By Lamin Cham
The director general of the State Intelligence Services, SIS, Ousman Sowe, Thursday announced that as a marked departure from the past, his institution has laid down a cardinal principle never to commit excess or abuse in its work.
SIS’s predecessor the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, is universally reputed to have been a repressive arm of the former President Jammeh.
Since coming to power six months ago, President Barrow has changed the agency’s name to SIS and appointed Mr Sowe as the director-general in February.
Speaking at the maiden press briefing at his office in Banjul, DG Sowe said the last six months have witnessed “landmark changes” in the affairs of the intelligence services marked by refocusing, recasting and repositioning of the agency to deliver in its role as a state intelligence agency “worth its salt” and trusted by the public and loyal to the state. “We have been very busy, refocusing the direction of this institution and doing our work without excesses, or handcuffs or abuses, in assessing the country’s security situation, its outlook prognosis and forecast,” he said.
He added that while “there is no absolute security anywhere” he could safely say that The Gambia is on the right trajectory and the country is calm with no cause for alarm.
DG Sowe disclosed that as part of its reform agenda, the SIS has been able to institutionalise itself with a national character staffed by people from all ethnic backgrounds and origins across the country. “We feel that now and going forward, every member of SIS staff has been well-motivated to be part of the service. This has greatly increased our output, which is information that is of intelligence value,” DG Sowe said. He said the public now trusts the institution.
The SIS, he opined, has moved to another notch in its assessment, analysis and collation of information through research. ”So you can see that this has improved the quality of our product; intelligence. No reports are cooked and all reports are scrutinised for substance and if proven to be accurate, acted upon, if not, it’s put in view,” he noted.
DG Sowe said the SIS has reached out to all the regions and have covered many issues which may not necessarily be core national security matters but which could be potential sources of conflict such as land ownership.
He said the overall function of the agency remains on course to keep the government and the people of the Gambia safe. “And we do share information with our sister organisations on matters we deem are becoming national security issues. Of course, the main consumer of our information is the government, from the President down to the ministers as the need arises and on both domestic and foreign matters,” Sowe said.
He pledged that the SIS will not violate any citizen’s right as human rights “is a cornerstone in the refocusing exercise” currently on at the SIS.
Mr Sowe was assisted in the press briefing by director and personal assistant to the DG, Kendaka Baboubacarr Gaye.
Read more details of the press briefing on our Tuesday edition.