Classified Information in Ethiopia

By Dagnachew Tesfaye, Managing Partner at DMLF

There was a legislative need for classification, declassification and handling of national security information generated by the Ethiopian government and its employees and contractors as well as information received from other governments. Hence the Council of Ministers on September 6,2023 has issued ‘Government Secret Information Classification and Protection Regulation No 539/2023 (hereafter the Regulation). The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) is entrusted with oversight of the implementation of classification and protection of information carried out by government bodies.

Ethiopia has four levels of classification: Top Secret, Secret, Confidential and Restricted. Each level of classification indicates a decrease in degree of sensitivity. 

The classification of information shall be done by the government body whom the information generates or obtained in the course of performing its duty. However NISS may classify top secret information.

Classified information shall be accessible only to persons with security clearance to the extent necessary to perform their duties.

Declassification or revision of classified information shall be done by the government body that classified the information. As an exception, declassification for top secret information shall be done by NISS. As a rule any information cannot be kept classified for more than 30 years. However the government may request non-declassification with reasonable grounds and make the information remain classified. On the other hand classified information shall be reviewed every 10 years with a possible extension for force majeure up to a period not exceeding two years.

Thus Ethiopia has embarked up on a system that enables the classification of government secret information with clear, uniform and accountable legislative rules. Such measures shall ensure the country to be protected from threats posed on national security and interest.

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