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  • 50 Ethiopian- Somali refugees killed after smugglers throw them off boat near Yemen, UN says

    50 refugees killed after smugglers throw them off boat near Yemen, UN says

    Smugglers are believed to have pushed people in the water when a boat belonging to authorities appeared near the coast 

    libya-migrants.jpg Migrants receive life jackets as workers from Proactive Open Arms pull alongside their dinghy about 15 miles north of Sabratha, Libya AP

    The UN migration agency says up to 50 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia have been "deliberately drowned" when a smuggler forced them into the sea off Yemen's coast. 

    The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said a human trafficker in charge of the boat forced more than 120 migrants into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa along the Arabian Sea. 

    Staff from the IOM said they found the shallow graves of 29 of the migrants on a beach in Shabwa during a routine patrol. 

    Medical staff said they provided urgent care for 27 surviving migrants who remained on the beach. while other migrants had already left. The agency said 22 people are still unaccounted for. 

    The average age of the passengers on the boat is believed to have been 16-years-old, according to the UN agency. 

    The smuggler allegedly pushed the migrants into the water when they saw a boat belonging to authorities approaching. 

    The dead had been buried rapidly by those who survived and the IOM said it it working closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure appropriate care is given for the deceased migrants' remains. 

    Laurent de Boeck, the IOM chief of mission in Yemen, called the incident "shocking and inhumane." 

    "The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea, when he saw some 'authority types' near the coast. 

    "They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route.

    "This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,"

    The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a popular migration route despite Yemen's ongoing conflict. 

    Since January this year the IOM estimates that around 55,000 migrants left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen with the aim to try and find better opportunities in the Gulf countries. 

    According to the IOM, more than 30,000 of those migrants are under the age of 18 from Somalia and Ethiopia and a third are estimated to be women. 

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    CATCH 22: THE ARABS AND AFRICA 01 Jul, 2017


    Well, it seems that the genie is out of the bottle and it would take crafty political maneuvering to put it back inside. Last month, Saudi Arabia took an unprecedented step of leading a league of Gulf countries to sever ties with its neighbor and fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member, Qatar, accusing the tiny state of supporting terrorism. True to form, the sudden decision took many by surprise. Qatar has long had hostile relations with its influential neighbor, but the latest move by Saudi is the grimmest to date. Given that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have clout and are gaining momentum in regional and global diplomatic arenas, analysts assert that it is instrumental that peace and stability is maintained in the Middle East – an oil-rich region that has a combined GDP of more than one trillion dollars. By the same token, it is in the best interest of Africa as a whole and the Horn of Africa in particular to cautiously scrutinize this amorphous yet fermenting regional crisis, writes Bruh Yihunbelay.

    It would not be an overstatement if one argues that Qatar’s fame took off after the launch of the currently prominent television network, Al Jazeera. The TV network has been the most visible brand to come out of the tiny nation. And true to form, in a relatively short period of time, it has managed to become a strong competition to the well-established global news outlets like BBC and CNN.

    Positioned between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, Qatar was nothing more than a remote desert settlement until the late 1930s. However, after it discovered huge amounts of natural gas, things started to change.

    Now, Qatar is a high roller and is on top of the heap of a small group of elite countries that command the highest GDP per capita on Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis – more than USD 100,000.

    After Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani assumed power in 1995, Qatar has progressively achieved the status of being an Arab version of Switzerland or Luxemburg. However, quality of life was not the ultimate goal; the grand plan is having a resilient economy and strong regional and global political influence. And one of the many components for accomplishing that is by launching a credible, news network that was neither foreign-run nor a government mouthpiece, according to an article published in the New Republic magazine.

    The TV network was formed in 1996 from the leftovers of a failed BBC-Saudi attempt to start an Arabic-language news channel. When Saudi censorship proved objectionable to the BBC, the Qataris jumped in, hiring over a hundred laid off BBC journalists and broadcasters, recruiting locals, and lending the network a whopping USD 137 million to get things going.

