The first direct commercial flight to Nairobi took off from Mogadishu today more than ten years after Kenya rerouted the flights to Wajir for what it termed need for buffer zone used to vet operators and passengers.
Prime Minister Hassan Khaire flagged off the first flight at Aden Adde Airport, Mogadishu calling it a victory and critical in enhancing movement of people and goods between the two countries and cutting off the agony of the Wajir stop over.
“This is a victory for Somali people. I urge the security personnel at Ade Adde Airport to maintain the highest levels of security procedure to ensure we do not jeorpadise what we have achieved today,” the PM said.
The move follows bilateral agreement between the two countries during President Mohamed Farmaajo’s talks with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi last week.
In a joint statement, the leaders directed the security teams from both countries to meet immediately and agree on modalities of re-launching direct flights between Nairobi and Mogadishu within two weeks.
The rest of the flights however flew via Kenya’s northern town of Wajir in what was seen a trial before all flights dispense with the one and half stop over at Wajir airport.
Kenya introduced rigorous immigration procedures in 2006 which included mandatory stop- over of flights from Somalia. The procedures include unloading all luggage, scanning and frisking passengers. Passengers also get visas at the immigration facility in Wajir.
It takes approximately one and half hours to fly to Nairobi from Mogadishu but the stop -over in Wajir adds close to two hours to the journey.
Somalia has severally petitioned Kenya to allow flights from Mogadishu access Jomo Kenyatta International Airport directly but Kenya has remained adamant over what it view as security concerns. In a meeting September last year at the sidelines of the IGAD summit in Mogadishu, Kenya’s foreign minister Amina Mohamed announced Nairobi would open its airspace for direct flights by December by the pledge was not effected.