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Somalia's Fragile Peace Process Shaken by Disputes Over Formal Agreement - 2004-02-05

Many Somali factional leaders say they now reject a landmark agreement on the formation of a new parliament they signed a few days ago.

Factional leader Mohammed Sa'id Hersi, known as General Morgan, says the agreement that 30 warlords, politicians, and civil representatives signed in front of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on January 29 is not the same as the document they had agreed to just three days earlier.

He says there were significant changes made in the formal agreement that the signatories discovered only after last Thursday's signing ceremony. He says they assumed the wording of the document they okayed, and the one they signed were the same.

"If you see the document, a lot of mistakes are there," he said. "This document legally is not valid. The political leaders feel that until this mistakes [will] be corrected, we are not going to be a part of the process. But that does not mean that we are pulling out, but we are waiting from the facilitation committee just to correct those mistakes."

So far, more than a dozen factional leaders have disavowed the document and have taken the matter to I-GAD, the seven-nation regional grouping that is sponsoring the peace talks.

General Morgan says the formal agreement left out key people and political positions, and political groupings were not accurately described.

His main objection, he says, is that the final text recognizes Somalia's political leaders as being only those who attended the Nairobi meeting where the agreement was drawn up.

The Kenyan mediator of the Somali peace process, Bethuel Kiplagat, says negotiators and factional leaders have since proposed to amend the text to include more people, a solution he says everyone would accept.

Mr. Kiplagat says this situation is not unusual and does not mean the end of the peace process.

"Somebody, somewhere, sometime after signing will come back and say, look, I am not too comfortable here," he said. "That does not mean they are abandoning the process or the process is stalled."

Factional leaders, civil representatives, traditional elders, and others have been meeting in Kenya for more than a year in an effort to put an end to more than a decade of fighting in Somalia.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991. Quarreling and bitter fighting among clan militias have ruined many attempts to end the war.