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Fractures in Somalia's leadership could potentially be extremely damaging to a country long ravaged by war, misrule and humanitarian suffering, the United Nations and its partners cautioned today, urging the heads of the nation's Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) to maintain a united front.

Augustine Mahiga, the Special Representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Boubacar Diarra, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia; and Kipruto Arap Kirwa, Somalia Facilitator for the InterGovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), issued their joint statement following a meeting with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed in Mogadishu last week.

“Many members of the international community have worked tirelessly to support the current administration and we know they join us in calling for the leadership of the TFIs to remain cohesive and focused on security and transitional tasks at such a critical time,” they said.

Somalia's transition phase ends next August, giving the current Government less than a year to wrap up its remaining priority tasks.

“The end of the transition period will give Somalis the opportunity to determine a new political dispensation, but there is much work to be done before then,” the envoys said. “There is no time to waste.”

Those who stand to gain the most from the current divisions are the extremists trying to take control of Somalia, they stressed, underlining the need for internal cohesion to foster peace and stability. The country has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

Somali troops and peacekeepers serving with the AU's peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) risk their lives daily to protect the TFIs and “to defend the integrity of the peace process,” the statement said.

“The leaders and politicians need to demonstrate their unity of purpose to show they are working together to restore peace to Somalia.”