear nor did he see or could remember anything like torture being carried out at the NIA, a place he worked at for a decade and a half. This is the biggest insult to Gambians, more so the victims.
It is obvious that Ousman Sowe purposefully wiped out the crime evidence inside the NIA. Ousman knew what happened inside that compound and so his decision to repaint and remodel the buildings in that compound was consciously premeditated and deliberately carried out. As a well-educated person, and indeed if he truly believes in those high-sounding incantations about humanity and God which he was pontificating at the TRRC then Ousman should have known that he bears primary duty to preserve the evidence – at least in respect for victims.
That the NIA was a crime scene is the most common knowledge. Thus, after the fall of the despot, any normal person should have known that there is every reason to preserve the NIA in anticipation of seeking the truth and dispensing justice and accountability. Ousman Sowe and Adama Barrow indeed knew that. But together they collaborated to wipe out the evidence in order to cover up the crimes of the AFPRC/APRC Regime.
Indeed, these two men are no different from Yaya Jammeh.
The NIA is under the direct supervision of the Office of the President. Therefore, if Pres. Barrow was indeed a responsible man who is committed to the idea of a New Gambia, he should have told the NIA, on the very first day of his inauguration that they should preserve even the dry leaves on the grounds of that compound! Furthermore, common sense should have informed Barrow that not only should he not have appointed Ousman Sowe, but no former NIA officer should be brought back to work in that institution until there is a thorough inquiry.
Thus, it is gross negligence of duty for the President to disregard the facts about NIA and the overall circumstances of our history and experience and go ahead to maintain the NIA as it was and then hand over its leadership to a notorious agent. Even when the NIA legal adviser Bubacarr Badgie attempted to alert the President in May 2017 about the travesty of justice perpetrated by Ousman, Barrow allowed this man to be hunted down like meat! This was just five months into Barrow’s taking office. Wonders shall never end!!
Barrow cannot claim not to know about the NIA because Adama Barrow and Solo Sandeng belonged to the same party and he knew it was at the NIA that Solo was detained and tortured to death. It was Barrow’s Government that then arrested 9 top NIA officers to try them for that murder. How therefore could Adama Barrow act as if NIA was just a restaurant along Kairaba Avenue and reward Ousman Sowe, a longstanding agent as a celebrity. This is enough to force one to ask, what is going on between Adama Barrow and Ousman Sowe such that the President could sacrifice the national interest for an individual?
The presence of Ousman Sowe at the NIA is an obstruction of justice and a perpetuation of impunity hence a direct threat to national security. It shows a callous attempt by the President to insult Gambians, more so victims and make futile the great sacrifice and achievement the people registered in kicking out dictatorship in 2016. It is an act of gross misconduct and shameful betrayal of fallen heroes and Gambians at large for which a proper parliament would have sought his impeachment.
Not only has this President and Ousman Sowe refused to reform the NIA by first amending the NIA Act but they had the audacity to call it SIS without following any due process. Such blatant disregard of the rule of law highlights that Barrow is the person responsible for the destruction of evidence at the NIA committed by Ousman Sowe for which the National Assembly should have taken urgent action. By their actions, they provide a safe haven for Yaya Jammeh and his henchmen. What a travesty!
The NIA must be closed down and subjected to an inquiry. Those who have tampered with evidence must be held accountable. The country needs a new intelligence outfit and run by new men and women with character as part of security sector reforms.
Painting and remodelling buildings and pontificating high sounding slogans are mere cosmetic changes. The fact that the NIA is not abusing rights today is not because it is reformed. No. It is because there is no chance, they can do that now because Gambian citizens will not allow them. However, the NIA is just lying low and hiding their true colours for now until the right time to re-emerge in their old form. This is why urgent reforms are necessary there right now starting with the removal of Ousman Sowe.
For The Gambia Our Homeland