The United States (U.S.) on Tuesday announced visa restrictions against Somali officials accused of undermining democratic processes.
State Secretary Antony Blinken issued the sanctions on the one-year anniversary of the expiration of the Somali president’s term in office.
“I am announcing the implementation of a policy under Section 212(a) (3) (C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act that restricts the issuance of visas to current or former Somali officials or other individuals who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Somalia, including through violence against protestors, unjust arrests or intimidation of journalists and opposition members, and manipulation of the electoral process,” Blinken said.
“Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions,” he added.
“This policy will apply to individuals who have played a role in procedural irregularities that have undermined the electoral process, who have failed to follow through with their obligations to implement timely and transparent elections, and who have targeted journalists and opposition party members with harassment, intimidation, arrest, and violence”, the State Secretary stated.
The U.S. had repeatedly expressed concern over the delays and procedural irregularities in Somalia’s electoral process and the broader implications of those irregularities for the country’s democracy and stability.
Somalia has postponed elections since the mandate of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo expired in February last year.
Indirect parliamentary elections started in November and were supposed to conclude by 24 December but have been marred by delays due to disputes.
However, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and regional state leaders reached a deal on 9 January to complete the polls by 25 February.
The US state department says the political leaders must follow through on their commitments to complete the process by the deadline.
“Somalia’s national and federal member state leaders must follow through on their commitments to complete the parliamentary process in a credible and transparent manner by February 25, which will further lay the groundwork for responsive governance in Somalia”, the statement said.
The statement said the U.S. strongly supports the Somali people and are committed to working together to advance democracy and mutual prosperity for both of their countries.