ASMARA, Eritrea July 23 (Garowe Online) -
An exiled Somali Islamist leader has declared himself the new chairman of an opposition coalition, which is led by another Islamist who inked a peace pact with the country's Ethiopian-backed interim government on June 9th.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, who lives in Eritrea, told the BBC Somali Service on Tuesday that he is now chairman of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), a coalition formed in September 2007 in Asmara that is composed of Islamists, ex-lawmakers and Diaspora activists.
"These men left…and the place [ARS] cannot be without leadership," Sheikh Aweys said, while referring to ARS Chairman Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Central Committee head Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden.
|Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys|
Sheikh Aweys, whom the U.S. government accuses of having terror links, rejected the Djibouti Accord between the Somali government and the ARS as "dividing the people."
When asked if he was anti-peace, the Islamist leader responded by questioning how genuine the governments of Ethiopia and Somalia are about the prospects of peace in the country.
"There is no pure, dependable peace included in it [Djibouti Accord]," Sheikh Aweys said, adding: "The biggest problem is that Ethiopia is supposed to be expelled from the country [Somalia] and the expulsion of Ethiopia is not very clear in the paper [Djibouti Accord]."
The sheikh suggested that there is no question about
the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Somalia, saying: "Ethiopia will leave, God willing."
But he said the difference was in the way the Ethiopian army left Somali soil:
"The United Nations and the [Somali] Transitional Government want Ethiopia to leave saviors and helpers, but we want Ethiopia to withdraw as criminals who attacked a Muslim country."
In 2006, Sheikh Aweys and Sheikh Sharif were the twin heads of the Islamic Courts movement that seized the capital Mogadishu from warlords and threatened the Transitional Government and its Ethiopian allies with war.
Analysts describe Sheikh Aweys as a hardliner, while Sheikh Sharif has been embraced by many for his moderate qualities.
But one Islamist insider, who spoke with Garowe Online on the condition of anonymity, said that commanders of the Somali insurgency "are more in line" with Sheikh Aweys' position on the Djibouti peace deal.
Source: Garowe Online