The Gambia’s former spy chief has been arrested by the police. Yankuba Badjie, who was the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) until last month, had been in police custody since Monday. Also in police net is the former NIA Director of Operations Saihou Omar Jeng alias Sir Jeng.
The police are yet to provide details of the former spy directors’ arrest and subsequent detention. However, they are said to be investigated for atrocities that happened under their watch.
Badjie was one of the longest serving directors of an agency accused of carrying out arbitrary arrest, detention, forced disappearance and torture. It was under Badjie’s watch that peaceful opposition protesters were arrested and tortured in April 2016, resulting to the deaths of Solo Sandeng and Solo Krummah, Organising Secretary and Regional Chairman of the United Democratic Party, respectively. He was accused of giving orders for the mistreatment of the protesters calling for electoral reforms ahead of December presidential election which ousted incumbent President Yahya Jammeh from office.
Sir Jeng was also implicated in the torture and death of opposition protesters. Court affidavits described him as the coordinator of the torture, rape and death in April. In fact, he signed the purported death certificate of the late Solo Sandeng whose body was never handed over to his family for decent burial.
During the APRC regime, the NIA became the most powerful and well-funded security agency whose directors took orders from Yahya Jammeh. Its name symbolises fear and pain to the extent that some Gambians want the Coalition government to disband the agency. Believing that intelligence services are needed in a New Gambia, President Adama Barrow decided to change the agency’s name to State Intelligence Services and stripped it of arrest powers. It is now limited to gathering intelligence, analysis and advice the government. The power to arrest is reserved for the police.