US slaps more Somalis with visa restrictions for undermining democratic process

US slaps more Somalis with visa restrictions for undermining democratic process

WASHINGTON – The United States has continued to call for sanity in Somalia’s internal politics, following the failure by the Horn of Africa nation to conclude Lower House elections within the agreed timeline, further delaying presidential polls.

Somalia was supposed to conclude elections on March 15 but a number of states among them Puntland, Jubaland, and Hirshabelle failed to beat the deadline. Only Southwest, Galmadug, Somaliland, and Banadir region managed to beat the deadline.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US is now expanding the number of Somali individuals who are subject to visa restrictions. It is the second time this year Somalia is struggling to beat the deadline for elections.

“I am taking this action pursuant to a policy I announced on February 8, under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, to restrict the issuance of visas for those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Somalia,” reads the statement.

Secretary Blinken was however quick to commend the progress made so far in the exercise but noted dozens of parliamentary seats were yet to be filled. So far, the electoral team has filled 236 seats of the 275 up for grabs in the country.

Further, he said the US is cognizant of the fact that state agents have been harassing journalists and various members of the opposition throughout the electoral exercise in the Horn of Africa nation.

“While encouraging progress has been made over the past few weeks, there are still more than three dozen unfilled parliamentary seats. There are continued credible reports of procedural irregularities,” the official said. “Journalists and opposition party members working to support democratic institutions and transparent processes have been targeted with harassment, intimidation, arrest, and violence.”

The federal electoral implementation team had scheduled April 14 as the date for swearing-in of the new MPs but Galmadug and Southwest opposed the move, arguing that the National Consultative Council should first approve the dates.

The US now says it will continue to promote accountability in the country’s elections, adding that those found culpable of frustrating the exercise should be slapped with more designations in the coming months.

“We will continue to evaluate additional designations under this policy and other tools at our disposal to promote accountability and support the rapid conclusion of Somalia’s electoral process in a credible and transparent manner,” the statement clarified. “The United States strongly supports the Somali people and remains committed to working to advance democracy and mutual prosperity.”


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