Profile of a spy agency: Kenya's National Intelligence Service (NIS)

    National Intelligence Service: What is it and what does it do?

    Monday, July 06, 2020 at 3:27 PM by  Gladys Mokeira Obiero

    They are the men and women in suits who make sure there is no internal or external threat to the country. The National Intelligence Service is made up of officers found in almost every corner of the country, and yet you will not be able to see them or even tell they are there.

    Heck, the waiter or newspaper vendor in your locality could be a detective. The intelligence spies are found both in public and private organizations, and that is how sensitive information always finds itself to various security agencies.

    Contrary to popular belief, NIS is not a branch of the National Police Service but a civilian agency. The agency was formerly known as National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) before it was changed to National Intelligence Service (NIS).

    The principal mandate of NIS is security and counterintelligence in addition to other functions prescribed by national legislation. There are about 10,000 NIS detectives spread across the country.  

    Although the organization recruits energetic and talented professionals, many of those are usually National Youth Service graduates. The spy agency is so secretive, and that is why you will find questions such as, are NIS officers armed? If you knew the answers to that, then they would not be spies.

    Everything you need to know about National Intelligence Service

    Here is comprehensive coverage of what NIS is and what it does: A historical background NIS has its origins in the “Special Branch” that was a department of the national police created in 1952 during the British colonial administration. The principal mandate of the organization at the time was to gather intelligence about the Mau Mau uprising. The National Intelligence Service was formed in 1998, absorbing officers from the Special Branch. It is a year later that NSIS and the police were separated ensuring that both were independent of one another. The police were mandated to handle arrests while on the other hand, NSIS would deal with intelligence.  

    What does National Intelligence Service do?

    NIS’s intelligence services include internal, external and strategic intelligence. The body has the responsibility to identify those conditions that pose a threat to Kenya’s political, economic and social stability. The NIS formulates strategies aimed at neutralizing such threats. Also, the director of the NIS doubles as the national security advisor to the president. NIS also plays a critical role in matters such as the war against corruption as part of the multi-agency task team.

    The team comprises officials from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), NIS, Financial Reporting Centre (FRC), EACC, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) and the Attorney General.

    The independent mission of the NIS is as follows:

    • Detecting, identifying and preventing all potential threats to the country.
    • Offering advice to the president and government in the event of a security threat to the country.
    • Initiating processes aimed at protecting the security interests of the country be it political, military or even economic.
    • Vetting of professionals nominated or elected to positions that may require a security clearance.

    What a threat to the security of Kenya constitutes?

    NIS Act defines a threat as implying to any of the following:

    • Actions or activities that relate to espionage, sabotage, subversion, terrorism, organized crime, or an intention to commit any of the stated activities to undermine the integrity, sovereignty, economic well-being or any other national interests of the country.
    • An activity intended not only to undermine but also destroys or even unlawfully overthrow a constitutionally established system of government in the country.
    • Activity intended not only to undermine but also destroys or even unlawfully overthrow a constitutionally established system of government in the country. Acts or threats of violence intended to promote constitutional, political, industrial, social or economic objectives or change in the country such as conspiracies and incitement.
    • Intentions or actions by foreign entities and powers within or outside the borders of the country that may pose a threat to national security.

    Who is the head of the National Intelligence Service in Kenya?

    The National Intelligence Service (NIS) is headed by the director-general who is nominated by the president of Kenya and vetted by the national assembly. The term of a director-general is five years and subject to extension. However, the maximum a director-general can serve is two consecutive terms.

    The current director-general of the NIS is Major-General (rtd) Philip Wachira Kameru.

    He was first nominated into office on the 21st of August 2014 and is currently serving his second term that should end in 2022.

    The divisions of NIS

    NIS is not just one uniform body with only one mandate. The body is branched into several divisions, each charged with specific roles that contribute to the objectives of the organization. Those divisions summarize the functions of the National Intelligence Service in Kenya.

    The seven divisions of NIS include:

    • Administration: This division of NIS is under the leadership of the Director of Administration.

    • Information technology: Dealing with the advancement of technology at the disposal of the organization, the division is headed by the Director of Information Technology.

    • Internal intelligence: The division deals with intelligence on internal threats to the country and is under the leadership of the Director of Internal Intelligence.

    • External intelligence: This division has a reverse role to that of the internal division and handles matters on external threats. It is headed by the director of external intelligence.

    • Analysis & production: The division deals with numbers, statistics, and sort of things. It is only befitting that the division is led by the director of economic affairs.

    • Operations: Charged with ensuring the smooth running of the organization, the Operations Divisions is under the leadership of the Director of Operations.

    • National intelligence academy: There ought to be a division responsible for producing the right professionals working for the NIS, and that division is the national intelligence academy.


    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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