U.S. Sanctions More Somali Leaders over Election Delay

The United States has increased the number of Somali officials who are subject to visa restrictions for undermining the country’s democratic process.

After more than a year of being delayed, Somalia missed a 15 March deadline for completing parliamentary elections.

The names of the officials have not yet been released.

To allow for the filling of the remaining lower house seats, the election deadline has been extended to the end of the month.

United States Embassy in Somalia congratulated South West and Galmudug for concluding their parliamentary elections before the deadline, while disappointed by delays by other states.

U.S. officials say they will use visa restrictions and other tools to promote accountability and support the election process.

The statement also noted credible reports of irregularities, harassment and intimidation against journalists and opposition members.

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More than 50 years have passed since Somalia last held a one-person-one-vote election.

MPs are currently selected by delegates appointed by clan elders and members of civil society selected by regional state officials.

The MPs will then elect a new president.

The current president’s term ended last year but was extended due to delays caused partly by his rivalry with the prime minister.

The US had three weeks ago slammed visa restrictions on Somali officials and individuals, accusing them of “undermining the democratic process in Somalia”, after yet another delay in the parliamentary elections.

In a statement issued by the US Department of State at the time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions were “to promote accountability for their obstructionist actions.”

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The restrictions were announced just hours after Somali leaders extended parliamentary elections to March 15 after failing to complete them on February 25.

“The delay in the conclusion of Somalia’s elections is driving political instability, threatening security gains, and undermining economic development,” said Blinken.

A series of delays has prevented the elections from being held a year ago, due to a lack of agreement on how they will be conducted and infighting between the president and prime minister.

A complex process of indirect voting by clan delegates has so far been used for the selection of 179 out of the 275 members of the lower house. The lawmakers will choose the president, but the election date has not yet been set.

Since the 1991 overthrow of Somalia’s third president, Mohamed Siad Barre, a long-standing rift between the federal government and regional leaders has raised the stakes in Somalia.

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As part of its campaign to topple the government, al-Shabab has intensified attacks in regions where elections are being held, making the situation worse.

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