Islamist al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane urged Somalis to reject “the Devil’s principles” of democracy, just several days ahead of elections in the breakaway Somaliland region.
“The reality is that democracy is something Allah made unlawful, and someone else cannot make it lawful,” the reclusive leader, also known as Sheik Mukhtar Abdirahman, said.
“If people who are Muslims, who declare the name of Allah, argue that they are real Muslims but forget Allah’s message, hang or arrest them, kill them by using ammunition.”
Abu Zubeyr urged Muslims in an audio recording on the Internet to move away from areas that tried to build democracy.
The separatist republic of Somaliland — which has sought international recognition as sovereign state — is holding presidential elections on June 26.
The region has enjoyed relative peace and stability for nearly two decades — while the rest of Somalia has had no functioning administration — but is frustrated by the lack of international recognition as a sovereign state.
“If people fight … till everyone is killed, that is much easier than legalising the devil’s principles such as constitutions or making a ruler who governs against Allah’s laws,” he said.
Abu Zubeyr did not mention Somaliland specifically, but analysts said the timing of the message showed that it was intended to frighten people away from polling stations.
“This is something al Shabaab has been trying for a number of years, to disrupt Somaliland elections,” said Ej Hogendoorn, the Horn of Africa director International Crisis Group.
Over a million people will take part in polls in the Horn of Africa, polls which have been delayed three times since April 2008 because of problems with voter registration.
“The people have been waiting for long to elect their president for the next five years … and they will do it peacefully and democratically,” said Ahmed Hashi, Somaliland’s Assistant Minister for Planning.
Hashi said Abu Zubeyr’s rhetoric showed growing extremism imported form the al Shabaab-controlled central and south Somalia needed to be confronted.
Violence between Islamist groups and Somalia’s weak government in the south has killed more than 21 000 people since the start of 2007 and uprooted at least 1.5 million.
“This is only a further manifestation of the extremist policy he and his group are trying to spread in the region to cause hostility and instability,” he said.
Somaliland police have arrested dozens of men linked to al Shabaab rebels in the last two weeks, Interior Minister Abdullahi Saed told Reuters.
“We arrested those people in multiple operations as they planned to disrupt security,” he said.