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Somalia special assembly approves new national constitution

The Somalia [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] constituent assembly on Wednesday approved a new constitution for the country, which has been without a stable central government since former president Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. The draft constitution passed with over 96 percent of the 645 ballots cast [AFP report] in the special 825-member assembly, which took eight days to debate and vote on the draft constitution. Traditional elders chose the members of the assembly in a UN-backed process, and the elders will now select a new parliament [BBC report], which must ratify the the constitution before it takes effect. Although it applies immediately the constitution must also be ratified by a nation referendum. Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) [CFR backgrounder] will end its mandate on August 20 after eight years of minimal progress.

Somalia has been urged by the international community to ensure that the country's transition proceeds peacefully. Last month UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told officials at the Istanbul II Conference on Somalia that Somalia must make all efforts to smoothly transition to a permanent government [JURIST report] with a new constitution. The TFG has been working toward establishment of a legitimate government since the 1991 end of the Muhammad Siad Barre [Britannica profile] dictatorship. In May UN representatives announced [JURIST report] that the Elders of Somalia were planning to select delegates for the NCA. Earlier that month a UN expert called on Somalia [JURIST report] to address issues with the judicial systems in Mogadishu and South Central Somalia after finding in Somalia's application of Sharia law and modern international and human rights law. In February Human Rights Watch criticized [JURIST report] the country's TFG for failing to prevent children recruitment into armed forces. Somalia has ranked at the bottom of the Transparency International [advocacy website] Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) [2011 report, PDF] for much of the last decade, leading the world in perceived corruption last year and in 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006 [JURIST reports].

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