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Somalia Martial Law Strengthens President’s Power


The Somali government struggling to assert its authority after ousting the Islamic courts has declared martial law. Lawmakers in Somalia’s transitional parliament sitting in the provincial town of Baidoa voted to declare three months of martial law as part of a plan to restore order in the war ravaged state.

Ali Iman Sharmake is Managing Partner AFRIKA MEDIA. From Mogadishu he told VOA’s Douglas Mpuga that the Martial law gives more power to the President. “Today martial law was passed by parliament and mainly it gives more power to the president. The law shifts power from the office of the Prime Minister to the president who now has powers to take certain steps he deems necessary to bring peace and stability to the country”, he said.

Sharmake said this new law will undermine the individual rights of the Somali people to, for instance, hold demonstrations or form political parties. He pointed out that on the other hand the law tries to address the issue of weapons. “This law prohibits citizens from holding weapons and aims to put all weapons under the control of government”, Sharmake noted.

He said according to a statement issued by the Somali civil society in Mogadishu and the talk on the streets, most people are more concerned about the power the martial law gives to the president because the whole genesis of the Somali civil war was the military dictatorship of Mohamed Siad Barre who used to have absolute power. “…. so this law has provoked a memory in the minds of the Somalis of the president misusing state power; and that is a major concern that has overshadowed the other side of the martial law such as security, weapons control and individual rights,” he said.

Sharmake said the positive side of the martial law is that since most of the warlords are members of the government they may adhere to the law and hand over their weapons.

On implementing the martial law, Sharmake said the government would depend on the Ethiopian troops for assistance especially in collecting the weapons and bringing stability.

Another concern is that “instead of using reconciliation and peace building, the government has opted to use force- mainly a foreign force- and this may lead to problems in implementation”, he noted.

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