A new ICT security draft proclamation has surfaced at the parliament, proposing significant changes for diplomats and tourists visiting the country. Under the proposed legislation, individuals would be required to obtain a permit prior to importing any electronic devices that the government deems potentially dangerous.
The draft strictly prohibits the transfer of these devices to third parties without proper authorization.
The House of People’s Representatives’ Human Resources and Technology Affairs Standing Committee recently held a meeting with the Information Network Security Administration (INSA) to discuss the draft proclamation titled “Information Technology Products Security Clearance and Control Proclamation.”
The legislation grants INSA the authority to implement appropriate procedures and issue special authorizations for the import/export, manufacturing, and usage of restricted information technology items.
While the specific obligations imposed on foreign diplomats and tourists have not been explicitly outlined in the draft, Fikresilasse Getachew, the legal affairs director of INSA, emphasized the necessity of imposing obligations on diplomatic immunities, tourists, and foreign nationals to mitigate potential challenges posed by these technologies.
A recent review, according to the director, conducted by INSA revealed that diplomats with immunity and foreign delegations staying in Ethiopia are utilizing these technologies, which, he argues, present a challenge to the government.
“A regulatory system will be put in place, and foreigners will be regulated in accordance with the Vienna Convention, so no one will be exempt from this requirement,” he said, adding, for instance, tourists often carry drones, and that the Committee must implement the law.
Fikresilasse further noted that foreign road contractors, due to their work in remote areas, have brought radio communication devices, Visat systems, and other associated technologies to Ethiopia. Consequently, they will be subject to the same regulations.
Any foreign citizen entering Ethiopia with such high-tech equipment must possess a valid visa, an updated identification card, passport, or any other legally recognized identity document, as well as a valid work permit, according to the law.
During the discussion, INSA Executive Director Solomon Soka outlined seven major categories of technology equipment that will be closely monitored prior to importation.
These categories include electronics, computers, telecommunications and information security (cryptography), radar and satellite systems, radio communication devices, lasers and sensors, navigation systems, and avionics.
Drones, GPS vehicle speed and relocation locators, and satellite radio and cameras are among the technologies that will require permission licenses for importation. The draft aims to enable INSA to effectively monitor and scrutinize these equipment imports. However, it’s worth noting that the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Federal Police, and National Security Institutions will be exempt from these requirements.
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations strictly prohibits the opening or detention of a diplomatic bag. Such bags must bear visible external marks indicating their diplomatic nature and may only contain official documents or articles intended for diplomatic use. Diplomatic couriers are entitled to personal inviolability and should not be subject to arrest or detention, provided they possess an official document specifying the status and number of packages within the diplomatic bag.
Andualem Bukato, an international law expert, told The Reporter the potential application of this proclamation to the diplomatic community. He raises concerns about the legislation’s conflict with the 1961 Vienna Convention, as it would be impermissible to inspect baggage protected by diplomatic immunity.
According to the convention, missions enjoying immunity have the right to avoid searches and possess inviolability rights.
Andualem emphasizes the need for careful consideration and diplomacy when dealing with various nations before enacting the law.
The law stipulates that anyone found engaging in prohibited activities, without endangering national security or its residents, may face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to Birr 50,000.
Individuals who commit such acts with large quantities of information technology products or in an organized manner may receive stringent penalties, including three to five years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine ranging from 100,000 to 200,000 birr.