US restricts visas for Somalia election spoilers

US restricts visas for Somalia election spoilers
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about climate change at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., April 19, 2021. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Somaliguardian) – The United States restricted visas for Somali officials and other individuals it accused of “undermining the democratic process” in Somalia, a day after deadline for the conclusion of parliamentary elections had been extended until March 15.

In a virtual meeting on Thursday, the Prime Minister and regional leaders agreed to extend the deadline for the completion of parliamentary polls, which were expected to be concluded by February 25, until March 15, drawing criticism from the opposition. The process was previously hit by multiple other delays.

“We are now imposing visa restrictions under this policy against a number of Somali officials and other individuals to promote accountability for their obstructionist actions,” Blinken said in a statement issued by the State Department.

Procedural irregularities and partisan use of security forces have undermined an electoral process that is more than a year behind schedule.  Journalists and opposition party members working to support democratic institutions and transparent processes have been targeted with harassment, intimidation, arrest, and violence.”

US Secretary of State said Somali leaders must rapidly complete ongoing parliamentary elections in a “transparent and credible manner”. He also warned that additional actions under this policy and other tools were at their disposal to “promote accountability and to support Somalia’s democratic process”.

It comes amid renewed dispute between Somalia’s electoral bodies after the election of former spy chief Fahad Yasin, a key ally of Farmajo, reignited power fight between the country’s most powerful leaders, the President and his Prime Minister. The electoral board nullified the outcome of his vote this last week, but the electoral disputes resolution team later validated the results, though its statement has later been removed from social media due to pressure from the Premier.

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