MOGADISHU, Somalia, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- An agreement signed between rival leaders in Somalia could pave the way to the end of transitional rule there, a U.N. special envoy said.
Somalia, in the grips of drought and famine plaguing much of the Horn of Africa, hasn't had a functioning central government since the 1990s. The transitional government, meanwhile, had controlled only a tiny portion of the capital Mogadishu before militants with al-Qaida's affiliate al-Shabaab pulled out recently.
Augustine Mahiga, the U.N. special envoy to Somalia, said a deal signed between leaders in the Somali states of Galmudug and Puntland paved the way to a unified Somalia.
"Puntland and Galmudug are on Somalia's front lines in the ongoing fight against violent extremists that increasingly are relying on terror tactics to try and disrupt the peace process," he said in a statement.
At least 30 people were killed last week when forces from the two self-proclaimed autonomous regions clashed near the border town of Galkayo.
Somalia is in the grip of a cholera outbreak, which complicates humanitarian efforts to deal with widespread famine in the country.
Al-Shabaab is said to be intercepting aid deliveries in the country despite pulling back from Mogadishu.
A drought gripping most of the Horn of Africa is expected to linger for much of the year.