    After it went on air with its Arabic-language channel, Al Jazeera took the Arab world by storm and gained the reputation of being an informative yet controversial news channel – the one thing that did not comfort the Saudis. By 1999, when the channel began 24-hour broadcasting, it had twelve international bureaus and employed over 500 people.

    Though Al Jazeera was expected to be profitable within five years of its launch, it could not become a moneymaking entity. According to commentators at the time, the reason was that advertisers were allegedly influenced by Saudi and Kuwait not to advertise on Al Jazeera. Therefore, in 2001, Al Jazeera borrowed an additional USD 130 million from the Qatari government to keep the ball rolling. That was not the only plan. They had a big surprise in store for the global audience – an English-language news channel was in the works.

    Al Jazeera English went live in 2006. The ambition was to provide a different narrative on global issues and cover parts of the world to which the global news titans like the BBC and CNN gave little to no attention – Southwest Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. This strategy paid off after five years when the Arab Spring broke out, and Al Jazeera became the go-to channel for international viewers.

    Eventually, tensions between Saudi and Qatar were exacerbated by the Arab Spring in 2011, when Saudi Arabia and Qatar were seen as backing different sides.

    That and a host of other factors tainted the relationship the network and Qatar had with other countries in the Middle East and six years later the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries led by Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and demanded the termination of Al Jazeera as one of the prerequisites for normalizing relations.

    The GCC and Qatari quandary

    To put things into perspective, the GCC is a strong political and economic alliance established in 1981 by Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

    In the latest debacle, the Saudi-led group decided to cut ties with Qatar, citing their concern over the security and stability of their nations. They claimed that their tiny neighbor works to support “terrorism” and meddle in the internal affairs of its brethren in the GCC.

    This sparked a series of diplomatic breakdowns between the GCC countries, including severing of diplomatic ties between three Gulf States (Saudi, Bahrain and UAE) and Qatar, an embargo imposed on Qatar, with air, sea and land borders shut down, and Qatari diplomats and residents expelled from those Gulf countries. Bahrain was the first to announce the severing of ties on June 5; it was followed shortly after by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt made their announcements within 10 minutes.

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar responded to the announcements, saying that there is “no legitimate justification” for the actions taken by the countries that severed diplomatic relations. It added that the decision is a “violation of its sovereignty” and that it will work to ensure that it does not affect the citizens and residents of Qatar.

    Eventually, in a matter of days, nine countries – Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, Eastern Government of Libya, Maldives, Mauritania and Senegal – cut diplomatic relations with Qatar. In addition, Jordan and Djibouti downgraded diplomatic relations with Qatar.

    Kuwait, a neutral party in this fiasco, is mediating between the GCC countries involved in the current dispute. According to Giorgio Cafiero of Gulf State Analytics, a geopolitical risk consultancy based in Washington DC, both Kuwaitis and Omanis believe that an escalation of the conflict could be detrimental to the future of the GCC.

    Parenthetically, there was a previous diplomatic rift in 2014 between Qatar and other Gulf countries. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain pulled out their diplomats claiming that Qatar supported armed groups. However, the border remained open and Qataris were not expelled.

    Tensions with Qatar have generally revolved around its alleged support for political Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as complaints about Al Jazeera.

    On June 7, the Saudi foreign minister said that Qatar must cease its support of groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. 

    “We want to see Qatar implement the promises it made a few years back with regard to its support of extremist groups, to its hostile media and interference in affairs of other countries,” Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Paris on the aftermath of the rift.

    There is also a tacit and at times clandestine actor in this debacle – Iran. Known for being Saudi’s hostile neighbor east of the Arabian Peninsula, the Iranians did not waste time in making their presence felt. Following the border shutdown, Iran offered Qatar food shipments. That, again did not make the Saudis happy.

    According to Mahjoob Zweiri, a Middle East expert at Qatar University, a lengthy dispute may empower Iran in the region, especially if the tension between the Gulf countries escalates.

    Catch-22: Africa and the Arabs

    Though it has not been officially announced that the latest Gulf crisis would be discussed at the current African Union Summit, Mehari Taddele Maru, an international consultant on African Union affairs, is of the view that member states should discuss the issue and take a stand. That will help the continent in many ways, he said.

