Why we welcome sanctions on polls spoilers
EDITORIAL | The US government on Wednesday cracked the latest whip on poll spoilers, handing more of them visa restrictions to American soil as punishment for skewing the electoral process.
This step, which we believe is even long overdue, is welcome. Yes, the US doesn’t vote in Somalia and should not be seen to be interfering. But Americans have been around long enough to have a say in what is good or bad for Somalia. They have helped battle al-Shabaab, Somalia’s s inherent problem, and have helped prop up a government that would never have been capable of defending itself.
The US had always warned that Somalia’s future lies entirely in the hands of Somalis, who must be allowed to hold a free and fair election. Yet, even with this rallying call, some Somali leaders have dragged us for so long. Somalia was supposed to hold universal suffrage but chose indirect elections because we thought we could be done with it at a cheaper cost and help us plan for the future. Instead, what we got were constant delays and wrangles. Leaders came to the table to negotiate for timelines that only favored them. And if they didn’t, they engineered delays, either by causing wrangles and splintering or rigging in their preferred candidates.
The parliamentary elections that were to be completed by February 25, in the rearranged dates, were pushed to March 15 and now to April, all signs of failure to honor schedules. But even as we near the end of parliamentary elections, they have left in their wake a series of bitterness. Some people felt robbed and had nowhere to go. Moreover, agencies charged with dispute resolutions were either defied or hindered from doing independent probes.
Visa bans may not necessarily dissuade the bad guys from becoming democratic overnight. But we know how Somalia politicians live: most carry Somali flags but bear foreign passports. Most have families living abroad, including in the US. Barring them from traveling there means they have to ensure the systems here are better for them to enjoy.
The idea that politicians can make a living here dirtying the politics while fleeing to the safety of the free land should be discouraged, even punished. And we thank US Ambassador Larry Andre for being among the foremost diplomats in the country to insist on timely, accessible, and fair elections. This has been an essential point of call, especially when considering that the world has lately been focused on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and even Covid-19.
Somalia’s future must never be left in the hands of spoilers, and we support continual sanctions against those who seek to ruin the rebuilding of our country.