Thursday, November 18, 2010

Intelligence Service

Intelligence Service
By The Post
Thu 18 Nov. 2010, 04:00 CAT

The peace and tranquility of a nation is a priceless asset that should never be taken for granted. It is important that all of us understand that it is not possible to maintain peace and tranquility in an environment where impunity and lawlessness is what rules the day.

We know of countries on our continent that once were reputed as being bastions of peace and prosperity that have in a very short time been reduced to basket cases of hopeless insecurity and the consequent poverty and social disorder.

It is therefore important that all of us reflect on what is necessary to ensure that we have peace and stability in our country for our time and even for our children.

It is criminal for us to take decisions today that seem to promote transitory tranquility but condemn future generations to insecurity and upheaval.

Whatever one might say about our democracy and its imperfections, it has to be admitted that it has managed to deliver peaceful change of government on at least four occasions.

This, in itself, is an achievement that we need to celebrate but should not, by any means, be satisfied with.

There is much that needs to be done to ensure that this democracy that has managed to deliver peaceful change begins to deliver real change in the lives of our people.

For indeed a democracy that does not deliver what the people need in their day to day lives is a hollow democracy with no real value to the people.

If the people do not see the democracy that periodically changes leaders as a source of meaningful sustenance in their lives, it becomes a curse that could be abused to create an even worse environment for our country.

It is very important for government to realise that their tenure of office is as a result of their duty to the people.

Governments have a duty to deliver services and make it possible for the people to realise their potential in a free environment without fear of molestation or other abuses.

It is important for the people to own the system that produces their government; to feel responsible for the government that happens to run their country.

It needs to be clear that the government are the employees of the people and not the other way round.

A failure to appreciate this and to put in place a system of governance that helps our people to realise this aspiration is a recipe for disaster, if not in our time, then certainly in future.

We therefore have a collective responsibility to ensure that this place that we call our home; our country; this nation works for all our people, not just some.

To realise this, we need to understand that this country does not belong to the ruling party and its cadres.

The national state is a complex organism that encompasses divergent interest groups, including the government, opposition groups, the church and civil society in general.

None of these groups should think or act as though they are more entitled to our country than the others. Each must accommodate the democratic rights of all the other groups to the end that there is harmony, peace and tranquility.

It cannot be denied that those that form government hold higher responsibility to ensure that this system works.

It is treasonable for them to subvert the ability of these groups to work without hindrance.

We say this because it is the senseless hegemony over power that African governments tend to prefer that leads to the insecurity and debilitating conflicts that afflict our continent.

Those that are in government fail to realise that they hold their office but for a short time.

They also fail to understand that there is a difference between government and the nation-state.

This failure or deliberate refusal to accept this important distinction leads governments to abuse their positions and the resources of the nation in furtherance of party political interests which have nothing to do with national interests.

In other words, the state begins to serve the government and not the government serving the state.

There is a breakdown of constitutional order in the sense that those who are elected to serve the interests of the people constituted as a nation-state hijack the state and its machinery to serve their sectional interests.

It is this environment that has bred the unbridled corruption and personalisation of state resources that characterises many a government on the African continent.

Our own country is not spared of this scourge.

It is not uncommon to hear party cadres extolling the apparent limitless power that the President enjoys in slogans such as “boma ni boma”, which simply means the government is the state.

In other words, the president can do whatever he likes. In this type of environment, it does not seem to matter that the president may actually be engaging in acts that are inimical to national interests.

With this kind of limitless power, presidents such as Rupiah Banda can push any agenda, however counter-productive it might be, as long as he wants it.

Unfortunately, for many elected officials, particularly those who are allied to the ruling party, it is enough to be told that the President wants this done for them to support any project.

What we have is not really democracy. It is more akin to legalised lawlessness. How else can we explain the president supporting a law that permits public officers to amass wealth through their government offices without being required to explain?

In such a country, there is no institution that is not subject to the whims and caprices of a president.

This in the long run is what threatens peace and tranquility because there are no institutions left to help the president remain accountable to the people.

In the end, the presidency becomes the only institutions wielding any real power which, unfortunately, cannot be meaningfully checked by anyone.

As a result of this paralysis of other institutions, the nation is opened to a lot of danger.

Other institutions that are supposed to make sure that national interests are protected are emasculated and incapable of acting, except with the direct or tacit authorisation of the president in person.

Any activities that are carried out without conforming to this pattern are regarded as a sign of disloyalty to the president and his hold on power.

And there is nothing that makes an African despot more decisive than a threat on his hold on power.

In such an environment, important institutions such as the intelligence are not permitted to do their work in a professional and independent manner that would enable them give an objective analysis of the goings on.

The experience of many African countries without their intelligence service is a negative one.

This is because they have been used as tools for repression and in the case of Frederick Chiluba, they were used as a vehicle for looting state resources.

An institution that is supposed to be the eyes and ears of the state, operating to protect its interests, is denied the opportunity to work professionally.

Governments and leaders who abuse the intelligence service believe that they are helping themselves to maintain their hold on power.

This might be so but the sad reality is that these activities that they engage in do not serve national interests and in the end, they disappoint the people on whose behalf they should be working and lose the hold on power that they thought they would maintain.

We have no doubt that if our intelligence services were allowed to work professionally, they would be a useful tool in the hands of the government that is desirous of serving national interests.

A good intelligence service would warn the government of the consequences of its decisions and how their actions impact on the country both in the short term and in the long term.

Such expertise is crucial in the decision-making processes that characterise the day to day operations of government.

We doubt that our intelligence system, for instance, are allowed to give incisive analysis of government activities, especially in situations where their professionalism requires them to criticise government.

The government should be well-informed about how the people truly feel about its decisions.

A well-meaning government should value advice on the consequences of its actions.

For instance, how do people feel about their President appearing beholden and captive to Chinese commercial interests?

How do the people react to Rupiah’s irrational defence of Chinese abuse of Zambian employees? These are issues that a well-functioning intelligence should be able to advise the President on.

They need to be able to look into the future and tell the President what the likely consequence of over-concentration of economic activities in the hands of foreigners is likely to be.

Their advice, however, is irrelevant if the people who are supposed to receive do not want it. People like Rupiah have said they are stubborn and will not listen to anybody. Rupiah didn’t need to tell us this, we have all seen for ourselves.

Anyway, whatever they do with the professional advice that they receive from the intelligence, let them learn from the mistakes of Chiluba and not try to abuse the service for their personal gain.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home