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Impeachment Proceedings Begun Against Somali Leader

The looming question is what happens next in Somalia, where more than 1 million people displaced by two years of fighting are now facing drought, hyperinflation and a dearth of humanitarian assistance. Across the border in Kenya, the Dadaab refugee camp is bulging with tens of thousands of Somalis as busloads of newcomers arrive almost every day.

On Wednesday, Somali lawmakers signed what is known as the Djibouti agreement, which substantially increases representation in parliament of moderate Islamists who were pushed out of Mogadishu by the Ethiopians, as well as members of the vast diaspora, intellectuals, clan elders and others. The leader of the opposition coalition, Sharif Ahmed, recently returned to Mogadishu after nearly two years in exile and is trying to persuade clan elders and their militias to stop fighting and back him.

"He is there selling the Djibouti agreement," Said said, adding that support for the Shabab would plummet after the Ethiopians withdraw.

Others see the situation as far more bleak. "The military situation on the ground is completely different from the political picture," the U.S. official said. "It's just a matter of time before the Shabab move into Mogadishu."

If that happens, the next phase of Somalia's perpetual conflict would probably be a bloody power struggle between various clan militias and the Shabab. The rise of a radical Islamist group in Somalia would amount to the very scenario that Bush administration officials had sought to avoid by backing Yusuf.

The Shabab has thrived under the banner of fighting the Ethiopians, whom it views as proxies for the United States. But other than the exit of the Ethiopians and an end to U.S. involvement in Somalia, its goals are unclear.

In some areas it controls, the Shabab is demanding strict adherence to its brand of Islamic law. Two months ago, for example, Shabab militiamen stoned to death a 14-year-old girl who had been raped after accusing her of being promiscuous.

Special correspondent Mohamed Ibrahim contributed to this report.

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