    “Some African countries are facing pressures and inducements from both sides. One example is Somalia. The Horn of Africa country is being pressured by both sides. The decision that is going to be taken by Villa Somalia will have major effects. Opposing Qatar might create a favorable situation for the revival of Al Shabaab. In the same vein, if they [the Somalis] go against the wishes of the Saudis, instability will reign. So, it is a matter of survival for Somalia. Therefore, if Africa can be able to stand together, it will address such issues in one voice,” Mehari told The Reporter.

    Ever since the gulf squabble started, African countries have been involved in one way or another. In that regard, analysts are warning that the decision to cut or downgrade diplomatic ties with Qatar by eight African countries could have a long-term impact.

    “This is not good for Africa. This is rush decision-making and taking sides in a crisis that the leaders have no clear grasp of is dangerous and will scare investors away,” Adama Gaye, a Senegalese foreign policy expert, told Al Jazeera.

    Two days after the Arab countries cut ties with Qatar, Senegal said it was recalling its ambassador to Qatar and expressed “active solidarity” with Riyadh.

    Analysts say Dakar is likely to have automatically accepted the Saudi allegations against Qatar without questioning them.

    “Security and tackling violent extremism are real issues in several African countries but there are strong economic factors at play here,” Africa analyst Antony Goldman told Al Jazeera, adding that Saudi Arabia has invested a lot of money recently in Africa and this gives it a lot of weight on the continent.

    Senegal’s decision did not come as a surprise. It can be recalled that Dakar sent 2,100 soldiers in 2015 to Yemen as part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels. Dakar said at the time that it sent its troops “to protect and secure the holy sites of Islam, Medina and Mecca”.

    Unlike the rest of the continent, the Horn of Africa has been dragged into the squabble mainly because of its proximity. And member countries of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are entwined to a certain degree.   

    An IGAD member state that is currently entangled in this fiasco is Djibouti. The small Horn of Africa country has downgraded its diplomatic ties with Qatar, saying it took the decision “in solidarity with the international coalition against terrorism and violent extremism”.

    Djibouti, which is known for hosting foreign military bases, said in January it was finalizing an agreement with Saudi Arabia to allow the Gulf state to build a military base. According to analysts, this is the likely reason behind Djibouti’s decision.

    Another country in the equation is Eritrea. The Ministry if Information of Eritrea – a country which unlike Senegal is geographically close to the Gulf – announced on June 12 that it saw the Saudi-led initiative against Qatar as being “in the right direction,” but the statement also implied that Qatar alone was not to blame for terrorism in the region and called for an amicable resolution of the crisis.

    Kjetil Tronvoll, Professor of Peace and Conflict studies at Bjørknes University College, said that Eritrea’s government “haven’t turned against Qatar as much as they have shown an inclination to accept the Saudi argument.”

    Tronvoll, speaking with The Messenger, said that Eritrea’s position is “deliberately ambiguous.” He added that Asmara has thus far positioned itself “to possibly ride both horses, at least for the time being.”

    Several factors explain Eritrea’s reluctance to sever ties with Qatar. According to Harry Verhoeven, a lecturer at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Eritrea has previously found Qatar to be a reliable friend, even when Asmara’s relations were not good with either the West or other Gulf powers.

    “This is bad news. The worry is that it will lead to a further destabilization in the sense that you could see a bidding war for loyalties…because the Saudis and Emiratis are almost certain to put very heavy pressure particularly on Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia to choose sides and to ditch their historical relationship with Qatar if the standoff would continue,” he said.

    On his part, Mehari deems that it is difficult for IGAD member states to come to a common and unified position. “Decisions are taken mainly based on national interests,” Mehari said.

    The Horn of Africa is highly affected by the ongoing Gulf crisis and the regional block, IGAD, is divided over the matter. “I don’t think there will be a uniform stand from the IGAD; however, as a secretariat it may have a stand on finding a peaceful and amicable solution to the problem,” Leulseged Girma, an expert on Middle Eastern affairs and a geopolitical analyst, told The Reporter.

