: 2009/01

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Somali leader agrees Sharia law

Writer|2009, 03

Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has agreed to a truce and the introduction of Sharia law to try to defuse clashes with tribal leaders.

The deal came after talks between the Somali government and its clan opponents, and mediation by regional religious leaders.

The government has been in clashes with the Islamist group al-Shabaab, which has links to al-Qaeda.

Sheikh Sharif, a former moderate rebel leader, was elected only last month.

The agreement has yet to be passed by Somalia's parliament, but the president said there was no problem from the government's side if people wanted to be governed by Sharia law.

Heavy fighting

"The mediators asked me to introduce Islamic Sharia in the country and I agreed," Sheikh Sharif told reporters.

The truce comes after militants fought government and African Union forces in clashes which killed at least 30 people in the last few days.

Al-Shabaab recently seized the town of Baidoa, which had been the seat of the Somali parliament.

The Islamist militia has declared Sharia law in the town, and parliament now works from neighbouring Djibouti.

Some 16,000 civilians have been killed in the recent conflict and a million more have been forced from their homes.

The Horn of Africa country has not had an effective central government since 1991.

That agreement, brokered by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in February 2008, paved the way for the ODM to share power with President Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU).

The ODM has been unhappy with recent decisions involving the constitution of an interim electoral commission - the original was disbanded after the disputed poll - and the appointment of ambassadors.

Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai on Sunday criticised the president for signing the bill, saying he had turned his back against a media that had elevated him to the presidency.

Kenyans would not surrender basic freedoms for which they had fought for many years, she said.

The Kenyan Communications Amendment Bill gives the authorities the power to raid media offices, tap phones and control broadcast content on grounds of national security.

President Kibaki said on Friday that the bill was crucial for Kenya's economic development and would safeguard moral values.

Correspondents say the former British colony, which won independence in 1963, boasts one of the region's liveliest media scenes.

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