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Somali factions sign peace agreement

In this story: December 22, 1997
Web posted at: 7:47 p.m. EST (0047 GMT)

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) - Rival Somali factions signed a peace agreement in Cairo Monday to end six years of clan warfare and rebuild their war-ravaged country.

Warlord Hussein Mohamed Aidid and his main rival, Ali Mahdi Mohammed, signed the Cairo Declaration after 40 days of negotiations in the Egyptian capital.

"Let the world hear from us," Aidid said. "There will be no more shooting and killing. There will be no more factions, no more warlords, no more division."

"If yesterday we were two groups opposing one another," said Ali Mahdi, "today I announce here we are one group."

The "Somali Declaration of Principles" calls for a national reconciliation conference on February 15 that will elect a 13-man presidential council, a prime minister and a parliament and adopt a transitional charter.

The leaders of all but two of the country's 28 factions agreed to the deal, giving it more weight than previous attempts at ending the fighting. Somalis have signed many peace accords since 1991, but none has brought order to their country.

"Somali leaders desire lasting peace, stability and an end to the conflict and civil war in Somalia," the declaration says. It also says the factions agreed unanimously on a cease-fire and the disengagement of opposing forces.

No central government since 1991

The power-sharing agreement could put an end to warring factions

The signing comes five days after the faction leaders agreed, after protracted wrangling, on how many delegates each would send to the 465-member reconciliation conference. The conference is expected to be held in the central Somali town of Baidoa.

According to the agreement, the charter written at the Baidoa conference will be a framework for a national transitional government "for the protection of individual rights."

Somalia has been without a central government since 1991 when the late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was driven out by rebel groups. The country's clans and sub-clans then turned on each other, creating chaos just as a drought enveloped the country. Approximately 250,000 people have died in the fighting and famine.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission dominated by the United States arrived in late 1992 and provided protection for food distribution to help end the famine. But it became bogged down in the factional fighting, and 18 U.S. soldiers were killed before the force withdrew in 1995.

Aidid was elected president of Somalia by clansmen in August 1996, but his title is not recognized by his rivals nor by the international community. Aidid made a major concession during the negotiations by renouncing his claim to the presidency and settling for the post of prime minister.

Aidid a former U.S. Marine

mogadishu file
International forces descended on Somalia in 1992

Mogadishu, the capital, is divided between the factions of Ali Mahdi Mohammed and Aidid. The latter is a former American resident and U.S. Marine who returned to Somalia as a translator for U.S. troops who eventually tried to capture his father, faction leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid. Hussein Aidid took over the faction after his father's death.

Under the proposed agreement, the factions of Aidid and Ali Mahdi will each have 80 seats. The remaining seats will be divided among the other clans and sub-clans.

The latest round of negotiations began on November 12 and were sponsored by Egypt and the Cairo-based Arab League, which set up a fund to finance the Baidoa conference.

Among the Somalis who are not part of this agreement are those in the breakaway Somaliland Republic in the northwest of the country. Its president, Mohamed Ibrahim Egal, claims his territory will never be reunited with the rest of the country in the Horn of Africa.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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