    On the other hand, other regional analysts say that these are small countries and do not have much political and economic clout beyond their borders.

    “These countries are small-league players in Africa; forget about the rest of the world. These countries have negligible influence. But for Saudi, it seems it is quantity over quality," Abdullahi Boru, a Nairobi-based regional security specialist, told Al Jazeera.

    Comoros, Gabon, Niger and Chad were the other African countries that either cut ties or downgraded them.

    Those small countries are also subject to pressures that go beyond economic incentives offered by the Gulf States, Gaye said.

    “It is not a secret that bullying tactics have been applied. First financial incentives were offered and, if leaders turn them down, then Saudi Arabia has the Hajj leverage where it has threatened that no citizens from these countries will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage if they don't take the Saudi side,” Gaye said.

    Saudi Arabia, through a statement released by its embassy in France, refuted the allegation that they pressured African countries to cut ties with Qatar.

    “The Saudi government strongly denies these allegations and we stress that no pressure was put on any African nation because every country has the right over its sovereignty,” the statement said. 

    Countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia have remained neutral and declined to take sides. The two east African countries have even called for dialogue to end the rift.

    Analysts say that the longer the crisis continues, the more likely many poor African countries will be dragged into it.

    “African leaders have to show more muscle and must remain neutral. They should put aside all their personal interests,” Gaye said.

    Leulseged seconds Gaye’s point. “The AU, as a continental organization, should take a neutral side on the matter,” he said.

    Ed.’s Note: Neamin Ashenafi of The Reporter has contributed to this story.


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    Nippon Electric Company, Ltd. (NEC) has become the latest firm bidding Ethio Telecom’s multi-billion birr demand-based expansion project, The Reporter has learnt.

    The coming to the scene of the Japanese firm brings to the fray yet another competitor to the bid that had already attracted Chinese giants ZTE and Huawei as well as Sweden-based Ericsson.

    Ethio Telecom’s expansion projects have for the past few years been fiercely contested by the Chinese duo.

    In an exclusive interview with The Reporter on Wednesday, Ethio Telecom CEO Andualem Admassie (PhD) revealed that the latest telecom expansion project, which he branded as ‘demand-based expansion’, attracted some ten bidders to the floated expression of interest (EoI) for the project.

    However, only four of them that have met the required standards and terms issued by Ethio Telecom were shortlisted, the CEO told The Reporter.

    According to the CEO, one of the short-listed bidders is the Japanese firm NEC, which is taking part in a local bid for the first time while the other short-listed companies are the two Chinese giants and Ericsson.

    He further indicated that his company was engaged in negotiations with four of the short-listed companies as regards financial matters as well as agreement frameworks.

    He, however, refrained from disclosing specific details with respect to the bidders, but expressed hope that the winning party would be declared before long.

    He also hinted that the would-be-commenced expansion project might also introduce a 5-G networking system, at least on a trial basis.

    In the coming one or two months, negotiation is going to be conducted with the four short-listed bidders on the Request for Proposal (RfP) in addition to on how to secure financing, he said.

    He also indicated that the speed of negotiation with them depends on their respective proposals and RfI (Request for Information) in which the client could demand further information from bidders for they have different kinds of network solutions on offer that can include lists of specific technology, quality and type.

    From past experience, the current bidding process is expected to be fiercely competitive among the two Chinese giants as well as Ericsson and new-comer NEC.

    According to information obtained from NEC’s website, the Japanese company supplies equipment required for network implementation to telecom carriers, along with network control platform systems and operating services.

    In another news, Andualem indicated the current telecom network coverage in the country reached 85 percent while the total number of mobile phone subscribers is some 58,000.

    He also told The Reporter that the shortage of vouchers particularly the low-price top-up cards (worth 5 and 10 birr) has been addressed. He, however, noted that there was no shortage of cards in the country.

    “All the cards were in the hands of distributors. The problem was caused when distributors tried to hoard cards; yet there was no practical shortage in the country,” Andualem explained, adding the hoarding had come after a rumor circulated that Ethio Telecom had run out of stock.

