GOOBJOOG NEWS|MOGADISHU: Barely a week after Somalia and Kenya restored diplomatic ties, a new development has emerged that could pour cold water into the fledgeling relations. Kenya announced Tuesday it was suspending all flights to and from Somalia in what is likely to force outgoing president Mohamed Farmaajo to find an alternative route during his return from Kampala.
Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) said in a notice to airman (NOTAM) that flights to and from Somalia will, in effect from May 11, 2021, to August 9, 2021, be suspended. Only UN flights on humanitarian missions and any other flights delivering COVID-19 supplies will be allowed to operate, the NOTAM which throws into spin relations between the two countries read in part.
Farmaajo left for Kampala at about 7 am local time Tuesday to attend the inauguration of his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni. By the time he will be making a comeback, the suspension will already be in force. Farmaajo was forced to change course towards Tanzania in 2019 en route to South Africa following a similar ban on Somali flights by Kenya.
Though there was no reason for the suspension, sources note Kenya may have been irked by the Somali Civil Aviation Authority’s (SCAA) directive Sunday maintaining that the ban on khat imports from Kenya was still in force.
“Transporting miraa without clearance from SCAA shall be considered unlawful and a violation of the Somali airspace. Operators are advised against transporting miraa to Somalia until further notice,” SCAA said Sunday.
Following the order, khat estimated at $50,000 according to Kenyan media lay waste at JKIA. Khat traders had been banking on the resumption of ties between the two countries to resume the multi-million dollar business.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports note that Kenya Airways is set to start flights to Hargeisa in Somalia with effect from May 28. Somaliland president Muse Bihi and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta struck a deal for KQ flights to Hargeisa following Bihi’s visit to Nairobi last year.
RESUMPTION OF TIES
Somalia suspended the Kenyan ambassador and ordered all diplomatic staff to leave in November 2020 following the worsening of relations between the two countries. It also recalled its ambassador from Nairobi and since then, relations between Nairobi and Mogadishu have been on hold especially in light of the ongoing political crisis in Somalia.
But Mogadishu announced last week that it had resumed ties with Nairobi following the intervention of Qatar.
Flights and khat ban have been deployed by the two countries on several occasions with most instances noted during the term of Farmaajo.