World, Africa

New Gambia president vows to reform intelligence agency

Barrow promises to reform National Intelligence Agency that is accused of disappearances and deaths of political opponents

New Gambia president vows to reform intelligence agency File photo

By Mustapha K Darboe

BANJUL, Gambia

The new president of Gambia, Adama Barrrow, who toppled the country’s longstanding leader, Yahya Jammeh, has promised to reform and change the name of National Intelligence Agency, an institution accused of disappearances and deaths of political opponents.

Jammeh ruled Gambia for 22 years during which right groups accused him of killing and torturing political opponents, right activists and journalists to prolong his leadership.

“NIA is a state institution that works in the area of intelligence gathering… That work will continue but we will change their name and reform the institution to bring their work in line with law,” Barrow said at his first press meeting since he returned to the country on Thursday, just a week after he was sworn in at the Gambian embassy in Senegal.

Barrow’s defeated rival Jammeh had refused to cede power following the country’s Dec. 1, 2016, election claiming the electoral process was tainted with irregularities.

But the strongman later reached a deal with regional leaders to step down and flew to Equatorial Guinea in exile.

The new leader said he would keep his promise to return Gambia to the International Criminal Court.

“We have come to power campaigning on the principles of democracy and rule or law, and that is what ICC also advocates. I think Gambia should not quit ICC…,” he said.

Barrow also said his ministers will declare their assets before assuming office in the interest of “transparency” and “accountability”.

“All ministers will declare their assets. Even myself before I contested for presidency, I declared my assets in the interest of transparency and accountability. That will happen,” he said.

He also promised to set up what he called a “truth and reconciliation commission” that will be mandated to “investigate” alleged crimes of the former regime and “make recommendations".

Jammeh had also unilaterally declared Gambia an Islamic republic but Barrow said: “Gambia will be the Republic of The Gambia, not Islamic Republic”.

The new leader also promised constitutional reforms and said his Cabinet will be announced on Tuesday.

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