Somali parliament approves Islamic law
Move aims to appease al-Shabaab fighters
Somalia's parliament unanimously approved Saturday a government proposal to introduce sharia, Islamic law, in the country, in a move aimed at appeasing Islamists waging a civil war since 1991.
The approval by parliament was expected since March 10, when the cabinet appointed by new President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed also voted to establish sharia, or Islamic law.
Experts said Ahmed's move undermined guerrillas who have been fighting the government and questioning his Islamic credentials. It would also please wealthy potential donors in Gulf nations.
Osman Elimi Boqore, the deputy speaker of parliament, said 343 MPs attended Saturday's session.
"All of them voted 'yes' and accepted the implementation of sharia," he told reporters. "There was no rejection or silence, so from today we have an Islamic government."
There was no rejection or silence, so from today we have an Islamic government
Deputy speaker of parliament Osman Elimi Boqore
Precondition to peace
Somalia's cabinet last month endorsed the plan to introduce sharia, a key demand by hard-line Islamists who opposed to the government and made the application of sharia a precondition to stop fighting.
"Islamic sharia is the only option to get solutions for the problems in this country," Information Minister Farhan Ali Mohamoud told reporters on March 10.
"This is a big day, we have been waiting this bill for a long time . . . I hope this will decrease the violence in the country” Mohamed Dhere, a Somali lawmaker, said after the vote.
On Feb. 28 President Ahmed agreed to proposals by local and foreign religious leaders for a truce with the hard-liners and the implementation of sharia.
Islamist al-Shabaab militia has already imposed the law in areas of the war-torn country under their control.
Islamic sharia is the only option to get solutions for the problems in this country
Somali Information Minister Farhan Ali Mohamoud
Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, was elected president on Jan. 31 following a United Nations-brokered reconciliation and vowed to form an inclusive government.
But al-Shebaab and other militia continued to battle the government and its allies.
Clan fighting and rivalry scuppered numerous attempts to restore stability in the country since it plunged into a civil war with the 1991 ouster of President Mohamed Siad Barre.
Al-Shabaab, whose manpower was recently boosted with the arrival of some 300 foreign fighters, also demanded the withdrawal of an African peacekeeping force of nearly 3,500 in the lawless Horn of Africa nation.
In 2006, when Al-Shabaab briefly controlled Mogadishu and the center of the country, they introduced Islamic law. It was initially welcomed by the public as it ushered in a measure of security after years of fighting and anarchy.
But the mood turned sour over strictures banning music and the chewing of khat, a mild narcotic plant with stimulant qualities which is extremely popular in Somalia.
Somalia's parliament is officially seated in Baidoa but the town, located some 250 kilometers (155 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu, was recently conquered by al-Shabaab fighters.