, NAIROBI, Sep 14 – Foreign envoys who narrowly escaped a suicide attack in Somalia say a rift at the top of its Western-backed government is threatening to derail efforts to fend off an Islamic insurgency.
"The current divisions between the leadership of Somalia\’s Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) are unhelpful and potentially very damaging," said a statement received by AFP Tuesday.
The joint statement was signed by the UN chief\’s special representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga, his counterpart from the African Union Boubacar Diarra and Kipruto arap Kirwa from the regional body IGAD.
The three officials met President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed last week in Mogadishu and were at the airport when suicide bombers from the Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab group attacked the compound.
They called on the government "to remain cohesive and focused on security and transitional tasks at such a critical time."
Somali officials and diplomats have voiced concern in recent days over a growing dispute between Sharif and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke.
"Those who stood to gain the most from the current divisions were the extremists who were fighting to take control of the country," the joint statement said.
Sharif himself, the prime minister and his government, as well as the international community supporting them have all been criticised for failing to tackle the threat of the insurgency adequately.
Backed by a growing contingent of African Union troops, Somali government troops have been battling a fierce Shebab-led insurgency for control of Mogadishu in almost daily clashes that have killed hundreds of civilians.