By VINCENT OWINO

The United States has imposed visa restrictions on Somali officials suspected of having played a role in the delay of the legislative elections which were due to conclude on Friday last week.

Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, said banning entry of some unnamed officials and their families would “promote accountability for their obstructionist actions”.

Somalia’s National Advisory Council has extended the election deadline to March 15, after several parliamentary seats remained vacant when the self-set February 25 deadline expired.

Read: Somalia again extends election deadline

“Procedural irregularities and partisan use of security forces have undermined an electoral process that is more than a year behind schedule,” Blinken said in a Monday press release.

“Journalists and members of opposition parties working to support democratic institutions and transparent processes have been the target of harassment, intimidation, arrest and violence,” he noted.

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Washington has warned of a derailment since the start of the Somali elections in September last year.

“The delay in the conclusion of elections in Somalia is a source of political instability, threatens security gains and undermines economic development,” the United States said.

So far, all 54 members of the Senate have been elected, but nearly 100 deputies out of 275 members of the lower house have yet to be elected.

As a result, this led to more delays in the presidential vote in Somalia’s complex elections.

In the indirect ballot model, the 275-member lower house and the 54 senators hold a joint session to elect Somalia’s president.

The United States announced it would impose the visa bans about three weeks ago when the February 8 election deadline passed, exactly one year after President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s term in office expired.

Blinken said the continued postponement of presidential elections “has wider implications, including undermining Somalia’s economic reforms and jeopardizing timely international debt relief.”

Read: Insecurity and postponement of elections dash hopes for Somalia debt relief

“The U.S. government will evaluate additional actions under this policy and other tools at our disposal to promote accountability and support the Somali democratic process.”