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|Somalia Moves Closer To Peace, Agrees On Parliament, Presidency|
NAIROBI, 30 January 2004 (AFP) – A broad cross-section of Somali leaders capped 15 months of talks by signing a landmark deal on how their war-ravaged country should be governed for the next five years.
There has been no national governance to speak of in the Horn of Africa country since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted.
There followed 13 years of factional bloodletting that turned Somalia into the archetypal "failed state" and prompted botched military and humanitarian intervention by the United Nations and the United States in the early 1990s.
The keystone of the Transitional Federal Charter (TFC), which was also the main stumbling block during the long months of wrangling in Kenya, is an agreement about a future parliament whose members will elect a national president and draft a constitution.
The new assembly's 275 members are meant to be appointed within a month.
The current head of state, Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, is barely recognised outside a few pockets of the capital, Mogadishu.
The TFC was signed by one of Salat's representatives, several warlords, and other politicians and elders in the presence of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.
At the signing ceremony, delegates hugged each other and pledged to end fighting and reconcile.
"I commit myself to the letter of agreement signed in front of President Mwai Kibaki," said Musa Suda Yalahow, a prominent Mogadishu warlord.
Salat said it was his "desire to see a peaceful Somalia."
"Somalia must build on this historical achievement as they cannot afford to squander this rare opportunity," said Yusuf Ahmed, the leader of the northern region of Puntland.
"I say to Somali people everywhere in the world, there is now a credible chance for Somali to rise from the ashes," he enthused.
Another Mogadishu warlord, Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, suggested that "any leader who does not respect his commitment should be taken to court."
A militia commander in southwest Somalia, Aden Mohamed Noor said: "I hope Allah is on our side so that we can make Somalia a peaceful place to live in, regardless of clan and political affiliations."
More than a dozen previous attempts have ben made to negotiate an end to Somalia's anarchy, but few have brought in so many different players.
Mindful of the raft of broken pledges littering the country's recent history, Kibaki urged the document's seven signatories to "commit yourselves to fulfilling what you have started today and not leave it half way."
"Kenya will make available all the resources to pacify Somalia. Please stop the suffering of your people," Kibaki added.
"Let's not think of what we have wasted, rather we should dedicate ourselves in making Somalia prosperous," he added.
Earlier Thursday, Kenyan Foreign Minister Kalonzo Musyoka predicted a swift evolution of the political situation in Somalia.
"We hope there will a functional government in Somalia within one month," Musyoka said after briefing the Dutch Ministers for International Cooperation and Defence, Ardenne der Hoevan and H.G.J Kamp.
"Somalis have reached a harmonised position on the transitional national charter, which is now endorsed by all major stakeholders in Somalia," said Musyoka, who spent the better part of January mediating in the rows between various factions.
The deal's signing heralds a new phase in the current peace process, which started in October 2002, when a ceasefire was signed, only to be repeatedly violated, mostly in Mogadishu and parts of southern Somalia.
Notably absent from Nairobi on Thursday were officials from the would-be independent state of Somaliland, northwest of Somalia proper, which broke away in 1991 and has all the institutional trappings, if none of the international recognition, of a sovereign country.