    However, he did not deny there were still shortages, specifically 5-birr and ten-birr cards compared to higher denomination ones (worth 25, 50 and 100 birr).

    He also noted that measures had been taken against some distributors for their role in creating an artificial shortage.

    Among other factors that contributed to the shortage of cards, Andualem mentioned shortage of foreign currency.

    He pointed out that there was an undue delay in obtaining foreign exchange that prevented his company from importing cards.

    “The mobile card is our blood. Our survival mainly depends on the sale of mobile cards. Hence, when we face shortage of cards, our existence will be at stake,” he said.

    He further disclosed that the shortage of the two small-denomination cards is fueled by the fact that the majority of subscribers opt for them. But cards valued 50 and 100 birr are still in stock in bulk as demand for them is low. He further noted that since last week 140 million birr worth of 5-birr and 10-birr cards have been dispatched to all regional states through the post office as well as via chartered planes.

    Andualem told The Reporter that with a view to addressing the problem, the government was considering the possibility of assigning the task of printing voucher cards to local companies.

    “We have few local companies that expressed interest to print the voucher locally. In fact, it is not for us to decide. But I hope that we would be able to produce it here in our country,” he said.

    Still explaining alternative remedies to curb the shortage of airtime for mobile users, he added that electronic top-up system is being tested which the service has already piloted in some of the firm’s 240 stations in Addis Ababa and across the regions.

    The electronic voucher system is a new marketing scheme whereby customers can pay for airtime with a machine planted in selected time and they immediately receive text messages on the amount of the airtime service they are seeking.

    In a related news, Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), minister of information and communication technology (MoICT), announced on Wednesday the government is yet to assign a new board chair and members for Ethio Telecom.

    Over the past 10 months, the government-owned telecom firm has been operating without a full board after its former chairman, Tefera Derbew, former minister of agriculture, left his ministerial position in favor of a new advisory role at the PM office.

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    The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) revises its directive which limits the investment portfolio of banks to 10 percent of their overall equity investment. The new directive states that although the 10 percent limit is still there, NBE will henceforth retain the right to waive the limit on a bank-by-bank basis as it sees fit.

    For years, banks were allowed to invest up to 10 percent of their net worth in all non-bank businesses, including insurance companies. 

    However, the newly revised directive which became effective since the beginning of June, 2017 gave the central bank the power to lift the investment limit when it deems it necessary.

    “Notwithstanding the 10 percent limit, the National Bank may waive the investment limit where it deems necessary,” reads the article.

    This gave the central bank the power to regulate commercial bank’s investment based on their respective performance, said a senior banker working at a private bank.

    One of the basic reasons behind placing cap on the investment portfolio of banks is risk, comments one former bank director. “There are areas of investments which are risky and may lead banks into failures,” he said.

    The amended directive kept the basic provision which is commercial banks are not allowed to invest more than 10 percent of their net worth in real estate acquisition and development, other than for own business premises, without prior approval from the bank regulator (NBE).

    Similar to the same directive introduce in 2015, the amendment is aimed at setting aside bank’s direct engagement in insurance business.

    “No bank shall directly engage in insurance business. However, a bank may hold equity shares not exceeding 5 percent of an insurer’s subscribed capital in a single insurance company.”

    The new amendment has not yet clarified how these exception are applied and who will be the beneficiaries of this directive. And where will the NBE be forced to waive the limit.

    The specific article is open for different interpretation.

    “I see in both ways,” said another CEO of Bank whose name withheld upon request.

    One is that when the central bank says it may lift the 10 percent limit this might be to allow private banks to invest their money in government projects beyond the mentioned investment limit.  The way around this specific provision gave the central bank a power to force some of the banks from investing, explain the CEO.

    Since the financial opening in 1994, Central Bank has introduced three similar directives concerning limitations of investment of banks. The first was introduced back in 1996 where it introduces much relaxed provisions.

    In this respect bank were not allowed engage in insurance business but may hold up to 20 percent in an insurance company and up to a total of 10 percent of the bank’s equity capital in such business.

