U.S. fires sanctions warning shot for political leaders

October 9, 2020 - Reading Time: 2 minutes - By The Vellum Team

The United States has fired a warning shot. It will not hesitate to sanction leaders in Africa who frustrate democratic processes, the State Department announced Thursday.

The warning shot was not directed at any particular country. But it was clearly meant to cause self-reflection among leaders who may engage in political activities that reverse democratic gains.

We will watch closely the actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process and will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those responsible for election-related violence. As long-time partners to the nations of Africa, we care about the region’s democratic trajectory and are committed to working constructively with international and regional partners,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The United States is committed to supporting free, fair, inclusive elections. The conduct of elections is important not only for Africans, but also for defenders of democracy around the world. We believe all sides should participate peacefully in the democratic process. Repression and intimidation have no place in democracies. The right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression and association are at the heart of a functioning democracy. Adherence to these democratic norms and to the rule of law allows all citizens to engage in political dialogue and support their choice of candidates, parties, and platforms,” said Mr. Pompeo.

To Kenya’s south, Tanzania is preparing for a General Election which is scheduled for October 28. The Opposition has accused the government of frustrating its campaigns as a means of rigging the election – claims that the government denies.

Then there’s Kenya. Although elections are two years away, political activity has lately been heating up, especially after it seemed that the country was on the path to flattening the Covid-19 curve.

The temperatures are heightened by Deputy President William Ruto’s early declaration of his interest in the presidency in 2022. President Uhuru Kenyatta holds the position that it’s too early to campaign. It has become the point of contention.

Last weekend, the ugliest scene yet unfolded in Kenol Town, Murang’a County where DP Ruto was scheduled to preside over a fundraiser for a church. Violence erupted before the service could begin, apparently executed by gangs hired by political players.

Police went in to quell the chaos but have also been blamed for what happened.

Investigations are underway to establish who sponsored the violence but the worst befell to young men who lost their lives in the mayhem. The police initially blamed the organisers. The organisers blamed the police for allowing hired goons to mete out violence where there was none.

The incident moved the National Security Council to announce measures to govern political meetings in the future. The measures have also been sanctioned by the Cabinet.

DP Ruto planned another rally for Thursday October 8, this time in Nyamira County.

Police ordered everyone out of the venue and teargassed those who lingered. Mr Ruto announced through his Twitter handle that he would be holding those meetings next week. 

Should ugly scenes pervade political gatherings, Kenyans could find themselves on the list the U.S. State Department is aiming to sanction.

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