Gambia's new leader vows overhaul of feared security service

AP News
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Posted: Jan 28, 2017 8:04 AM
Gambia's new leader vows overhaul of feared security service

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Gambia's new President Adama Barrow promised an overhaul of the country's feared security forces Saturday as he works to rebuild a country that lived under authoritarian rule for more than 22 years.

In his first news conference since taking office, Barrow told reporters he also plans to rename the National Intelligence Agency, which was tasked with interrogating and sometimes torturing detainees.

"It's an institution that has to continue, but the name will change," Barrow said.

Barrow returned to Gambia on Thursday in a dramatic homecoming where he was met by hundreds of thousands. He had taken the oath of office in neighboring Senegal, shortly before longtime dictator Yahya Jammeh was forced into exile.

Some of Jammeh's top associates fled with him to Equatorial Guinea, another autocratic state led by Africa's longest-serving ruler. Other security forces remain in the country and need to be retrained, ideally by partners, Barrow said.

"In the army we need technical aid, and we need countries that are willing to help us in the security realm," he said.

Barrow is the first new president in Gambia in more than 22 years. His arrival is seen as a rebirth for the tiny country where political opponents, journalists and gays and lesbians were among those jailed and sometimes killed.

The United Nations has urged Gambia's new government to release political prisoners as soon as possible.

Senegalese authorities announced Friday that one of the leading suspects in the abuses of Jammeh's regime had been arrested.

Borra Colley, who had been director of the notorious Mile Two prison, was arrested Wednesday while trying to make his way to Guinea-Bissau.

He also had led the Jungulars, Jammeh's personal military of some 50 officers who reportedly went into exile with him last weekend. It was not immediately known why Colley had not joined them.

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Associated Press writer Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.