I have a new post today at the academic and policy collaborative blog Al-Wasat, founded by two colleagues, Andrew Lebovich, a program associate at The New America Foundation, and Aaron Y. Zelin, a research assistant in the Department of Politics at Brandeis University.
The post is entitled, "Harakat al-Shabab Continues to Court Somalia's Clans as Hasan Dahir Aweys Assumes a More Public Role." It analyzes continuing attempts by the Somali insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior-Youth; Al-Shabaab) to reach out to Somalia's socially and politically important clans. This outreach, while I argue it is not entirely new, comes at a time when the movement is facing increased pressure on the battlefield due to a massive African Union offensive designed to help the weak Somali Transitional Federal Government. Intense fighting is taking place in the capital city of Mogadishu and to the west in the region of Gedo near the Ethiopian and Kenyan borders.
The post also discusses the evolving role of Hasan Dahir Aweys (Xasan Daahir Aweys), a veteran Somali leader who is now, it seems, a member of Harakat al-Shabab's leadership structure. Finally, some attention is paid to the use of primary sources produced by the movement, both their usefulness and potential pitfalls. An example of the types of primary sources available include the photographs that accompany the piece, which were released by Harakat al-Shabab via the Internet.
"The Somali insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of Warrior-Youth; Al-Shabaab), as I have written previously, maintains a complex relationship with Somalia’s important clans, a relationship about which little is known. In early March the movement announced that clan leaders had rallied in support of its defensive fight against a new offensive, launched in mid February, by the African Union Mission in Somalia’s (AMISOM) military forces along with Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers and militiamen from the Sufi armed faction Ahlul Sunna Wal Jamaacah (Jama’ah) that is aligned with AMISOM and the TFG.
Harakat al-Shabab announced two days ago that some of its senior leaders in the district of Banaadir, in which the embattled capital city of Mogadishu is located, had met with clan elders from the Mudulood, a large sub-clan of the Hawiye clan confederation in Mogadishu. A brief report about this meeting was issued by the movement as a press release and was reported by some Somali news web sites, some of them sympathetic or aligned with Harakat al-Shabab. The movement also released photographs from the meeting, something that it often does when reporting important events. The meeting was chaired by veteran Somali Islamist leader Hasan Dahir Aweys and Husayn ‘Ali Fidow (Xuseen Cali Fiidow), a senior Harakat al-Shabab leader in Banaadir, and took place in the northern suburbs of Mogadishu."
Read the rest of the piece at AL-WASAT.