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Somali Leaders Sign Landmark Agreement
Alisha Ryu
VOA, Nairobi
29 Jan 2004, 16:39 UTC

Somalia's warring factional leaders, attending peace talks in Nairobi, Kenya, have signed a landmark compromise agreement on forming a new government in the lawless Horn of Africa country.

Following a signing ceremony witnessed by Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, the leader of the Mogadishu-based Transitional National Government, Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, hailed the accord as a good omen and a giant leap forward toward peace.

"I wish to say to my Somali brothers and sisters that what we have achieved today has truly changed the mood of our people at home and abroad," he said. " We pray that the people of Somalia will put behind the tragic moments of the past and will start a new chapter for a better and prosperous future for the generation to come."

The signing marks the first time that all major Somali warlords have endorsed a document that could help end Somalia's 13-year civil war.

The agreement consists of amendments to a controversial interim charter, which was adopted last July by delegates to the Kenyan-sponsored talks.

Among other things, the delegates at the July talks had agreed that a new transitional parliament would be in power for four years, and its 351 members would be selected by clan political leaders.

But several factional leaders rejected the proposal for not including traditional elders in the selection process, and walked out of the talks.

The compromise agreement reduces the number of parliament members to 275. And, while they will be elected by clan political leaders, all members must be endorsed by traditional elders as well. In addition, the transitional parliament would now be in power for five years, not four.

Once the parliament is formed, members will choose a president who will, in turn, nominate a prime minister to form a government.

But observers say a final peace agreement is still some distance away. The warlords have yet to tackle the issue of how to share power among groups which, for more than a decade, have relied on guns to settle their differences.

Somalia plunged into anarchy after factional fighters overthrew dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.

Quarreling and bitter fighting among factional militias and their leaders since then have hampered numerous attempts to form a central government.