In a recent speech from a mosque in Lower Shabelle, al-Shabaab spiritual leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys continued his rogue status as an alternative voice in the group.
Aweys stated that the Somali people “have rights” and should work toward “creating peace” under a government after the foreign presence in the country is driven out.
Sounding more like a populist demagogue than a violent extremist, Aweys’s comments come as al-Shabaab carried out threats issued by spokesman Ali Dheere and arrested over 100 elders for participating in consultations regarding the controversial Somali constitution ratification process.
Despite his peaceful rhetoric, Aweys is still not giving up on his effort to recoup weapons confiscated by al-Shabaab from an ally’s weapons den in Sinka Dheere. Therefore, it is unlikely that Sheikh Aweys is on the “peace train” to the degree that it means putting down the gun.
For sure, al-Shabaab is aware of the potential backlash that may come with silencing him. So, it will be interesting to see how long al-Shabaab allows the enigmatic leader to take such an outstanding public role before his voice is silenced.