WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is “deeply disappointed” by Somalia’s approval of legislation that extends the terms of the president and members of parliament by two years, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Implementation of this bill will pose serious obstacles to dialogue and further undermine peace and security in Somalia,” Blinken said.
“It will compel the United States to reevaluate our bilateral relations with the Federal Government of Somalia, to include diplomatic engagement and assistance, and to consider all available tools, including sanctions and visa restrictions, to respond to efforts to undermine peace and stability,” he said.
Somalia’s lower house of parliament voted on Monday to extend President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s four-year term, which expired in February, for another two years. The Senate rejected the move.
Senator Ayub Ismail Yusuf told Reuters the lower house had authority to decide on elections, but Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan from the opposition disagreed.
Lower House speaker Mohamed Mursal Sheikh said the measure would let the country prepare for direct elections.
The political crisis threatens to deepen Somalia’s divisions, distracting attention from the fight against the Islamist al Shabab insurgency which has killed thousands of civilians in the region in the past 12 years.
The African Union, European Union, United Nations and regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development said in a joint statement on Saturday that they would not support any extension of the president’s term.
(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Cynthia Osterman)