Militant groups in Somalia have issued a stern warning to the clan elders asking them to stay away from the election process. On 15 July, the Somali militant Islamist group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen released a written statement attributed to its senior leadership, ‘A Call to Repentance to the So-Called Apostate Somali Tribal Elders’, in English and Somali language versions.
The statement, also read on Al-Shabaab’s two domestic radio stations, Radio al-Andalus and Radio al-Furqan, warned Somali clan and sub-clan elders to not participate in any way in upcoming election processes in either the semi-autonomous Somali regional states or the next federal elections, the latter of which is scheduled for 2020.
As per the tradition, clan elders currently select candidates for the regional and federal parliament elections based on the country’s “4.5” system which reserves an equal number of seats for Somalia’s four large clan families, the Hawiye, Dir, Darod, and Rahanweyn (1 to 1) and .5 seats (half a seat) to every 1 for the clan families to a collective group of minority clan and ethnic groups. The statement was also profiled on pro-Al-Shabaab Somali news websites including SomaliMeMo. The statement had religious undertones attached to it and opened with a lengthy citation from Quran 4:60–65 in which Allah excoriates the “hypocrites” (munafiqun) who “claim that they believe in that which has been sent down (Quran)” but continue to govern through un-Islamic, tyrannical (taghut), and polytheistic ways due to being “led astray” by Satan.
The verses state that anyone who does not abide by the traditions and example (sunnah) of the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran is not a Muslim. The Al-Shabaab statement noted that, as these verses make clear, the only legitimate form of governance for Muslims is Sharia (Islamic law) and any other form of legislation is impermissible and must be abolished.
This point was further underlined with citations of Quran 5:50 and 12:40 which further emphasized the necessity to rule only by Sharia, the Prophet Muhammad’s sunna including the ahadith (singular: hadith; reports of his sayings and actions), and the Quran.
The statement warned all Somali and non-Somali Muslims that the “so-called tribal (clan) elders” who participated in the selection processes for elections “have fallen into clear-cut disbelief (kufr) that has invalidated their Islam, nullified their faith and led them towards the path of apostasy and misguidance.” The statement emphasizes the primacy of Sharia and regards electoral democracy as antithetical to Sharia law.
The statement has called on clan elders who have participated in electoral processes to select MP candidates to “repent to Allah, disavow themselves from the disbelievers (kuffar), and accept the sovereignty of Allah’s law (hakimiyyah) above all forms of legislation”. Al-Shabaab’s leadership gave these clan elders 45 days, from the date of the statement’s issuance to 1 September, to repent and register with Al-Shabaab’s regional governing administrations (the “Islamic Wilayat”) “in order to safeguard their lives”. Those who do, the statement said, citing Quran 5:34 will be forgiven their major sin as “Allah, the oft-forgiving, most merciful, said” should happen.
The significance of the statement should not be undermined. It indicates a clear threat to Somalia’s clan and sub-clan elders who wield significant social and political influence in the country’s affairs and politics, by Al-Shabaab’s senior leadership. Moreover, the timing of the statement is significant, coming just before the Jubaland regional state’s presidential and regional parliament elections scheduled currently for August.