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The BBC's Cathy Jenkins
"Hostilities that have kept the clans at war for nearly a decade risk being carried over into the parliament"
 real 28k

Sunday, 13 August, 2000, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Divisions threaten Somali parliament

The first meeting of Somalia's transitional parliament has taken place amid ongoing wrangling between the country's rival factions.

The assembly's first meeting, at Arta in neighbouring Djibouti, has seen 172 members of the 245-seat body nominated.

The meeting, chaired by Djibouti's President Omar Guellah, represents the culmination of three years of talks aimed at restoring establishing democracy in the war-torn state.

But despite attempts to end factional disputes in parliament at least, the assembly has been divided along clan lines.

Warlords' threat

Some powerful Somali warlords are still refusing to give the parliament their backing, and are threatening to disrupt its move to a permanent home in Somalia's capital Mogadishu.

Hussein Mohammed Aideed
Aideed says he will not accept the assembly
According to the French news agency Agence France Presse, one prominent factional leader, Hossein Mohammed Aideed, threatened to send militiamen to stop delegates returning.

"We shall exercise maximum readiness to avoid infiltration by sympathisers of the Djibouti conference, whose aim is to destabilise Somalia," the agency quoted Aideed as saying.

The latest proposals to restore Somalia's government come following exhaustive talks in Djibouti, sponsored by the government of President Guelleh.

There have been 12 previous abortive attempts to restore central government to the east African country since the collapse of the regime of Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991.

'Significant threat'

Despite the warlords' threats, the parliament has the backing of many African and Arab states as well as the European Union.

Somali gunmen
The state has been divided by violence
Most see its formation as an important move towards ending factional violence in the east-African nation.

"This will be a significant step towards restoring a governmental framework in a fragmented country controlled by rival clans," said an unnamed African diplomat speaking to the Reuters press agency.

The parliament has already received a boost, receiving membership nominations from one of Mogadishu's most powerful clan leaders Ali Mahdi Mohamed.

Disputes

But two regions run by rival warlords have declared themselves independent, and say they will not recognise the new government.

Militiamen from the self-declared Republics of Somaliland and Puntland have already attempted to derail the new assembly once, detaining delegates returning from a UN-backed conference in May.

Last minute disputes over seat distribution, particularly the allocation of 25 seats to women, also threatened to delay the inaugural meeting.

This has caused some consternation amongst Somalia's traditionalists, who see the move as marking a breakthrough in women's rights.

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See also:

24 Jul 00 | Africa
Somali peace talks 'sabotaged'
24 Jul 00 | Africa
Government-in-exile for Somalia?
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