New Provisional Somalian Constitution approved

On 1 August 2012 Somalia's 825-member National Constituent Assembly (NCA) approved a new constitution for the country by a large majority. Traditional elders, who had selected the NCA members in a process backed by the United Nations, will also choose a new parliament, which in turn is scheduled to choose Somalia's new leader on August 20, when the mandate of the Transitional Federal Government expires.

Significant features of the Provisional Constitution of the Somali Republic are:

  • Provision for a federal system for Somalia
  • A bill of rights which declares everyone to be equal, regardless of clan or religion
  • The stipulation that Islam is the only religion of the state, disallowing the propagation of any other religion in Somalia
  • The establishment of Sharia (Islamic law) as the legal foundation of the country with which all laws must be in compliance
  • The outlawing of female genital mutilation
  • Protection of the right to an abortion in order to save the mother's life
  • A proscription against the use of children in armed conflict;
  • Citizens' right to education up to the secondary school level
  • Provision for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Although the constitution applies immediately, it was originally planned that it be put to a national referendum in order to take effect. However, the referendum was cancelled because of the impossibility of holding it in areas controlled by al-Shabab. Instead, the constitution will become effective once it is ratified by the new parliament. Al-Shabab, the Islamist militia which controls some key regions of Somalia, has continued to carry out terrorist attacks in the capital and other areas where it no longer exerts full control.

 

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