Analysis: African intelligence run amok and prospects for reform in The Gambia

Adama BarrowFor a very long time, the field of Intelligence Studies has been dominated by analysis of the Five Eyes community, which is comprised of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. In reality, that study is more often the study of intelligence in the US and the UK. While not entirely fair to characterize this as Western prejudice —access to data is better in these two countries and intelligence scholars and analysts for the most part do not fear retribution or reprisal— more voices need to come forward to consider intelligence and its role on societies beyond the Five Eyes.

There has been slow but gradual progress in getting the discipline to understand this fact, to understand how important the study of intelligence is outside of the Five Eyes. In recent years, particular emphasis has been paid to Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, and Israel, just to name several case studies. But the countries of Africa, unfortunately, have largely remained a near-blank analytical slate when it comes to deeper work on the continent’s various intelligence communities. As recent events in The Gambia show, that absence needs to be rectified at a time when some deeply disturbing aspects of state development and political stability hang in the balance.

A few days ago, nine intelligence officers, among them the ex-head of the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA), were arrested and charged with the murder of Ebrima Solo Sandeng, a top political opposition figure. Sandeng, the National Organizing Secretary of the United Democratic Party (UDP), died in custody after being arrested for his participation in a protest demanding q-quoteelectoral reforms back in April of 2016. The protests were geared to influencing the December 2016 presidential election, which ultimately saw the defeat of incumbent President/Strongman Yahya Jammeh to Adama Barrow. Jammeh had corruptly governed the country since rising to power as a young military officer in a bloodless military coup in 1994.

The official docket accused Yankuba Badjie and eight other members of the NIA of “conspiring amongst themselves to take part in the murder of Solo Sandeng”. Back on April 14, 2016, Sandeng and five other members of the UDF party were arrested by police and taken to Mile 2 Prison where, after two days of torture, Sandeng died of shock and respiratory failure. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0240

  • Major purge in Gambian security services continues. Ngorr Secka, the former deputy director general of Gambia’s National Intelligence Agency, has reportedly been arrested. The arrest marks the latest development in a major purge that began last July, after the chief of the country’s armed forces, Lt. Colonel Sainey Bayo, fled to the United States reportedly while being “investigated for supplying sensitive state secrets to an unnamed Western country”.
  • Jerusalem memorial may honor British Auschwitz spy. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem may honor Denis Avey, 91, who as a British prisoner of war in Monowitz (a.k.a. Monowice or Auschwitz III) prisoner camp, convinced Ernst Lobethall, a Jew held at nearby Auschwitz concentration camp, to give him his ID badge and concentration camp uniform. He then walked back to Auschwitz on two occasions, gathering valuable evidence about the Nazis’ Final Solution.

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News you may have missed #0147

  • Major purge in Gambian intelligence services. The Gambian government gave no official reasons for the dismissal of 27 officers from the country’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA). But local media said the dismissals were aimed to end bitter internal turf wars that have affected NIA’s performance.
  • US Congress bars release of more torture photos. US House and Senate members have approved legislation that would permit the Pentagon to withhold photographs if it determines that their disclosure “would endanger citizens of the US, members of the US Armed Forces, or employees of the US government deployed outside the US”. The ACLU said that “the suppression of these photos will ultimately be far more damaging to our national security than their disclosure would be”.
  • Russia jails alleged Georgian spy. A Russian military court has jailed Russian Army sergeant Jemal Nakaidze for nine years, for passing secrets to Georgia during a war between the two countries last year. See here for more on the recent tug-of-war between Russia and Georgia.

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