Tuesday 31 July 2012

Somalia Assembly debates thorny constitutional articles

Delegates of the Somali National Constituent Assembly read the draft constitution during the opening session of the
assembly in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, July 25, 2012. (Xinhua/Faisal Isse)
July 30 (Xinhua) -- Almost a week into the debate of Somalia's new constitution, delegates at the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) in Mogadishu say they are now tackling
thorny issues in the draft document.

The new Somalia constitution has been in the making for years and it was only last week when more than 800 delegates drawn from all the country's clans and regions came
together to debate, review and vote on it. The nine-day exercise is part of wider plan known as the roadmap that was drawn up last year in an attempt to move the country
out the prolonged transitional period that lasted for the past decade. Some delegates have expressed dissatisfaction over a number of articles in the constitution which they
argue contravenes against the teaching of Islam while some opposite sections of the document relating to the statues of the capital Mogadishu and language, among others.

However Somali government says it remains neutral about the debates and is just a facilitator to the process of implementing the roadmap intended to lead to formation of a
new parliament and the election of a president. Abdurrahman Hoosh Jibril, Minister of Constitutional Affairs, who is chairing the NCA meeting, says proceedings of the
meeting were going smoothly: "The talks to endorse the constitution are moving forward. We have opened the gathering successfully with participation from senior
leadership and representatives from the international community. The 825 delegates have been divided into ten groups with each dealing a different topic in the constitution.
"I hope they will make a report on issues that are not clear and present it to the next parliament," Jibril told Xinhua.

The draft Somali constitution bans the practice of female circumcision which it describes as cruel and degrading customary practice and says is tantamount to torture but
some want some form of the practice known as "the Sunni circumcision" to be legalized. Female circumcision is widely practiced in Somalia where most girls are often
circumcised before the  age of seven.Abdelaziz Salah, a delegate from the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland, the assembly will finds some of the articles on female
circumcision disagreeable and against the teaching of Is lam and that they will work to change it."Regarding the female circumcision whom the constitution prohibits, we think
that is wrong and we demand the Sunni circumcision as our religion allows," Salah told Xinhua.Salah also expressed opposition to definition of child as "a person less than 18
years of age", saying he would like to see it harmonized with Islamic teaching which he claims holds a child to be a person under the age of 15 years.

The new Somali constitution guarantees the right of abortion to Somali women if the procedure was aimed at saving the life of the mother. The article drew some criticism
from religious clerics who said the article encourages "extramarital sexual permissiveness" in society. Another contentious issue is the status of Mogadishu which the current
draft constitution does not specify as the capital of the republic but that will be determined in the "constitutional review process." The draft constitution gives Somali women
30% representation in the upcoming parliament and in government positions but some Somali clan elders, charged with selecting the next parliament, objects to it and may
not nominate to represent their clans.

Government officials vowed that any traditional clan elder who refuses to nominate a woman to represent will be "named and shamed. "The Somali government hopes the
national assembly will vote on the constitution before Thursday and if the constitution is not endorsed in the Constituent assembly, it will be passed to the new parliament to
be voted on before a national referendum is held once the country is stable enough. (Xinhua)

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