By Sanna Camara
Ousman Sowe, director general of State Intelligence Services, said he neither requested nor received any keys to the offices reported to be in custody of thousands of files covering 23 years of operations of the agency.
Press reports about 3,000 to 5,000 files kept in an office is not true, according to the country’s spy chief.
“I have not received any keys and the reports never quoted a source for such information. I believe there was a need for balance in such reporting. We have indicated we can respond to the press. Reach out to us to verify reports,” he argued.
“In fact, even if that is true, as an intelligence service, will you accept that the key to an office containing 3,000 executive directives and such strategic documents to be with somebody outside the agency? I just laughed it off because the objectivity was not there,” Sowe charged.
Sow also denied allegation that 66 per cent of the agency’s operatives were functionally literate without abilities to read and write.
“Over 66 per cent? That is impossible. We would not have been able to function or do the work we do with that much illiteracy,” he told journalists at a press conference on Thursday at the offices in Banjul.
Sowe, however, could not provide an estimate of how much per cent of the agency’s staff fall short of this requirement, saying those are operational strengths which would be kept secret.
He nonetheless stated that there is an ongoing vetting of the staff to determine who the right people for which tasks are; its report will help guide that course.
“I didn’t say the staff are struggling with the ability to write reports, rather, the will to write reports. That has changed,” he said.
“Also, if someone is saying that, I do not have 66 per cent illiterates… I think that is not true. We cannot have an intelligence service of our standing and 66 per cent are illiterates,” he said.
Country is safe and calm
Sowe also said The Gambia is safe and calm, after an in-depth countrywide assessment, which helped them understand the country and the needs situation of the SIS. That will be a useful planning tool and roadmap to give direction to the agency in the country’s security architecture, he said.
No more abuses, excesses
He said they have positioned to cut on abuses and excesses in the work that they do. #NoMoreAbuses has become the new hashtag in the agency.
“Public confidence in the institution has dissipated, past actions were undesirable, and thus gaining back public confidence is at the heart of our current reforms. Today, we can say that our services are widely sought and consulted by both private and public institutions,” he said
“There shall be no arrests without good causes, and no charges or justice without a court of law. Premised on these, the mission is to help safeguard the interests of the nation rather than engage on personal vendetta,” he explained.
“We are focused on our national security mandate instead of settling personal scores. Information gathering, assessment and analyses we provide forms the bases for the peace and security that will enable both domestic and foreign policy pursuits,” he added.
He said although challenges exist, such is expected in any broken situation anyone would be tasked to resuscitate: “As a result, we are focused on the mission reposed on us by the establishment so we engage in a cleansing exercise that allows us to look inwards, screening and vetting ourselves in line with the drive to ensure unconditional loyalty to the state and the national course.”
Culled from The Point newspaper