- UK against its politicisation
- Nothing wrong with NIB—Kaliati
- The agency is being used—Analyst
Concerns about the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) operating without an enabling Act of Parliament have resurfaced with the British Government calling for a law to legitimise the intelligence agency in an effort to stop it from meddling in politics.
Though our sister newspaper Weekend Nation reported in March last year that government had in 2014 gazetted a proposed law to define powers, functions and duties of the agency that has operated without any legal provisions for about 16 years, nothing has since been heard of the matter.
But Nation on Sunday understands that outgoing British High Commissioner Michael Nevin has been raising the concerns with government over politisation of NIB for some time.
In an e-mail response to a questionnaire, Nevin recently confirmed that the United Kingdom has been concerned by the involvement of NIB in local politics.
He further confirmed that the UK has been engaging government on the matter on different occasions, but could neither confirm nor deny details of specific meetings as indicated by our sources.
“We do not discuss the detail of meetings with the President or others. But we have been public before about the benefits of legislating for the National Intelligence Bureau. This includes greater accountability and a more effective service directed to Malawi’s genuine security needs rather than internal political issues. We welcome indications from the President and the NIB director general that, in line with their reformist agenda, they share this approach. We hope legislation can be introduced soon,” said Nevin.
Nation on Sunday understands the move by the bilateral donor comes amid concerns in the diplomatic community that long-held concerns over NIB status have not been addressed.
NIB is currently headed by Nicholas Dausi, a senior politician in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—further increasing perceptions that the intelligence body is politically compromised—sources added.
The sources alleged that last year’s break-in at the house of a German official who was working in the forensic audit ongoing in the government supported by donors, which the Germany ambassador Peter Woeste, then described as “politically motivated”, was the last straw that broke the camel’s back as the intelligence body was perceived as having not acted as expected.
The Germany embassy has not responded to a questionnaire on the matter as Nation on Sunday sought a comment whether it shared UK’s position.
When contacted, Dausi refused to comment on the issue, citing the bureau’s tradition of ‘no comment’ on its operations, but referred Nation on Sunday to the Minister of Information and Tourism, Patricia Kaliati.
“I am not supposed to talk. The tradition is that I don’t have to talk. Let me confine myself to our code of ethics,” said Dausi.
Kaliati in an interview recently dismissed assertions that NIB was politicised.
“We are hearing this from him. It is you telling me, I don’t see any [politicisation]. I don’t think there is any interference in NIB. It is just like any other intelligence agency anywhere in the world. Its job is to serve the government of the day and not the party,” said Kaliati.
Quizzed whether government intended to pass legislation to legitimise NIB, Kaliati was coy, insisting that there was nothing wrong with the current operations of NIB.
“What will be the need of the law? What is the problem at the moment with NIB? Those who want to change the situation should first explain what the law is going to change and what the problem is now. The British can also explain what they mean,” she said.
Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya further cast doubt on the possibility of a new law coming soon, saying he was so far not aware of any proposed Bills to address the matter.
However, Chancellor College-based political scientist, Boniface Dulani shared UK’s concerns in a recent interview, saying: “Unfortunately, NIB has been used, and continues to be used by ruling parties to advance partisan, rather than national, interest.
“The main targets end up being opposition politicians, those that hold critical voices or are considered disloyal to the ruling party and elites.”
He added: “Yes, I fully agree that NIB is prone to political abuse. Like many governance issues in this country, the President seems to have wide ranging powers in the selection of the NIB leadership and through this; he also influences the selection of officers that are loyal to him and the ruling party at any given time. Unless this changes, NIB will continue to be abused.”
Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo agreed with Dulani on the politicisation of NIB and called for swift enactment of the law.
NIB has remained part of the security apparatus since the dawn of multiparty democracy by the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 2000 under the Office of the President and Cabinet to replace the Malawi Police Service’s Special Branch notorious during MCP rule for targeting the party’s political enemies but efforts to regitimise it have eluded successive governments.