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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 13:24 GMT 14:24 UK
Somalis overwhelm peace talks venue
Delegates at the conference
The talks have raised hopes of an end to the fighting

Four warlords have joined a peace conference being held to try to end the conflict in Somalia.

Their decision to attend has been widely welcomed but organisers of the conference being held in neighbouring Kenya are now struggling to cope with the unexpectedly large number of delegates.

There were supposed to be about 300 delegates, but almost 600 Somalis have now descended on the Kenyan town of Eldoret.

There are rival warlords, faction leaders, clan elders, businessmen - all gathered to try to agree on a way to end the anarchy in their country.

Encouraging

This is the 14th attempt to hold talks, and Western diplomats were initially worried that the right people wouldn't show up.

Now they are struggling to raise extra money to pay for all the hotel rooms.

It is early days - but the massive turn out is an encouraging sign.

The last peace talks two years ago were boycotted by key warlords.

Without their support, the transitional government which was formed never stood much of a chance.

This time, as one diplomat put it, the delegates are under massive pressure, not from us, but from their own people back in Somalia.

Pulling together

After 12 years of chaos, everyone wants this conference to work.

Somalia gunman
Somalia has had 11 years of anarchy
The plan is for the delegates first to work out a framework for a new system of government - probably one which devolves most power to regional structures.

Then the conference will break up into committees to thrash out the details.

The whole process could take several months.

After 13 failed attempts, there is understandable caution about this latest peace initiative.

But crucially, for the first time, all Somalia's neighbours are involved, and it seems, working together.

In the past, their own political agendas have clashed and helped to destabilise the country.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Somali warlord Hussein Aideed talking to Nita Bhalla
"We've learnt from our mistakes"
Joseph Warungu on BBC Network Africa
"The hardest part is yet to come"
Mohammed Adow on BBC Focus on Africa
"Most of the warlords did not attend the conference"

Politics

Terrorist haven?

RESOURCES
See also:

16 Oct 02 | Africa
12 Jul 02 | Africa
24 Dec 01 | Africa
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