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Most Somalian Lawmakers Sworn In

More than 200 take oath in Kenya. But several clans have yet to submit lists of representatives.

August 23, 2004|From Times Wire Services

NAIROBI, Kenya — International mediators swore in members of Somalia's new parliament Sunday, a crucial step toward setting up central authority in the world's only country without a national government.

More than 200 members were appointed at the United Nations headquarters in neighboring Kenya. But several clans have yet to submit their lists of representatives, and it was unclear when the full 275-member National Assembly would be seated.

Kenyan diplomat Bethuel Kiplagat, the chief negotiator, congratulated the group on months of hard work but noted that it wasn't yet done. "If we have come this far together, for heaven's sake, let's finish the race," he told the gathering.

Somalia descended into chaos after clan-based factions ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, then turned on one another, transforming the country of 8 million into a patchwork of fiefdoms. U.S. officials believe the nation is a haven for Islamic militants.

An attempt in 2000 by Somali elders, businessmen and religious leaders to form a government failed largely because warlords refused to recognize the administration and relinquish their weapons.

Instead, they continued battling with one another, and the government never controlled more than a small portion of the capital, Mogadishu, and other parts of Somalia. The government's mandate expired in August 2003.

When the new parliament is fully established, it will elect a president to set up a new administration in Mogadishu under a 20-month process to be steered by international mediators.

Lawmakers in the National Assembly were selected under Somalia's clan system, and each of the country's four major clans has 61 seats. A coalition of smaller clans is sharing 31 seats.

Women are to make up at least 12% of the parliament's members.

Newly appointed member Ahmed Omar Gagale and others said the reason to go ahead with a partial swearing-in was to put pressure on the groups who had yet to submit their lists.

There was no timetable for when the assembly would return to Somalia and begin work.

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