13 June 2018

Malawi Parliament Passes 'Spies' Law As Govt Makes Compromises - Nis Replaces Nib

Parliament finally passed a law for the establishment of state spies, National Intelligence Services (NIS) which is to replace the National Intelligence Bureau (NIS) which has been operating illegally.

However the government made compromises as it allowed the opposition make several amendments. The government the compromises in fear of embarrassment as the forces of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the Peoples Party (PP), the Chilima movement and some independents was set to defeat the bill in parliament if the government did not make the compromises.

Some of the amendments included the qualification of the director general as the opposition pushed that he should have a minimum first degree qualification and that parliament should vet and endorse the director general as is the case with other senior and crucial public appointments.

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu said there was no need to put a ceiling on the qualification of Director General, saying many countries, including Kenya, the heads of their organisations do not have the first degrees.

He said Malawi has competent people but have no first degrees citing the example of some if not most of the members of parliament.

The National Intelligence Bureau was accused of gross incompetence and inefficiencies as they worked for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rather than the state and spied on democratically elected opposition leaders like Lazarus Chakwera and writing reports on them using cooked up facts.

The opposition politicians blame the state intelligence body for the destruction of ballot papers for Lilongwe city south east.

Chkawera hopes with the law it will help the country to have a modern, efficient, reliable and professional intelligence service free from political intrusion.

NIB was established by the United Democratic Front (UDF) government in 2000 under the Office of the President and Cabinet to replace the Special Branch, which was an arm of the Malawi Police Service notorious during MCP's rule for targeting the party's political enemies.

At the height of the tug-of-war between former President Bingu wa Mutharika and his predecessor Bakili Muluzi in January 2005, NIB was dissolved and some of its senior officers, including its head, Chitsulo Gama, were dismissed.

The official government explanation was that the bureau was operating illegally and needed restructuring as some of its officers were poorly qualified for the task.

While some of its officers were employed from the police, others were former UDF young democrats.

The bureau was re-constituted as the Secret Intelligence Service in mid-2006, earning the criticism of the Malawi Law Society (MLS) which at the time wrote: "While appreciating the requirement of the security of the State, we wish to point out that the operationalization of the Service in the absence of legislation is unlawful."

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