By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
On Monday 29th July 2019, Gambian youth movement Team Gom Sa Bopa which translates into believe in yourself held a press conference and announced to the press and the public at large that security agents from the recently renamed Secret Intelligence Services were present in the crowd.
The movement held a press conference on police brutality and #OccupyBAC (Brikama Area Council) protest which sparked civil unrest in the Gambia in various areas such as Serrekunda Market, Bijilo and Brikama. At least two people have been allegedly killed by security officials namely Kebba ‘Daddy Boston’ Secka a University student and Ousman ‘Bomba’ Darboe a Serrekunda Market vendor.
SIS Agents Welcomed
Towards the end of the press conference one of the panelist on the high table and President of Team Gom Sa Bopa, Ali ‘Killa Ace’ Cham announced that “we would also like to acknowledge the presence of Secret Intelligence Officers in our midst as well, you are highly welcome you don’t have to hide.”
“This [press conference]is for everybody so we highly welcome you and acknowledge your presence Intelligence officers here we recognize them since they came here. And feel yourself at home if you want water everything is available for you.”
As the announcement was made heads started swiveling around in an attempt to identify who the SIS agents where. According to sources the SIS officers used press cards which did not show which media house they represented.
President Barrow’s New Dispensation
According to a Point Newspaper report a government press release issued when the National Intelligence Agency was renamed to State Intelligence Agency stated that “this new services shall only deal with intelligence gathering and analysing to protect The Gambia from external and internal threats, and shall no more arrest, detain, or undertake any activities that are unconstitutional, especially with regards to human civil rights in line with the government’s new dispensation for the new Gambia.”
Civil Society actors have highlighted that the renaming of the NIA to SIS is unconstitutional. Earlier in April it can be recalled that the State House reversed its decision to invite would be State House accredited Journalist for SIS Screening. Similarly the #OccupyBAC activist were also invited for screening by the Police on two occasions and still denied a protest permit. One thing which is clear is that President Adama Barrow’s Government has an appetite for watching its citizens very closely especially Journalists and Activists.