Bombers fail to halt vote on new rights for Somalians
Somali leaders have voted overwhelmingly to adopt a constitution that contains new individual rights and sets the country on a course for a more powerful and representative government.
Their vote yesterday came after two thunderous blasts at the gates of the meeting site from a failed suicide bomb attack.
The 825 Somali leaders who debated the constitution for a week approved the document with 621 for, 13 against and 11 abstentions.
The constitution, some eight years in the making, makes it clear that Islamic law is the basis for Somalia’s legal foundation. No religion other than Islam can be propagated in the country and all laws must be compliant with Sharia – Islamic law.
The constitution protects the right to an abortion to save the life of the mother and bans the circumcision of girls, a common practice in Somalia that opponents call female genital mutilation.
“Today, Somalia has put its feet onto a democratic and peaceful path. The new constitution will heal Somalia from war trauma and put it onto a more peaceful life,” said Abshir Abdi, an assembly attendant.
The top UN representative to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said that a new, more representative era for Somalia is about to start after the vote by Somali leaders, or elders.
“Through their good work, the elders have proven their reputation as the custodians of the Somali nationhood and demonstrated their respect for a fair and legitimate process,” he said.
The delegates voted about two hours after two suicide bombers tried to attack the Mogadishu meeting. A police officer said soldiers shot the two bombers at the gate to the meeting area. The two bombers were killed and one Somali soldier was wounded, said Abdi Yassin, a police officer.
The explosions are a reminder that even as Somalia continues down a slow path of re-establishing a functioning government after two decades of near anarchy in the East African nation, al-Shabaab militants who were pushed out of the capital last year can still infiltrate Mogadishu and cause havoc.
Somali’s Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said the vote by the National Constituent Assembly means that Somalia has ended its period of transitional government.
The UN mandate for Somalia’s current government – the Transitional Federal Government, or TFG – expires on 20 August. Somali leaders were tasked with voting on the constitution, voting in a new 275-member parliament and electing a president before then.
The new constitution offers more rights and protections to women and children than those groups have had before. The International Development Law Organisation, a group that offers legal expertise and resources to governments and civil society groups, said Somalia’s constitution guarantees more fundamental rights than those of the US and Italy.
The new constitution says no marriage is legal without the consent of both the man and the woman, no child may perform work that is not suitable for a child’s age and each child is to be protected from armed conflict.
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