Somalia president announces support for Sharia law in peace negotiations

Somalia president announces support for Sharia law in peace negotiations

[JURIST] Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed [BBC profile] said Saturday that he would support the imposition of a moderate form of Sharia [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Islamic religious law, as part of a cease-fire agreement with the country's Hizb al-Islamiya and Al-Shabaab rebels. Ahmed said, however, that he would not agree [CNN report] to provisions that would prohibit girls from attending school, require women to wear headscarves, or ban music and television. Ahmed made the concession at the behest of Islamic religious groups that are mediating the conflict [IslamOnline report] between the government and the rebels, but Sunday reports [AFP report] quoted rebels denying that a peace agreement had been made. Members of the country's parliament, which would have to approve implementing Sharia in order for it to take effect, have expressed support [PressTV report] for such a proposal. It is not clear what impact the rebels' rejection of the peace deal with have on the possible legislation.

Somalia has endured a lengthy civil war and several rounds of failed peace talks [BBC timeline] since the collapse of its last civil government in 1991. The country's transitional government is just now shifting its base [VOA report] from Djibouti to the Somali capital of Mogadishu. In December of last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] accusing both rebels and the government of having committed war crimes in the conflict. In January 2007, the transitional government began imposing martial law [JURIST report] over areas under the government's control.