    The banks were also allowed to hold shares in a non-banking business only up to 20 percent of the company’s share capital and total holdings in such business shall not exceed 10 percent.

    Moreover, 1996’s directive prohibited banks from engaging directly in non-banking businesses such as agriculture, industry, and commerce.

    Currently, there are now 16 private banks operating in the country with a total capital of 43 billion birr as of June 30, 2016. 


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    -  Oromiffa to be 2nd official tongue

                        A draft bill issued over the week on the special interests and status of Oromia locales within Addis Ababa proposes Afaan Oromo to serve as the official working language along with Amharic while the capital is to be referred to as both Addis Ababa and Finfine.

    The long-awaited draft bill, which has been a major discussion point following the popular protest that affected wide areas across Oromia, was presented to the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) after it was adopted by the Council of Ministers.

    Deputy Government Whip Meles Tilahun presented the draft bill during the house’s busiest regular session at which more than 10 bills were presented. The draft bill was welcomed by MPs who described it as the “government showing full commitment to respond to questions raised by the people and fulfill their demands”.

    However, some MPs raised questions over the timing of the draft legislation that has come for their approval.

    “It is not the right time to bring this document to this house for discussion; yet we have only a week before the end of the current term,” an MP asked while another one raised a similar concern saying, “It is not impossible to conduct proper discussions on this bill with the inputs required within a week before the house closes for recess.”

    Responding to questions and concerns raised from members, House Speaker Abadula Gemeda indicated the possibility of postponing the draft bill to be treated at next year’s parliamentary session.

    “Taking all concerns in to account, of course there is no need to rush,” Abadula said.

    Noting that there will also be extensive public consultations and input on the proposed bill, he further told MPs: “It is not expected to be approved in the remaining one week.”

    Among provisions stipulated in the draft bill is one designating Afaan Oromo as a working language in Addis Ababa and, along with Amharic, adopting it as a working language of the federal government.

    Meanwhile, according to the same draft legislation, Addis Ababa and Finfine would equally serve as names of the capital city pending approval by parliament.

    In a statement it released earlier, the Council of Ministers said the decision came after it discussed the draft legislation prepared as per the dictates of the 1995 Ethiopian Constitution that bestowed special interests on Oromia within Addis Ababa.

    However, neither the Council’s statement nor other documents affixed to the draft law say how giving another name as well as assigning another working language to Addis Ababa tally with constitutional provisions.

    The government’s decision came 18 months after it had scrapped plans to develop an integrated master plan for Addis Ababa and the surrounding towns in the Oromia Special Zone. The original plan triggered widespread protests and deadly clashes between protestors and law-enforcement personnel. It also induced the government to declare a six-month state of emergency which has been extended for an additional four-month period.

    It is to be recalled that deadly clashes claimed more than 140 lives after students from Oromia region staged street protests against the proposed “integrated master plan”.

    According to a document distributed for MPs along with the draft bill, the bill has been designed and presented with specific consideration of Oromia’s special interest on Addis Ababa in terms of service delivery, conservation and use of natural resources as well as on common administrative issues considering Addis Ababa’s geographical location in the central part of Oromia.

    The legislation also included special considerations and benefits related to land and water supply, dry waste disposal and transport services, housing, business centers and sufficient compensation and rehabilitation in the event of relocation of farmers from land earmarked for development activities.

    Similarly, the draft legislation grants land on lease free of charge to institutions of the Oromia Regional State that want to erect buildings for government activities and public services. Meanwhile, the Addis Ababa City administration will set up market places for farmers residing in neighborhoods adjacent to the city, according to the draft bill.

    Furthermore, an office is to be established with the specific role of coordinating efforts for the rehabilitation of farmers when they are relocated from their land for development purposes as well as insuring proper payment of compensation for evictees.

    The city administration will have further role such as responsibility to facilitate conditions for the construction of primary schools for natives of the regional state who want their children to receive schooling in their native language (Afaan Oromo).

    After discussing the draft bill, the house overwhelmingly voted to refer it to the pertinent standing committees.

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