Members of a new Somali transitional parliament were sworn in Sunday, a key step toward establishing the country's first national government since 1991. But a dispute within a major Somali clan over its delegates threatened to scuttle the peace process, mediators said.
The new parliament is the product of nearly two years of talks in Kenya among clan leaders, religious leaders and warlords.
Lawmakers in the new parliament were selected under Somalia's clan system, and each of the country's four major clans has 61 seats in the 275-member assembly. A coalition of smaller clans is sharing 31 seats. Women are slated to make up at least 12 percent of the parliament.
The legislature will have a five-year term and select a national president, the country's first since 1991. There was no timetable for when the parliament would return to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and begin official duties.
A dispute over who would select 59 of the representatives of the Darod clan threatened to undermine the parliament's authority. Abdullahi Yussuf, a Darod who controls the central Puntland region of Somalia, wanted more authority in choosing the Darod representatives, an official said on condition of anonymity.
Yussuf and other Darod leaders were not available for comment, but Abdirashid Mohammed, one of the new lawmakers, called the dispute "very small" and said it would soon be settled. He did not elaborate.
"If we have gone this far, for God's sake, let's finish the race," Kenyan diplomat Bethuel Kiplagat, the chief mediator at the talks, told the Somali clan leaders, warlords and religious leaders who attended the ceremony at the United Nation's sprawling campus on the edge of Nairobi.
Somalia descended into chaos after clan-based factions ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, transforming the country of 7 million people into a patchwork of fiefdoms.
In 2000, an attempt 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 each other, and the government never controlled more than a small portion of Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia. The government's mandate expired in August 2003.