WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) – The United States barred on Friday travel by Somali officials and other individuals to the United States, accusing them of “undermining the democratic process” in Somalia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States imposed the visa ban after Somalia pushed back to March 15 parliamentary elections due to have been completed on Friday.
“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.
No central government has held broad authority for 30 years in Somalia, which is caught in a lengthy election process repeatedly held up in a power struggle between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble.
The parliamentary election, which started in November, is an indirect process that involves clan elders picking the 275 members of the lower house, who then choose a new president on a date yet to be fixed.
Data from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shows 4.3 million people in Somalia are affected by drought, with 271,000 displaced as a result.
The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group, which frequently carries out gun and bomb attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere in Somalia, has also been an impediment to the election.
In mid-February, a suicide bomber targeted a minibus full of election delegates, killing at least six people in Mogadishu. The delegates were unharmed.