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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 14:40 GMT
Somali warlord quits peace talks
Delegates at the peace conference
The venue was overwhelmed by delegates
A leading Somali faction leader has walked out of the current reconciliation conference in the Kenyan town of Eldoret, and returned to the capital, Mogadishu.

Ali Mahdi Muhammad, who is a member of parliament in the current Transitional National Government (TNG), told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that the talks were "a waste of time", and making no progress.


Everybody is just thinking how he can lead the country

Ali Mahdi Muhammad
Mr Ali Mahdi blamed Ethiopia for attempting to rig the talks in favour of the factions it backs.

However, the Ethiopian information minister has responded, rejecting the allegations that Ethiopia as baseless.

The peace conference brought together delegates from the TNG and about 20 warring factions, in a bid to find a formula that would end the lawlessness and conflict that has characterised the country since the fall of President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.

Over-budget

The groups have agreed a truce for the duration of the talks and are supposed to start detailed negotiations about a federal constitution on Tuesday.

But the talks have been bogged down in arguments about how to reduce the number of delegates in Eldoret.

Donors budgeted for 350 delegates but more than 1,000 turned up.

Somali gunman
Somalia has been at war for 11 years

Hopes of a breakthrough had been raised when almost all the different factions arrived in Eldoret but Mr Ali Mahdi says there is no common ground.

"Everybody has his own agenda. Everybody is just thinking how he can lead the country," he said.

Mr Ali Mahdi said that Ethiopia wanted more than half of the seats to be allocated to the Somali Reconstruction and Restoration Council (SRRC), which it backs.

The TNG has repeatedly accused Ethiopia of sending troops to interfere in the Somali fighting - an allegation denied by Ethiopia.

Ethiopia accuses the TNG of being backed by Islamic fundamentalists.

Somalia has had no effective central government since President Mohamed Siad Barre was deposed in 1991.

The TNG was established in August, 2000, but has little control outside the capital, Mogadishu.

Fighting between rival clans and warlords has plagued Somalia and all previous ceasefires have collapsed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Mr Ali Mahdi interviewed on Focus on Africa
"There is absolutely no common ground between the faction leaders"

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08 Nov 01 | Africa
26 Sep 01 | Africa
22 Jan 02 | Africa
24 Oct 02 | Africa
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