The Ethiopian government has announced plans to transform the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) into an autonomous federal government office. This is expected to strengthen its ability to act on national security issues and ensure it can respond to issues today and in the future.
The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) was established in 1994/95 as the Security, Immigration and Nationality Affairs Authority. Its name was changed to the NISS in 2006/07. On Tuesday, the plan to re-establish the NISS was presented to the House of People’s Representatives.
Three reasons were given: To strengthen the NISS to allow it to protect and defend the sovereignty of the country, the constitution and constitutional order; to determine the power, duties and accountability of the NISS to promote peace, development, democracy and good governance; and build a modern and strong NISS, loyal and resilient to the constitution and constitutional order of Ethiopia and conscious of national and international interests The aim of the NISS is to protect national security by providing quality intelligence and reliable security services. Under the plans presented, it is accountable to the Prime Minister.
The proclamation preventing the establishment of other intelligence and security institutions has given other powers to the NISS.
The agency has a wide permit to lead intelligence and security work both inside and outside Ethiopia, formulate national security and intelligence policies and establish and run intelligence and security training institutions.
Under the new plans, the NISS will also work with foreign intelligence and security organisations to share intelligence and conduct joint operations. It will also investigate domestic or foreign threats to the constitution and constitutional order, threats to economic growth or governance within Ethiopia and collect intelligence.
It will also lead on national counter-terrorism co-operation and co-ordination and represent the country in international and continental counter-terrorism relations and co-operation.
The service will follow up and investigate terrorism and extremism and collect information. Its security role includes providing and controlling immigration and nationality services to Ethiopian and foreigners, studying and submitting to the government service charge rates and implement same upon approval; providing the necessary service for refugees based on the Refugee Proclamation and in co-operation with other appropriate organs; leading aviation security activities, providing aviation security services and coordinating other aviation security stake holders in accordance with the Ethiopian Aviation Security Proclamation; providing security protection to the president and prime minister of the country as well as to heads of states and governments of foreign countries in collaboration with other relevant organs. Girma Seifu, the only opposition MP, said that NISS employees should be separate from the civil service, in the interests of professionalism.
He said they should also have different ID cards to distinguish them from support staff. “Other support staff might use the ID to harass people as they might not have the ethics,” he said. He cautioned that the new NISS should provide security to society and should not intimidate people