Somali factions sign peace pact in Nairobi

WARLORD Mohamed Ali Mahdi flew back to Somalia Saturday after signing a peace pact with his arch rival, Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed, that offered a slim hope for restoring government in the country.

Fifteen Somali militia factions signed the vague accord Thursday that calls for further talks in Mogadishu in April and May to establish a parliament and elect a president. ``The politicians signed because they realized if they didn't, the Somali people would be abandoned by the international community,'' Mr. Ali Mahdi said from his heavily guarded house in north Mogadishu.

The UN-brokered talks in Nairobi provided a minimum guarantee of peace, but the factions have promised peace at previous talks only to quarrel again.

After the warlords ousted dictator Maj. Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991, Ali Mahdi convinced his allies to confirm him as ``president'' in talks in Djibouti. That angered General Aideed, and a civil war erupted in Mogadishu in late 1991.

The feuding caused a famine that killed an estimated 300,000 people, leading to military intervention by US-led forces in December 1992. On Friday, the last US troops from a multinational peacekeeping force left Somalia. Ali Mahdi said he was disappointed the peacekeeping force abandoned its mandate of disarming Somali militias: He wanted them to stay and rebuild the Somali police force.

Ethnic violence abates in Burundi

A SIX-DAY ethnic clash that turned an outlying area of Burundi's capital of Bujumbura into a ghost town has ended, diplomats and relief officials said Saturday.

Hundreds of civilians and combatants died during battles between Burundi's Tutsi-dominated Army and militants of the majority Hutu tribe.

Some 15,000 people fled to neighboring Zaire while troops with armored cars fought armed Hutu men in and around the northeast Bujumbura suburb of Kamenge, which was sealed off by the Army for several days.

Government officials estimate the death toll since March 19 to be as high as 2,000, but Westerners in the capital believe it was about 500.

The World Food Programme sent two trucks with 44 tons of food Saturday to Zaire to feed the latest wave of refugees. WFP officials said 19 trucks were being loaded in Uganda with food for displaced people.

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