Authorities in Gambia have arrested the former head of the National Intelligence Agency, which has been accused of systemic human rights abuses while it was under the control of ousted former President Yahya Jammeh.
Officials said Yankuba Badjie and eight other NIA employees were arrested Monday. No specific charges were listed.
Jammeh, Gambia’s ruler since 1994, when he took power in a coup, formed the intelligence agency, which became notorious for alleged intimidation, torture and killings of government opponents.
Jammeh lost a bid for another term in power in an election in December. He refused to step down, but pressure from Gambia’s neighbors and others persuaded him to leave Banjul last month and go into exile.
The small West African nation’s new president, Adama Barrow, has promised a truth commission and investigations into alleged human rights violations carried out under Jammeh, as well as the release of political prisoners. He stripped the intelligence agency of its powers and renamed it the State Intelligence Services after taking office.
This week’s arrests were the first since international pressure forced Jammeh to flee to Equatorial Guinea. Since then, the new government has been slowly uncovering the conditions Jammeh left behind.
A government report out this week said the former president and his allies had “destroyed” Gambia’s economy.
Revenue collected by the country’s telecommunications company, Gamtel, were diverted to an account at the Central Bank controlled by Jammeh beginning in 2014, according to an investigation by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, the Associated Press reported. The account accumulated more than $5.4 million, all of which was withdrawn at some point before Jammeh left the country, AP said.
Jammeh is accused of stealing millions of dollars in his final weeks in power, and Barrow’s government has said he left the state coffers virtually empty.