By VINCENT OWINO
The United States has slapped visa restrictions on officials in Somalia, believed to have played a part in delaying parliamentary elections that were to be concluded by Friday last week.
Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said the entry ban on some unnamed officials and their families would “promote accountability for their obstructionist actions.”
Somalia’s National Consultative Council extended the elections deadline to March 15, after several parliamentary seats remained empty by the elapse of the self-established deadline on February 25.
“Procedural irregularities and partisan use of security forces have undermined an electoral process that is more than a year behind schedule,” Mr Blinken said in a press statement released on Monday.
“Journalists and opposition party members working to support democratic institutions and transparent processes have been targeted with harassment, intimidation, arrest, and violence,” he noted.
Washington has been warning against derailment since Somalia’s elections began in September last year.
“The delay in the conclusion of Somalia’s elections is driving political instability, threatening security gains, and undermining economic development,” the US says.
So far, all 54 members of the Senate have been elected, but nearly 100 MPs of 275 members of the Lower House are yet to be voted in.
As a result, this has meant more delays in the presidential vote in Somalia’s complex elections.
In the indirect poll model, the 275-member Lower House and the 54 senators hold a joint session to elect Somalia’s president.
The US announced it would impose the visa bans about three weeks ago, when February 8 election deadline elapsed, exactly a year after President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s term expired.
According to Mr Blinken, the continued delay of the presidential elections “has broader implications, including undermining Somalia’s economic reforms and putting in jeopardy timely international debt relief.”
“The US government will evaluate additional actions under this policy and other tools at our disposal to promote accountability and to support Somalia’s democratic process.”