April 18, 2009 / 4:05 PM / 10 years ago

Somali MPs vote to establish sharia law

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali members of parliament voted unanimously on Saturday to implement sharia law across the country in a move aimed at undermining hardline Islamist rebels who have been waging a two-year insurgency.

The approval by parliament had been expected since March 10, when the cabinet appointed by new President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed also voted to establish sharia, or Islamic, law.

Experts say Ahmed’s move undermines guerrillas who have been fighting the government and questioning his Islamic credentials. It will also please wealthy potential donors in Gulf nations.

Osman Elimi Boqore, the deputy speaker of parliament, said 343 MPs attended Saturday’s session.

“All of them voted ‘yes’ and accepted the implementation of sharia,” he told reporters. “There was no rejection or silence, so from today we have an Islamic government.”

Ahmed is trying to restore stability to the country and hopes to have direct talks with rivals including the hardline al Shabaab rebels. A major donors’ meeting on Somalia in Brussels this week will also focus on the threat from Somali pirates.

Western security services say his failed state could become a base for militants linked with Al Qaeda. Ahmed was elected in January under a U.N.-brokered reconciliation process that is Somalia’s 15th attempt to set up central government since 1991.

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