On 20 May, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys released an audio message to the public. The 80 year old Aweys is one of Somalia’s most well known Islamic clerics and has strong ties to Salafist groups like al-Shabaab. His notoriety peaked when he became chair of the Shura Council under the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) in 2006. However since the Ethiopian invasion against the CIC in 2007, Aweys has struggled to reestablish himself as a preeminent leader among the Islamic militants, especially al-Shabaab. When CIC fell, Aweys fled the country. When Aweys returned to Somalia he found others were filling his role in his absence.
Aweys’ radio message today was addressed to the youth of Somalia. The timing of the audio message seems to coincide with Youth Day (15 May), which is a day to commemorate the Somali Youth League; the SYL had a significant role in the Somali independence movement. Aweys in his message praises the SYL but also blames them for failing to implement Sharia in 1960.
Aweys claimed any attempts to establish Sharia in Somalia were foiled by the west. Aweys also mentioned the authorities in Somaliland, Puntland, Jubaland, and Mogadishu are all subservient to Ethiopia. Furthermore he said, Somalia is occupied by Ethiopia and al-Shabaab is right in fighting them. He believes many Islamic scholars lost the ambition of building an Islamic state, but there are still those who fight for it.
He seems to broadly supports the ambitions of al-Shabaab but doubts some of al-Shabaab methods. Aweys called al-Shabaab the “Mujahedeen” but accused them of alienating, targeting scholars, intellectuals and nationalists. He claims al-Shabaab’s mistake is distancing them from scholars, intellectuals & nationalists, to the extent that some joined enemy ranks. He said it was very destructive stance that al-Shabaab’s leader was not willing to listen to critics.
The audio message demonstrates Aweys has not changed his principles. He still supports the formation of a Islamic state in Somalia and is calling on the youth to take up arms against foreign intervention. If anything, this radio message supports the government’s fears that releasing Aweys could make the security situation worse.